Event Title

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Women's Food and Body Stories

Location

Recital Hall

Department

Counselor Education

Abstract

The role of sociocultural factors in the onset and maintenance of disordered eating and body image disturbance in the United States has been well-documented. Researchers and clinicians, however, recently highlighted how social and cultural factors are diminished in modern approaches to research and treatment that emphasize biology and individual psychology. Furthermore, the increasing prevalence of disordered eating across diverse populations has fueled a plea for dismantling stereotypes through diversity in disordered eating research. This presentation, therefore, offers discoveries from an arts-based qualitative study exploring the lived experiences of adult women who have received treatment for disordered eating and/or body distress and consider themselves fully recovered. Seven cisgender women aged 20 to 32 years old participated in a semi-structured interview in which they provided their impressions of original artwork that depicts the transmission of female beauty standards in Western society. All participants were born in the United States but represented diverse racial and ethnic groups. Additional interview questions invited participants to elaborate on the roles of personality, family, community, culture, and media on the onset of their eating and body distress and how their attitudes toward these factors changed recovery. Preliminary themes derived from a reflexive thematic analysis of interview data highlight the impact of social comparison, societal messaging around body shape and size, and cultural heritage on their pre-recovery experiences of food and body. Participants universally expressed sadness toward the representations of female bodies and the impact of that messaging on youth. These findings support the significance of sociocultural factors in the stories behind the development of American women’s disordered eating and body distress. Future research should expand the use of this novel interview protocol to other less-studied populations, including males, LGTBQ+ individuals, and post-menopausal women.

Faculty Sponsor

Nan Giblin, Northeastern Illinois University

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May 6th, 10:20 AM

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Women's Food and Body Stories

Recital Hall

The role of sociocultural factors in the onset and maintenance of disordered eating and body image disturbance in the United States has been well-documented. Researchers and clinicians, however, recently highlighted how social and cultural factors are diminished in modern approaches to research and treatment that emphasize biology and individual psychology. Furthermore, the increasing prevalence of disordered eating across diverse populations has fueled a plea for dismantling stereotypes through diversity in disordered eating research. This presentation, therefore, offers discoveries from an arts-based qualitative study exploring the lived experiences of adult women who have received treatment for disordered eating and/or body distress and consider themselves fully recovered. Seven cisgender women aged 20 to 32 years old participated in a semi-structured interview in which they provided their impressions of original artwork that depicts the transmission of female beauty standards in Western society. All participants were born in the United States but represented diverse racial and ethnic groups. Additional interview questions invited participants to elaborate on the roles of personality, family, community, culture, and media on the onset of their eating and body distress and how their attitudes toward these factors changed recovery. Preliminary themes derived from a reflexive thematic analysis of interview data highlight the impact of social comparison, societal messaging around body shape and size, and cultural heritage on their pre-recovery experiences of food and body. Participants universally expressed sadness toward the representations of female bodies and the impact of that messaging on youth. These findings support the significance of sociocultural factors in the stories behind the development of American women’s disordered eating and body distress. Future research should expand the use of this novel interview protocol to other less-studied populations, including males, LGTBQ+ individuals, and post-menopausal women.