1) promotion from the junior to elite

1) Before delving into the possibilities that may have influenced the development of Matt’s eating habits, we will have a look into the theory of social learning.Social learning theory is one of the most pivotal theories of learning and development. It encompasses the knowledge and experiences, environment and behaviour of an individual 1.

In the case of Matt, he has a substantial amount of knowledge and experiences in gymnastic considering his talent and promotion from the junior to elite team. Besides that, Matt grew up in an environment where sports and fitness are a norm since his father, Jack, is a former professional swimmer. These two factors have an impact on Matt’s eating behaviour as behaviour is the product of both individual and environment. The social learning theory also proposes that observation (cognitive) and imitation (operant) of others can impact the behaviour of an individual such that a person take notice of a situation in an environment, process it, produces the behaviour, which induces a consequence that can either be positive or negative.

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The social learning theory mentioned that most behaviour of individuals is learned through observation, specifically via modelling. Modelling is a form of observational learning where an individual may subconsciously enact the behaviour of a role model, regardless of the consequences 2. Furthermore, studies have shown that individuals in their late adolescence and early adulthood are more susceptible to attitude change, which later drops and remain constant throughout life 3. According to the case study, Matt lives with his father, Jack, whom he may view as a positive role model. Many studies have shown the importance of the father’s role in the care and development of their children 4. This can have a profound effect on his diet since Matt may subconsciously be wary of the food he consumes due to Jack’s occupation as a former athlete. Another huge possibility that may have influenced Matt’s eating behaviour is his senior male gymnastics.

The case study stated that Matt did not see his unhealthy eating habits as a major problem given that his seniors have been practising them as well. However, the learning and behaviour of an individual is not only influenced by external environmental reinforcement, but also by internal environmental reinforcement. Matt may have anxiety from being in such a competitive field, taught by a leading gymnastic coach and his promotion to the elite team.

This can contribute to his eating problems, which can possibly be bulimia or a purging disorder where one of the symptoms is self-induce vomiting 5. Although we are unsure of whether Matt has an eating disorder and it is difficult to gauge the severity of his eating problems from his description of ‘a little bit of vomiting’, the issue may still become detrimental if no proper action is taken.2) Body image depicts how an individual view their body and the positivity or negativity of this perception is heavily influenced by environmental factors 1. There are several circumstances that may alter Matt’s outlook about his body image. Firstly, gender differences do exist in body image perception especially in this day and age where we have to reluctantly conform to societal beauty standards. Although body image dissatisfaction has always been associated with women, increasing number of men are becoming targets to the negative body ideals portrayed by mass media. A study found that men is primarily dissatisfied with their perceived muscle and weight 2. Biceps, width of shoulders, chest and stomachs were also area of concerns 3.

This may be one of the reasons that led to Matt’s body insecurity.Secondly, age is another factor that can influence Matt’s body image. Matt is 19-year-old. He is at the age of identity development and making decisions in various aspects of his life. This is correlated with body image. In a Swedish study, boys with firmer sense of self view their body and appearance more favourably, while other studies suggest that boys who strongly identity with traditional gender roles are more fixated in the body ideals set by media 4.

As such, Matt is at a stage where he easily becomes a target of negative body image. Thirdly, family dynamic plays a crucial role in an individual’s body image. A study has linked negative weight talk or weight control encouragement by parents led to increased body image concerns among girls and boys 4. Other than that, there is a strong correlation between family environment and self-esteem of adolescents such that there is a clear negative correlation to family conflicts 5. In Matt’s case, he may inadvertently be put in a position of stress. For example, he may be brought up in a stringent household especially since Jack is a former professional swimmer, which in turn may have high expectations from Matt. This can influence Matt’s perception of his own body.

Lastly, Matt’s senior team may have a huge impact on how he perceives his body. This is because in a systematic review, it has been shown that peers are a crucial source to adolescent body dissatisfaction. This can be done through appearance comparisons, teasing, criticism and more. There is also the pressure to and fit in with the norm where an individual changes his behaviour or beliefs in order to conform to real or perceived group pressure.  Matt’s jump from the junior team to the elite team can be quite stressful. This explains why Matt is unhappy with the way he looks as he is constantly comparing with and being compared to other senior male gymnastics.In conclusion, Matt’s body image dissatisfaction is linked to several factors including, his gender, age, family and team.

This issue should be sensibly and carefully addressed before it spirals downward.  3) From the information provided, Karen’s family may be in the lower class considering she is constantly worried about money and her household bills were covered by a risky loan she has recently taken out. As a general population, people of higher socioeconomic status have a healthier diet than those of lower socioeconomic status. High quality diets such as whole grains, lean meats, fish, fresh fruits and vegetables and dairy products are associated with individuals in upper class. In comparison, there is a heavy reliance on energy dense, nutrient poor food including refined grains and processed food for people in the lower class. 1 The diet adequacy of those with low income in the UK show similar concerns .

. Low-income groups experience food insecurity due to many aspects. The three main barriers to a healthy diet include cost, accessibility and knowledge.

Referring back to the question, the family’s social hierarchy made it more difficult for them to adhere to healthier diets as higher quality, nutrient rich food costs more than lower quality food. A 2014 report showed that the cost of food is rising drastically, with lower price food rising more than average 2 Besides that, nutrient dense food usually have lower energy density 3. This is not ideal for Karen who works full time and her growing children.

Due to Karen’s long working hours, she may have trouble preparing home cooked meals. As such, she might have to resort to dry packaged foods as they have the longest shelf life 4 and processed food. A survey found that a high proportion of food expenditure in poorer households are spent on highly processed food in order to save time and money 5. However, Karen’s children may be relatively healthy in contrast to Karen.

This is because it is well documented that mothers protect children from lack of food. People in the lower class may also be reluctant to try new food in fear of waste 6.Furthermore, people in the lower class are not necessarily ignorant in terms of nutrition knowledge contrary to popular belief.

They are usually aware of the essential of a healthy diet, but adhering to a healthier diet may prove to be challenged by bias accessibility to healthy food. Those with limited income may lack access to car. If all three of Karen’s children are of reasonable age, the public transportation may be a viable option for them to help Karen to do grocery shopping, which may effectively lessen her burden 7.In conclusion, the rising cost of food and poor accessibility to healthy food are perhaps the main barriers for Karen and her family to maintain a healthy diet.

 Practical food skills and better access to shops should be implemented to mitigate the issue of food poverty.4) Everything in this world has meaning, including food. Food or the act of eating can have a symbolic meaning. It is associated with not only our physiology, but also our psychology. There are multiple moments in life where food provides a temporary relief for our emotional needs that we attempt to satisfy, but are not capable of doing so. We might use food to demonstrate acceptance, love, self-control and power 1.In this case, food symbolism associates food with feelings. Karen uses junk food as a coping mechanism.

As stated in the case study, Karen is a single mother, with 3 children. Naturally, she has to be the breadwinner of the family. The accumulation of her possible stress comes from her full time job as a catering assistant, financial burden and taking of of the children. As we only know that all her children are below the age of 16, there is a chance that the smallest may be a toddler, which requires more care and ultimately adds more burden. We often symbolically eat food as they give us a sense of comfort or nostalgia.

Food can be seen as a type of medication for people to relieve themselves. As shown in the case study, Karen binge on junk food and found chocolates to be her comfort food. There may be a scientific reason as to why high fat and carbohydrates food is comforting especially when we are stressed 2. A study found a relationship between the stress hormone cortisol level and sucrose (table sugar). The results showed a drop in cortisol level after women drank sucrose for two weeks. This was confirmed when the participants’ levels of cortisol dropped even lower in a maths challenge with other women (non-participants) who drank aspartame. Following this, each woman was required to take magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.

The scans later revealed that sugar inhibit cortisol activity in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is responsible for many bodily functions, including temperature, hunger, sleep and mood. As sugar is a monosaccharide (simple carbohydrate), it is readily absorbed in our body.

This causes our body to crave for more sugar and the vicious cycle repeats until we form an unhealthy eating pattern, which may lead to severe consequences 3. One such example is addiction. Stress and hyperpalatable (high fat and sugar) food may play a key role in the development of addiction, which is associated with the increased risk of cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes and obesity 4.As such, Karen is coping with her stress by indulging herself with junk food. This may temporarily soothe her, but in the long term, such eating habits may bring detrimental consequences. A more pragmatic solution should be looked upon.  


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