By: Caroline Christian, B.S.
Eating disorders affect approximately 10% of the population (Stice, Marti, & Rhode, 2013). Despite this, effective treatments for eating disorders are extremely limited. The empirically supported treatments for binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa have relapse rates estimated to be as high as 50% (Olmstead, Kaplan, & Rockert, 2005). Additionally, the only empirically supported treatment for anorexia nervosa is for adolescents, meaning there are no effective treatments for adults with anorexia nervosa. Our lab is working hard to try to fill this need by researching new interventions for treating eating disorders, such as imaginal exposure therapy and personalized treatment for eating disorders.
Because treatment interventions for eating disorders are currently not as advanced as we would like them to be, eating disorder prevention is even more critical. Prevention and early detection of eating disorders has the potential to drastically reduce the high prevalence of eating disorders, and thus, reduce the number of individuals who struggle with treatment-resistant eating disorders. Our lab has recently been trained in the Body Project, which is a dissonance-based eating disorder prevention program. We are very excited to disseminate this program around Louisville and on University of Louisville’s campus to help reduce the burden of eating disorders on our community.
What is the Body Project?
The Body Project was first developed by Dr. Carolyn Becker, a professor at Trinity University in San Antonio. She first implemented the college version of the Body Project in collaboration with Delta Delta Delta Sorority, and the program quickly expanded to several colleges around the nation. The purpose of the Body Project is to inform young women about the “appearance ideal,” which is the “perfect” appearance, as promoted by society, which is often unrealistic and unattainable. After discussing this ideal, participants then brainstorm the costs of pursuing this unattainable ideal and learn skills and activities they can do to act and speak against this ideal. This intervention has shown to be effective in reducing eating disorder symptoms, thin ideal internalization, and body dissatisfaction in young women (Stice et al., 2013; Stice, Rohde, Gau, & Shaw, 2009). Additionally, individuals at the Body Project are also working on developing and validating new versions of this intervention for different groups, including cultural minorities, non-English speakers, males, and middle school students. This could allow for the Body Project to reach more people across the world and prevent eating disorders in more individuals! Two versions of the intervention that we currently have in Louisville are the 4-session high school version and the 2-session peer lead version for college students.
High School Version
The high school version in Louisville is conducted in four one-hour sessions and takes place during the school day as part of the health class curriculum. So far, the Body Project has been conducted at Mercy and Presentation Academy in Louisville. In an investigation of the effectiveness of the Body Project in these Louisville high schools, we found that the Body Project reduced eating disorder symptoms, body dissatisfaction, as well as many other eating disorder risk factors and comorbidities, including anxiety, depression, and maladaptive perfectionism (Christian et al., 2018). This upcoming year we are planning to expand this program even more, and there is currently a call for interested individuals to become a trained facilitator of the high school version of the Body Project. If you are interested in attending a training event, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more details on the training and the Body Project.
This January, a group of students and professionals from the Eating Anxiety Treatment (EAT) lab, the Louisville Center of Eating Disorders, and the Psychological Services Center underwent a training for the peer-led version of the Body Project, so that we can start disseminating it to college students at the University of Louisville. We have already done a few sessions of the Body Project on campus in collaboration with the Women’s Center, and they were very successful. This semester, we are planning on expanding the reach of the Body Project at UofL by turning it into a Registered Student Organization (RSO). We hope that this RSO will allow for students who are passionate about eating disorder prevention or spreading body positivity on UofL’s campus to get more involved, as well as create a sustainable model of disseminating the Body Project on campus. In addition to doing the peer-led Body Project with interested groups, we also hope to spread a body positive message that could change the campus culture around body image by partnering with other groups to promote external events and initiatives. If you are interested in being part of this new RSO, please contact email@example.com to learn more about the RSO or to RSVP for the peer-led Body Project facilitator training.
We are very excited to bring the Body Project to Louisville to help increase awareness and prevention of eating disorders in our community and on the University of Louisville campus! We hope that through disseminating this intervention, we will spread a body positive message to more individuals and decrease the number of friends, family members, and neighbors that struggle with eating disorders in our community.
Christian, C., Brosof, L. C., Vanzhula I.A., Williams, B. M., Shankar Ram, S., Levinson, C. A. (2018). The Efficacy of a Dissonance-Based Eating Disorder Prevention Program in the Reduction of Eating Disorder Comorbidities and Risk Factors in High School Students. Manuscript submitted for publication.
Olmsted, M. P., Kaplan, A. S., & Rockert, W. (2005). Defining remission and relapse in bulimia nervosa. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 38(1), 1-6. DOI: 10.1002/eat.20144
Stice, E., Butryn, M. L., Rohde, P., Shaw, H., & Marti, C. N. (2013). An effectiveness trial of a new enhanced dissonance eating disorder prevention program among female college students. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 51(12), 862-871. DOI: 10.1016/j.brat.2013.10.003
Stice, E., Marti, C., & Rohde, P. (2013). Prevalence, incidence, impairment, and course of the proposed DSM-5 eating disorder diagnoses in an 8-year prospective community study of young women. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 122(2), 445. DOI: 10.1037/a0030679.
Stice, E., Rohde, P., Gau, J., & Shaw, H. (2009). An effectiveness trial of a dissonance-based eating disorder prevention program for high-risk adolescent girls. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 77(5), 825. DOI: 10.1037/a0016132