BACKGROUND This study explored the role of meaning in the link between stress and disordered eating, in particular focusing on social rank. METHOD Two hundred and eleven women completed measures of eating pathology, depression, social comparison and life events where life events were assessed in terms of general loss, threat, shame and loss of social status. RESULTS Events involving loss of social status were related to eating pathology but only in women reporting self-perceived low rank. Events that did not concern social status were unrelated to eating pathology. DISCUSSION Women who perceive themselves to be low social status appear vulnerable to events that concern their social status.