Development and validation of the meaning of food in life questionnaire (MFLQ): Evidence for a new construct to explain eating behavior Academic Article uri icon


  • Herein we present the development and validation of an assessment tool for empirically measuring the meaning of food in life (MFL), a construct which has been shown through repeated qualitative, ethnographic and quantitative analyses to exert influence over food choice but which has never before been systematically operationalized for empirical investigation. In this investigation we operationalize the MFL and generate a 22-item tool for its assessment. The items were tested in an online format in three empirical studies (n=560), and participants were recruited through MTurk. Exploratory factor analyses and item analysis were conducted to confirm the psychometric characteristics of the item pool. Overall, five distinct domains of food meanings emerged: moral, sacred, health, social, and aesthetic. Each dimension of food meaning was associated with different dietary intake outcomes, providing evidence for criterion validity. Further, each dimension of food meaning displayed associations with psychologically similar, yet distinct constructs from the literature in a manner concordant with the theoretical specifications of each construct, providing further validity evidence. The strong associations between the different domains of food meanings and behavioral outcomes suggest that this construct may be an important and clinically relevant aspect of people’s relationship to food which has heretofore lacked systematic investigation.

publication date

  • July 2017