A body image program developed by scientists at Oregon Research Institute (ORI) has the potential to significantly reduce the onset of obesity and eating disorders.
Their obesity prevention program, called Healthy Weight, and eating disorder prevention program, called the Body Project, reduced the risk for onset of eating disorders by 61pct and obesity by 55pct in young women and these effects continued till 3 years after the program ended.
These programmes developed by a team led by ORI scientist Eric Stice, Ph.D., can help young women reduce the influence of the "thin ideal," which is described as associating success and happiness with being thin.
The results are striking, as out of 80 prevention programs there was no previous program that significantly reduced the risk for onset of eating disorders and obesity.
"One reason these programs might be more effective is that they require youth to take a more healthy perspective, which leads them to internalize the more healthy attitudes. In addition, these programs have simple take-home messages, which may be easier to remember in the future than messages from more complex prevention programs," noted Stice.
The obesity prevention program, called Healthy Weight, helps adolescents adopt a healthier lifestyle, wherein they gradually reduce intake of the least healthy portion of their diet and increase physical activity. This program is mainly targeted at teaching youth to balance their energy intake with their energy needs, and that too on a permanent basis, rather than on the transient basis which is more typical of diets.
The eating disorder prevention program, called the Body Project, consists of four one-hour weekly sessions in which participants critique the thin ideal espoused for women in our culture and learn how to challenge current and future pressures to be thin. The program has also produced reductions in other important outcomes such as body dissatisfaction and eating disorder symptoms.
"It is our hope that other institutions and communities will adopt this program for delivery in their schools. If this program is delivered to enough youth, it should be possible to reduce the prevalence of these serious health problems," said Stice.
The results of this study are published in the recent issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.