Friday, March 4, 2011
MAKING THIN NOT IN: PROGRAM PROMOTES HEALTHY BODY IMAGE AMONG FEMALE COLLEGE STUDENTS
MANHATTAN -- Getting coeds to think healthy -- not thin -- is the ideal when it comes to body image. That concept is the focus of a national program being implemented at Kansas State University.
The Reflections: Body Image Program is designed to reduce eating disorder risk factors in its participants. The program was originally developed by Carolyn Becker, professor of psychology at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. It's being offered at K-State by Lafene Health Center and the Sensible Nutrition And body image Choices peer education program, also known as SNAC.
"Body dissatisfaction and dieting are two risk factors that may trigger the onset of eating disorders in susceptible individuals," said Dianna Schalles, registered dietitian at Lafene and adviser for the Sensible Nutrition And body image Choices program. "The Reflections program, through a series of oral, written and behavioral activities, asks participants to challenge the thin-ideal standard of female beauty."
Schalles said that a recent poll conducted by the National Eating Disorders Association found that 20 percent of a group of 1,000 students nationwide said they had struggled with an eating disorder. This statistic is comparable to an estimated 4 percent of the population at large.
"More and more college-age students are experimenting with unhealthy weight loss methods and body dissatisfaction," she said. "Eating disorders in general have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, and the longer they go untreated, the lower the chance of recovery."
K-State's adaptation of the Reflections program was done with the help of Delta Delta Delta and Chi Omega sororities, which participated in a campus pilot program. Delta Delta Delta had previously implemented the program in its chapters nationwide and has provided support to expand it to other campuses and sororities.
Schalles said sororities are key partners in the prevention of eating disorders because they represent the largest body of self-governed women on university campuses.
The Reflections: Body Image Program features two, two-hour sessions that focus on a variety of topics, including resisting the ultra-thin, unrealistic ideal standard of beauty; embracing the healthy ideal; reducing body dissatisfaction and fat talk; engaging in sorority body activism; and embracing all of the non-appearance aspects of participants and their sorority sisters.
"The goal is to induce cognitive dissonance by having the girls make statements and engage in behaviors that are counter to the cultural ideal," Schalles said. "After doing so, they must reconcile these new thoughts and behaviors with previously held pro-thin ideal beliefs, which, theoretically, cause a shift toward a healthier ideal."
Schalles anticipates expanding the program to other K-State sororities and adapting it for residence hall women sometime in the future.
"Regardless of the severity level, disordered eating can affect a student's health, academic goals and relationships," she said. "The Reflections program can help students resist unrealistic body standards of our culture, and free them to focus on healthier, more productive pursuits."