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The Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26) is a questionnaire that a person completes on his or her own. A prototype Eating Attitudes Test was first drawn up in 1979 by D. M. Garner and P. E. Garfinkel. The current test asks 26 questions about body image and attitudes to food intake. Test scores indicate if the taker has an eating disorder or if he or she has a normal eating attitude.
All of the 26 questions involve information about the way the test taker feels about body image, food intake, and the emotional effect food has on his or her life. After these primary questions, the test asks several more about the behavior the test taker indulges in with regard to food or weight control. Each individual question has six possible answers ranging from "always" to "never." The test taker fills in the answer that most directly applies. The final section to the Eating Attitudes Test is an area to fill in height and weight so the scorer can figure out whether the Body Mass Index of the test taker is within normal limits.
Example questions from the Eating Attitudes Test include whether the taker eats diet food, if he or she feels guilt after eating, and whether he or she practices avoidance of certain foods. Vomiting after eating, preoccupation with food, and obsession with being skinny are some others. Perceived attitudes of family members and other people to the test taker's food intake are also measured using the test.
High scorers on the EAT-26 test, those who score 20 points or more, are more likely to have eating disorders than those who score less. As the test is self-administered, untrue answers can give a false result, and even those people who score in the risky range for eating disorders may not develop a clinical condition. The test can, however, be used as a simple screening technique for groups of people such as those in high school or those in image- or body-conscious careers.
High scorers may need to be referred to a psychologist or psychiatrist for a definitive diagnosis of the presence of an eating disorder. Participants in the test may also change their food attitudes over time and become more, or less, concerned about food and image. Even though the test is not entirely accurate all of the time, it can help to pinpoint people who have issues with food or people who may have issues in the future. It can also be used to help those who can be treated using early intervention techniques before a disorder becomes more serious.