Communities have worked tirelessly to provide different resources to schools, colleges, and other organizations that cater to young women in the hopes of educating them about the dangers of negative body image and unhealthy eating and food relationships. The majority of these strategies, which include literature, videos, and physical intervention efforts, have done little to increase a woman’s satisfaction with her body in a society riddled with unrealistic body ideals. However, researchers have developed one tool that has proven to be effective at reducing disordered eating in women with body image issues. In a previous study, Eric Stice of the Oregon Research Institute tested an approach that involved dissonance to see if projecting negative attitudes toward unrealistic ideals would decrease eating problems in young women. The results of his study provided evidence that this strategy worked quite well.
For many women, eating problems escalate when they leave home to attend college. The freedom that comes from being independent also provides women with the opportunity to increase unhealthy eating habits. Unfortunately, most college campuses have few effective programs available to help these women. The financial strain on college administrations prevents many of these programs from being maximized to their full potential. Therefore, Stice and his colleagues attempted to take their previously successful Body Image dissonance program viral. Using an internet-based version of the program, called eBody Image, Stice compared the effects of the internet intervention to those he discovered in his practical experiment. He also measured the results of eBody Image against results of literature and videos targeting body image issues in a sample of 107 college women.
Stice found that the practical Body Image and eBody Image participants realized the biggest reductions in eating issues during and after the intervention, although he found little variance in the virtual and practical approaches. These results suggest that internet usage, which is high among college students, is an avenue of intervention that could be successfully targeted for people at risk for eating issues and other mental health problems. Stice also noted that although the results are promising, more work needs to be done. He added, “Results suggest that this prototype Internet intervention is as efficacious as the group intervention, implying that there would be merit in completing this intervention and evaluating it in a fully powered trial.”
Stice, E., Rohde, P., Durant, S., Shaw, H. (2012). A preliminary trial of a prototype internet dissonance-based eating disorder prevention program for young women with body image concerns. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0028016
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