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APPEAR Newsletter #12 (Summer 2022)

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APPEAR Newsletter #10 (Summer 2021)

APPEAR Newsletter #9 (Fall 2020/Winter 2021)

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APPEAR Newsletter #7 (Summer 2019)

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APPEAR Newsletter #4 (Fall 2017/Winter 2018)

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Dissertation Defenses

Congratulations to these APPEAR students, who have successfully defended their dissertations!

Rachel Berry
Exploring Longitudinal Relationships Between Fitness Tracking and Disordered Eating
Dissertation committee: Rachel Rodgers, PhD (Chair), Jessica Edwards-George, PhD, Kendrin Sonneville, PhD

Abstract: Eating disorders are severe mental illnesses that lead to significant medical complications and functional impairment. Sociocultural theories of eating disorders suggest that disordered eating emerges in a cultural context that encourages people, particularly women, to engage in dieting, exercise, and weight loss to achieve a thin, toned body ideal depicted in traditional and, increasingly, social media. Eating disorders also exist in a context that emphasizes a discourse about achieving and maintaining a socially responsible “healthy weight”. Certain individuals may be predisposed to internalize appearance ideals and the healthy weight discourse, rendering them vulnerable to body dissatisfaction and disordered eating due to social comparison with others who embody a socially desirable size and shape.

Fitness tracking technologies such as wearable devices and smartphone applications emerged within this same sociocultural context that encourages dieting and exercise. Fitness trackers are marketed as tools to aid the user in achieving weight loss and fitness goals by tracking personal metrics such as calories consumed and energy expenditures. Fitness tracking may lead to disordered eating for vulnerable individuals by promoting appearance ideals, the healthy weight discourse, and social comparison, which may in turn lead to body dissatisfaction. To date, the literature on fitness tracking and eating disorders consists of cross-sectional studies that suggest a detrimental relationship between fitness tracking and disordered eating.

Longitudinal research is needed to clarify this relationship and identify traits of individuals who may be vulnerable to negative outcomes of tracking.

Jenna Campagna
Exploring Positive Embodiment as a Protective Factor Against Negative Impacts of Social Media Use
Dissertation committee: Rachel Rodgers, PhD (Chair), Christie Rizzo, PhD, Niva Piran, PhD

Abstract: Growing evidence suggests messages about beauty ideals for women are being delivered through a variety of agents, of which mass media is the most pervasive and powerful. Among young women in high school and university settings, body dissatisfaction has become part of the normative experience. Within this group, the Internet is a commonly used source of media, and among the sites most frequented are social networking platforms such as Facebook.  Recent studies have found that a link exists between social media use and body dissatisfaction. This is particularly concerning given that body dissatisfaction is one of the most robust risk and maintenance factors for eating disorders. Given the recency of social media, little is known about how to effectively intervene to minimize the risks associated with engaging with these platforms. However, emerging evidence suggests that features of positive body image may offer protective benefits. The developmental theory of embodiment is a theoretical approach that may offer insight into how women make meaning of social media and what aspects of positive embodiment can help maintain positive body image in the context of social media use.

Russell Heyden DuBois
Symptom decoupling as a process of change in acceptance and mindfulness based therapy for eating disorders: New insights from a Network perspective
Dissertation committee: Rachel Rodgers, PhD (chair), Debra Franko, PhD, Mariya Shiyko, PhD

Abstract: Acceptance and mindfulness based therapies have increasingly been utilized as treatments for disordered eating among sub-clinical populations.  However, the basic tenets of acceptance and mindfulness are theoretically incongruent with the therapeutic goal. Specifically, acceptance and mindfulness based interventions for disordered eating advocate against attempts to decrease or otherwise push away unpleasant or unwanted internal experiences related to eating and body image (e.g., thoughts about dieting, excessive dieting behavior). Rather, these practices encourage processing these experiences in a non-judgmental way and with a sense of openness and curiosity. Despite this, prior research indicates that acceptance and mindfulness based interventions do, in fact, decrease disordered eating symptoms. As such, there is a paucity of research which examines the process by which acceptance and mindfulness practices lead to therapeutic gains. The current study will utilize a contemporary approach to psychopathology, referred to as the network approach, as a model for understanding the influence of mindfulness training on disordered eating treatment. Specifically, the purpose of the proposed study is to examine whether decreases across time in the moment-to-moment network connectivity among disordered eating thoughts and behaviors accounts for (i.e., mediates) the relationship between mindfulness and disorder severity among a sample of individuals who endorse elevated levels of disordered eating.

Jennifer O’Flynn
Exploring the Role of Multiple Minority Status in Eating Disorder Symptoms and Help Seeking Behaviors Among College Students
Dissertation committee: Rachel Rodgers, PhD (chair), Christie Rizzo, PhD, Allegra Gordon, PhD

Abstract: Eating disorder research among sexual and ethnic minorities is lacking. This study includes a systematic review of literature on eating disorders among sexual minority individuals, focusing on conceptualization of sexual orientation identity, and a quantitative analysis of differences in disordered eating among college students, examining the intersection of sexual and ethnic identity. Conceptualization of sexual orientation identity varied across research. Results support increased eating disorder risk for sexual minority men and growing evidence of heightened risk for bisexual, unsure and discordant heterosexual women. Findings from the quantitative study found lesbian women of color were more than two times more likely than White, heterosexual women to endorse heightened risk, and questioning women of color were less likely to endorse elevated risk, but over two times more likely to engage in compensatory behaviors and binge eating. Overall, sexual minority men were more likely to endorse elevated risk compared to heterosexual men, but gay men of color were less likely. Among students with elevated risk, sexual minority women were more likely to receive help than heterosexual women and all students of color were less likely to receive help than White students

Alice Lowy
Internalization of Beauty Ideals and Eating Pathology Among Black and White Women
Dissertation committee: Rachel Rodgers, PhD (Chair), Debra Franko, PhD, Jennifer Webb, PhD

Abstract: The sociocultural model of eating disorders posits that eating pathology develops from increased body dissatisfaction, which stems from societal pressures to attain a particular beauty ideal. Research suggests that Black women may not endorse mainstream beauty ideals and instead attribute importance to culturally-specific features, which may protect them from body dissatisfaction and eating disorder symptoms. The proposed study will investigate how Black and White women internalize both mainstream and culturally-specific beauty ideals, as well as how it relates to eating pathology. Specifically, this study will examine the utility of a new measure of beauty ideal internalization, as it relates to body dissatisfaction and associated risk factors of disordered eating, as well as ethnic differences between African American women and women of other African descent. This study intends to elucidate how internalization of beauty ideals and related eating pathology may differ between Black and White women.

Atsushi Matsumoto
Body image experiences among men in midlife: Test of an integrated model and exploration of the embodied experience
Dissertation committee: William Sanchez, PhD (Chair), Rachel Rodgers, PhD (Co-Chair), Jessica Edwards-George, PhD, Tracy Robinson-Wood, EdD

To date, little is known about body image experiences of men in midlife, or the extent to which this is associated with engagement in risky body change behaviors and negative mental health. To fill in the gap in literature, body image experiences of men in midlife were examined through a test of an integrated model of body image disturbances, which brought together elements of etiological models of body dissatisfaction and disordered eating that have gained some empirical support with women and men in young adulthood. In addition, an integrated model integrated age specific constructs that were identified as potentially useful in understanding midlife men’s body image disturbances based on literature review. Using a cross-sectional research design, data were gathered from 216 men in midlife, defined as men between the ages of 45 and 60. An integrated model was modified in accordance with results from the Structural equation modeling analyses and the final model revealed an adequate fit to the data. Overall, findings indicate that men in midlife experience interpersonal pressures from friends, family and partners, to conform to the sociocultural ideals of muscular and lean physique and youthful appearance. Such pressures were related to engagement in muscle development and disordered eating behaviors through a number of pathways among key variables including internalization of ideals, appearance comparison, sexual objectification, body dissatisfaction, experiences of embodiment and body change attitudes. Furthermore, responses to open ended questions revealed usefulness of work environment as one of sources of sociocultural pressure. Comments from midlife men also highlighted importance of participation in process of acceptance and meaning making of inevitable changes of body and appearance with age. Furthermore, midlife men prioritized focus on health and comfort in one’s skin as critical elements of their ideals and positive body image over the sociocultural ideals. These findings from responses to open ended questions suggest listening to midlife men’s experiences serves as an important source of knowledge that could inform identifications of additional constructs related to their body image experiences.

Past Events

Eating Disorders Research Society Annual Meeting, Virtual
September 17-19, 2021

Posters and Presentations by Dr. Rodgers and APPEAR students:

“Socioeconomic Status and Eating Disorder Risk: At the Intersections of Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation, and Race/Ethnicity.”

“Perceived Changes in Orthorexia Symptoms During the Covid-19 Pandemic.”

“Aging with Appreciation: Towards Identifying Protective Factors for Disordered Eating among Older Women.”

“Positive Embodiment, Social Media Use, and Body Image Concerns.”

Appearance Matters 2021, Virtual
July 13-15, 2021

Presentations by Dr. Rodgers and APPEAR Students:

“An Exploration of the Physical and Emotional Dimensions of Breastfeeding through the Lens of the Developmental Theory of Embodiment.”

“Body appreciation, body dissatisfaction, and internalization of body ideals in Black women.”

“Beauty ideals and body dissatisfaction in Black and White women: In the eye of the beholder or the culture?”

“Cognitive reappraisal of age-related physical changes.”

International Conference on Eating Disorders 2021, Virtual
June 8-12, 2021

Presentations by Dr. Rodgers and APPEAR Students:

“Exploring associations between dimensions of positive embodiment and negative impacts of social media use.”

“The ‘not-so-healthy’ pursuit: An examination of the links between the drive for toned muscularity and eating and exercise psychopathology in women.”

“Exploring sociocultural influences on fear of fat: A path analysis.”

“Twenty seconds a day: The impact of TikTok diet culture content on young women.”

“Trends and correlates of fasting among U.S. college students: 2016-2020.”

“Facing the Age of Botox: Anti-aging procedures and endorsement of the youthful ideal among midlife women.”

“Associations among internalization of cultural beauty ideals, body dissatisfaction, drive for muscularity, and dietary restraint in racially/ethnically diverse women.”

“Internalization of cultural beauty ideals: New directions in risk factor assessments in racially/ethnically diverse women.”

“Evaluation of a universal social media literacy intervention for body dissatisfaction and disordered eating in early adolescents.”

International Conference on Eating Disorders 2020, Virtual
June 11-13, 2020

Presentations by Dr. Rodgers and APPEAR Students:

“Understanding the peri-pregnancy period through the framework of the Developmental Theory of Embodiment.”

“Spotting illusions: Investigating the effects of a video that exposes enhancement techniques used on social media.”

“Body image and correlates in sexual minority men: A systematic review.”

“Internalization of beauty ideals and eating pathology in Black and White women: The differences are not completely black and white.”

“Body appreciation and internalization of body ideals in Black women: Protection or increased risk for eating pathology?”

“A meta-regression of the effects of experimental exposure to media over time.”

“Reel2Real: A Social Media Literacy Intervention for Young Adult Women.” 

Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders (STRIPED) Catalyst Symposium
April 30, 2018

Presentation by Dr. Rodgers:

“Evaluation of macro-level influences including mass media, fashion industry, and food industry and evaluation of policy interventions to reduce consumer risk”