Written by Lauren Breithaupt, REbeL Research Coordinator
A few weeks ago, REbeL had the chance to present at the 20th annual meeting of the Eating Disorder Research Society (EDRS) in San Diego, CA. EDRS is an annual meeting where eating disorder researchers from around the world meet to exchange ideas and provide updates on the latest research and advancements in the fields of feeding and eating disorders.
REbeL shared our unique model of prevention, as well as results from our pilot and year one study. The REbeL model of prevention aims to create seamless integration within a school setting. Therefore, as many of you may know, our REbeL peer educators self-apply to the program which is led by our volunteer school sponsors. REbeL utilizes a cognitive dissonance model, which means that we encourage our members to challenge the norm of dieting, the unrealistic standards of beauty in our society, and size discrimination. In turn, we hope that our members internalize a new set of “REbeLlious” standards. And good news! The results from the study indicate that we are moving in the direction we dream of–a world in which we are re-defining the definition of health and beauty for every body.
Students who participated in REbeL valued the thin-ideal body type less than they did when they first joined; and they also felt more positive about their bodies after just one year of the program. In addition, individuals in REbeL feel empowered; they believe they can, and are, creating positive change as a group with in their schools. We also found that these feelings of empowerment are fueling the changes we see in how members feel about their bodies. Individuals who feel the biggest shift in their ability to affect positive change, feel best about their bodies. We, at REbeL, our thrilled about these results, as our program aims to increase empowerment through its student-driven structure.
We were excited to share these results at EDRS and are even more excited to continue to share our results from our research at REbeL in the near future!
Breithaupt, L., Eickman, L., & Fischer. S. (Oct. 10, 2014) REbeL, Inc.: Preliminary Results from Two Years of Continuous In school, Peer-Led Dissonance Based Eating Disorder Prevention Programs for High School Students. October 9-11, 2014. San Diego, CA.
The inaugural March Against Eating Disorders was held on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. this past Tuesday (Sept. 30th). This event, coupled with the Eating Disorders Coalition Lobby Day, brought together individuals from across the country to unite in a common cause. Twenty-eight nonprofits (including REbeL), those in recovery, their families, and treatment providers joined forces to fight eating disorders.
As the representative for REbeL, I attended both events (and was excited to have one of my favorite people, Lauren Breithaupt, REbeL’s Research Coordinator, with me)! In experiencing the emotions of the day, connecting with the many beauty-full advocates, and seeing the effort put forth to make a difference, I was reminded of why I do what I do. I left D.C. thinking about why I marched (and lobbied!).
I marched . . .
Because I spent nearly 10 years in a daily battle with myself . . . my thoughts consumed with exercise, food labels, and “thigh gaps;” my mind never turning off. Because the very substance needed to nurture my body was the thing that terrified me. Because when I was struggling, I felt ashamed, alone, and afraid.
Because throughout my education, including a doctorate degree in clinical psychology, eating disorders were barely discussed. 30 million Americans are diagnosed with an eating disorder1,and in fact, eating disorders are the most deadly of all psychiatric illnesses. And yet, in becoming a psychologist, we learned almost nothing about how to effectively diagnose and treat these biologically-based brain disorders.
Because eating disorders research is woefully underfunded. The National Institute of Health has allocated only $1.20 in research funding per affected eating disorder patient, compared to $159.00 per affected individual with schizophrenia.
Because recovery is possible and treatment works–yet only 1 in 10 of those with eating disorders receive treatment. Federal legislation is needed because there continues to be no requirement for eating disorders to be covered by insurance companies. And even when insurance does pay for treatment, there are typically significant limitations placed on patient care that are not consistent with promoting recovery.
Because awareness, education, and prevention programs are needed in the schools. Food and weight preoccupation can be prevented. Eating disorders can be prevented. But to accomplish this, we need increased awareness and education, and early intervention when these problems do develop. Our schools can and should become more body-positive environments for our children—environments free of calorie-counting health assignments, BMI testing, and weight stigma.
I marched . . .
Because we have created a culture in which appearance is valued over substance, what you look like is more important than who you are, and judging others’ bodies has become a national pastime.
Because our intense fear of fat has influenced widespread policy and funding decisions that are not based on research or “best practices,” and are only compounding the problems.
Because we spend $60 billion per year on diet products (that don’t work!)2.
Because I work with the next generation of activists. I ask them to be brave advocates who “REbeL” for the greater good, and I must do the same.
Because I have a voice, and I know that, in using that voice, I can and I will create change.
Because I was lucky. I recovered. But so many others don’t have that chance. Every 62 minutes, someone dies as a direct result of their eating disorder. I marched because THAT. IS. NOT. OKAY.
I marched because this matters.
1All statistics are courtesy of the Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action unless otherwise noted.
2http://www.worldometers.info/weight-loss/; accessed on October 4, 2014.