Having a healthy body image plays a large part in personal confidence. However, many students fall prey to how the media and society portray an ideal body image, which can adversely affect their mental health. Ohio University’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) is trying to change the conversation about appearance ideals with The Body Project, a program with proven success in helping increase body satisfaction and acceptance among college students.
Before the early 2000s, there was little research on preventing eating disorders, but during that time, researchers started studying risk factors. Today, effective intervention programs, such as the Body Project, are being developed to reduce eating disorder risk factors. The Body Project is an evidence-based, group-based prevention program designed to increase body acceptance and decrease risk factors of eating disorders. The project is the result of a 16-year research program on risk factors for eating disorders led by Eric Stice, Ph.D. Carolyn Black Becker, Ph.D., Paul Rohde, Ph.D., and Heather Shaw, Ph.D. Having successfully evolved from basic research to implementation, the Body Project has created a meaningful public health impact internationally to over 3.5 million girls and young women.
“Attending the sessions will help students internalize the appearance ideal less and experience more satisfaction with and acceptance of their bodies,” said Susan Folger, a psychologist and eating disorder support team coordinator at CPS. Participants will be encouraged to challenge their ideal body image, which can benefit students who have experienced dissatisfaction with how they look or have body image concerns.
CPS was invited to participate in a study exploring the implementation of The Body Project on college campuses, which is being conducted by Stice and colleagues at the Oregon Research Institute, Trinity University and the University of Texas at Austin. The evidence-based program increases participants’ body acceptance and decreases eating disorder symptoms and predispositions towards developing eating disorders in the future. Body Project peer educators will lead groups of six to eight undergraduate students in four weekly, one-hour intervention sessions. Trained professionals at Ohio University will supervise the peer educators, and the program will start during the Spring 2020 semester.
Most of the research on the program has been conducted on cisgender female groups based on data that cis girls and women typically have higher rates of eating disorders and body image issues than cisgender boys and men. However, OHIO’s Body Project is open to students of all gender identities because body image issues and eating disorders are not limited to cisgender women. Researchers are actively testing different versions of the Body Project that are specific to other gender identities.
CPS offers support to people who struggle with body image concerns, disordered eating and/or eating disorders. For more information about The Body Project at Ohio University, contact CPS Psychology Resident Kate Hibbard-Gibbons at firstname.lastname@example.org. Interested students can sign up for the sessions by and can find additional resources at the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).