Body Image and eating disorder research

Research Focus

PLAN Lab research on body image and eating disorders takes a multi-pronged approach towards understanding risk factors for body dissatisfaction and improving assessment methods for body image and eating disorders. Ultimately, we use this information to develop prevention and treatment programs geared towards body positivity and treatment of cognitive biases. With the increased prevalence of eating disorders in younger populations, and across the global community, we have made efforts to develop prevention programs that can be implemented for school aged children and across a global community.

Cognitive Bias & Body dissatisfaction

Some of the most effective and empirically validated treatments for eating disorder focus on addressing unhelpful thinking styles (e.g., cognitive behavioural therapy). In the PLAN Lab we are interested in cognitive processing biases that underlie these thinking styles and that can serve as risk factors for body dissatisfaction and eating disorders. We use both behavioural and eye tracking techniques to evaluate real time biases in processing food and body related information.

The relationship between cognitive bias and eating disordered traits in a sub-clinical sample: A Lexical Decision Study.

Misener, K. & Libben, M. (2017)

Examination of the Relationship Between Attentional Biases and Body Dissatisfaction: An Eye-Tracking Study.

Misener, K. & Libben, M. (2020)

Cognitive Bias Modification for Perfectionism: Examining the Mediating and Moderating Effects of Body Dissatisfaction and Self-Efficacy

Wang, Y., Wang, Y., Misener, K. & Libben, M. (2021)

Cross-Cultural Assessment of body dissatisfaction

In an increasingly multicultural society, there is a mounting need for relevant cross-cultural research on eating disorders and body dissatisfaction. The current literature primarily relies on scales and instruments developed among Western samples, which may create complications for understanding and working with a multicultural population. It is important to acknowledge and consider the array of cultural influences that may exist within such populations. Scale translation and validation studies give researchers and health professionals access to reliable and cross-culturally validated assessment and diagnostic tools that can be used for diverse populations. Research in the PLAN has focused on validating translated versions of of body dissatisfaction scales with the goal of broadening applications within a multicultural society.

Given the high prevalence of body dissatisfaction in adolescence, the persistence of this issue, and the strong associations between body dissatisfaction and a myriad of negative outcomes such as depressed mood, low self-esteem, dieting, weight gain, obesity, and EDs, research into body dissatisfaction prevention and intervention programs has become increasingly important. Indeed, there have been calls for the development of effective body image programs for children and early adolescents. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that increasing body satisfaction may not only prevent the onset of EDs such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, but it might also prevent binge eating behaviours and unhealthy weight gain in adolescence. Research in the PLAN Lab has recently focused on the development of body dissatisfaction programs for female youth focused on new and empirically validated methodds.

Prevention Programs - Body Positivity