Binge eating behaviours : experiences associated with tertiary education : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Science in Psychology at Massey University, by distance, New Zealand

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Massey University
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Transitioning and adjusting to tertiary education is often a very challenging time for students. As a result of various personal, social, and academic pressures, many students develop maladaptive behaviours, such as binge eating behaviours, to cope with the stress and anxiety associated with tertiary education. In this qualitative study, I explored experiences of binge eating behaviours and tertiary education and how they impacted one another. The ways in which one view themselves, others, and tertiary education, as well as their subjective experiences of both binge eating behaviours and tertiary education, were also explored. Fifty-five participants completed a survey about their experiences of binge eating behaviours in the context of tertiary education. I analysed the survey responses using reflexive thematic analysis through a social constructionist theoretical lens. Two key themes and six subthemes were identified and explored within the data set. The two key themes were: The Interaction between Binge Eating and Emotional and Psychological States; and Contextual Factors that Impact Tertiary Education and Binge Eating Behaviours. Each theme highlighted the ways in which participants’ experiences of tertiary education and binge eating behaviours were negatively impacted by the personal, academic, and social challenges associated with the transition and adjustment to tertiary-level study. Through each of the six subthemes, I explore how participants experienced a paradoxical cycle in which negative experiences further encouraged more negative experiences. This resulted in a cycle that had a considerable impact on their social, physical, and mental well-being. The findings also indicated that the ways in which an individual views their personal experience are strongly related to their own social and cultural understanding of the world. The implications of these findings include that tertiary institutions could develop strategies for better assisting their students in transitioning and adjusting to tertiary education, such as pre-transition and extended transition programmes, food education and food preparation classes, affordable and appealing healthy food in campus dining halls, and easily accessible and available psychological interventions to ensure student success.