The Body Project Defined
The Body Project is a dissonance-based body-acceptance program designed to help high school girls and college-age women resist cultural pressures to conform to the thin-ideal standard of female beauty and reduce their pursuit of unhealthy thinness. Since its inception, The Body Project has been supported by more research than any other body image program and has been found to reduce onset of eating disorders.
The Body Project Collaborative was formed in 2012 by Dr.’s Eric Stice and Carolyn Becker to create new training opportunities for people interested in facilitating the Body Project. Dr. Stice created the Body Project and Dr. Becker pioneered the strategy of training collegiate peer-leaders to facilitate Body Project groups in university settings. To date, the Body Project has been used by numerous high schools and over 100 college campuses (sometimes under the names ‘Reflections: Body Image Program®’ in the U.S. and ‘Succeed Body Image Program®’ in the United Kingdom), and has been delivered to over 200,000 young women. Research supports the use of the Body Project not only with those who have elevated body dissatisfaction, but also in more diverse groups of adolescent girls and young women that include those with lower levels of body dissatisfaction.
Over the last two years The Body Project Collaborative has witnessed unprecedented growth. As information about the program continues to spread, more and more universities, non-profit organizations, and high schools are seeking training for the program. The Body Project Collaborative offers one and two day trainings that can be specifically tailored to meet the unique needs of any group.
The Body Project is backed by almost 15 years of quantitative research that demonstrate the program’s ability to decrease body dissatisfaction, thin-ideal internalization, eating disorder symptoms, dietary restraint, and negative affect. A selection of these articles is referenced at the end of this article. In addition, qualitative feedback in the form of both professional and student testimonials gives an easily accessible voice to the applied effects of the program.
Examples of these powerful testimonials include the following from both a student and a staff member:
“I very much enjoyed this training and am so excited to implement it on my campus. Being a participant in the group, I was challenged to think about my own behaviors and thoughts about my body. It empowered me to accept my body and to model this acceptance to others. I think the structure of the program itself really forces participants to argue against the thin ideal in a way they never had, and in a way that helps them go out into the world and be body positive and body activists. Great program – it should be on all other campuses!”
A M, Student, Large Midwestern University
It was a great experience to attend the Body Project training as a professional! I absolutely loved bearing witness to the participants growing in their understanding of themselves, their insight about their own body image, and becoming more self-affirming and active in promoting a positive body image for others. Their letters to a younger girl were incredible! Throughout the training, the women took more risks by being vulnerable with the group and disclosing their own struggles, which not only made the group feel more connected, but also offered each of them the opportunity to grow all the more. I also enjoyed hearing their perspectives on thin-ideal pressures, comments they had heard from others, and their creative brainstorming. Each practice round, they got better and more confident at facilitation, and I think that they will make terrific peer leaders. Prevention efforts regarding body image/eating issues has long been a concern of mine and I feel optimistic about this program’s ability to make a big difference on our campus. I work with clients with eating disorders, but recognize the unfortunate widespread systemic negative body image that women have internalized, as well as the growing number of men with negative body image. I’m so excited that the Body Project exists, as it seems to have high potential for being very helpful in creating real cognitive shifts, a more positive body image, and a platform for involving others in creating larger systemic change.
H B, Clinical Psychologist, Large Mountain West University
The Body Project Collaborative aims to disseminate The Body Project to as many young women as possible at minimal cost. Full details of trainings for collegiate peer leaders and professionals from universities, high schools, and other settings can be found at http://www.bodyprojectcollaborative.com
About the author:
Alan Duffy, MS is Research Process Coordinator at Eating Recovery Center in Denver, Colorado and a trained professional who specializes in the treatment and prevention of eating disorders. Prior to his current role, Alan served as a clinical Case Manager at Eating Recovery Center for three years. Alan received his MS in Exercise Science and Sport Psychology from Auburn University in Alabama and completed his undergraduate work at the University of Sussex in Brighton, United Kingdom. Prior to his current post, Alan was a Health Educator at American University in Washington, DC. He has been collaborating with Dr. Becker and disseminating the Body Project and the former Reflections: Body Image Program since 2007. Alan has significant intervention and research experience with female athletes and served as the past Co-Chair of the Academy for Eating Disorders Sport & Exercise Special Interest Group. At American University Alan collaborated with Dr. Becker and Dr. Tiffany Stewart to receive funding for research with female athletes from the National Institute of Mental Health. Alan is currently a member of the Academy for Eating Disorders Special Interest Group Oversight Committee.
Becker CB, Wilson C, Williams A, Kelly M, McDaniel L, Elmquist J: Peer-facilitated cognitive dissonance versus healthy weight eating disorders prevention: A randomized comparison. Body Image, 2010, 7(4):280–288.
Becker CB, Bull S, Smith LM, Ciao AC. Effects of being a peer-leader in an eating disorders prevention program: Can we further reduce eating disorder risk factors. Eat Disord: J Treat Prev. 2008; [16:44]4–459.
Butryn, M., Rohde, P., Marti, C., & Stice, E. (2014). Do participant, facilitator, or group factors moderate effectiveness of the Body Project? Implications for dissemination. Behaviour Research And Therapy, 61, 142-149.
Kilpela, L.S., Hill, K., Kelly, M.C., Elmquist, J., Ottoson, P., Keith, D., Hildebrandt, T., & Becker, C.B. (2014). Reducing eating disorder risk factors: A controlled investigation of a blended task-shifting/train-the-trainer approach to dissemination and implementation. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 63, 70-82.
Perez M, Becker CB, Ramirez A. Transportability of an empirically supported dissonance-based prevention program for eating disorders. Body Image: Int J Res. 2010; [7:17]9–186.
Stice, E., Rohde, P., Durant, S., Shaw, H., & Wade, E. (2013). Effectiveness of peer-led dissonance-based eating disorder prevention groups: Results from two randomized pilot trials. Behaviour Research And Therapy, 51(4-5).
Stice, E., Rohde, P., Gau, J., & Shaw, H. (2012). Effect of a dissonance-based prevention program on risk for eating disorder onset in the context of eating disorder risk factors. Prevention Science: The Official Journal Of The Society For Prevention Research, 13(2), 129-139.
Stice, E., Rohde, P., Shaw, H., & Gau, J. (2011). An effectiveness trial of a selected dissonance-based eating disorder prevention program for female high school students: Long-term effects. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 79, 500-508.
Stice, E., Shaw, H., Becker, C. B., & Rohde, P. (2008). Dissonance-based interventions for the prevention of eating disorders: Using persuasion principles to promote health. Prevention Science, 9, 114-128.