Review of "Body Image, Eating Disorders, and Obesity in Youth"
By J. Kevin Thompson, and Linda Smolak (Editors) American Psychological Association, 2001 Review by Tiffany S. Ulatowski and Joseph W. Ulatowski on May 21st 2004
Dramatic increases in childhood
obesity have many health professionals concerned. Future health complications
of obese children include heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and
high lipid levels. These chronic diseases are extremely costly and can lead to
premature death. Several studies have demonstrated that obese children will
become obese adults. Health professionals have begun implementing interventions
early in life to circumvent future health problems. Understanding the
development, prevention, and treatment of eating disturbances is the only way
to combat obesity and eating disorders. Thompson and Smolak's collaborative
anthology has accumulated current research on the assessment, prevention, and
treatment of eating irregularities in youth.
Development of eating disorders
derives from a number of factors. Perhaps the greatest factor in developing an
eating disorder is one's own family. In "Family Functioning, Body Image,
and Eating Disturbances," Ari Steinberg and Vicky Phares collaborate to show
the overwhelming influence family has on the development and maintenance of
maladaptive body image and eating disturbances. They argue that family
dysfunction and problematic communication styles serve to exacerbate eating
disorders. Family dysfunction has been known to be directly related to negative
self-esteem and related indirectly to eating disturbances. Also, children
internalize a parent's communicating beliefs about weight, dieting, and
exercise. Thus, this calls for greater attention of all family members, i.e.
parents and siblings, effect on the development of eating disorders in youth.
In "Assessment of Body Image
Disturbance in Children and Adolescents," Rick Gardner argues that
assessment of body image disturbances is important for understanding the
development of eating disorders. Most studies have explored high school aged
and college aged young adults, but Gardner believes that dissatisfaction with
one's own body image begins at a much earlier age. In fact, we should study the
manifestation of body image awareness in younger children. Young children are
particularly susceptible because of parental influence. Recent research has
shown that children, particularly girls, under the age of 10 have begun to show
signs of body image disturbances. Thus, assessment of body image disturbances
in younger children demands careful consideration.
Robinson and Killen describe the
use of Bandura's Social Cognitive Theory as the foundation for their
intervention: Obesity Prevention for Pre-Adolescents (OPPrA). Aimed at
ethnically and socio-economically diverse adolescents, this intervention not
only provides health education in the classroom but also includes educational
material for parents: dietary materials focus on healthy foods, such as fruits
and vegetables, while material about physical education focus on enjoyable
activities. Parents were sent newsletters and videos that taught basic
parenting skills, nutrition, and family-centered physical activities. In
addition, Robinson and Killen offered separate classes to high-risk adolescents
and their parents. By focusing on positive behavior and feedback, Robinson and
Killen's study showed that children demonstrated healthy behaviors and enjoyed
being physically active. Robinson and Killen suggest that positive results
will occur if behavioral change is a part of early intervention.
Faith, Saelens, Wilfley, and
Allison offer an overview of past interventions and provide insight for future
prevention and treatment techniques. They explain that the most important
ingredient of successful intervention is parental involvement. Future
interventions must overcome environmental, family, peer, and child specific
challenges. Aiming interventions at the correct group of adolescents is
important to provide appropriate treatment for obese individuals. Genetic
research enables health professionals to predict which non-obese adolescents
will become obese, and prescribe, if necessary, the correct type of medication
for maximum weight loss. It is evident from this article that the prevention
and treatment of obese children will become more sophisticated and more precise
as technology advances.
The material in this book is
comprehensive. Graduate students and health professionals will find this book
to be an invaluable resource for current research in the assessment,
prevention, and treatment of body image disorders. Also, the anthology
identifies behavioral change as the primary source of prevention and treatment.
Behavioral change is a burgeoning research field in the health sciences. By
understanding how food preferences develop and the pressure that society,
parents, and peers place on good looks, it is easier to create and implement
effective interventions. Researchers and health professionals must understand
all aspects of these disorders in order to treat and prevent them; this book is
a tremendously useful guide for understanding eating disturbances in youth.
Tiffany S. Ulatowski is General
Manager of The Plaza Executive Health Club in Salt Lake City, Utah. She earned
a Master of Science degree in Health and Fitness Management from American University
in Washington, D.C. She created and implemented a health education initiative
for children in Mississippi while working for the Baptist Memorial Health Systems.
Her research interests include the prevention and treatment of childhood
obesity and the psychological factors related to the development of eating
irregularities in early adolescence.
Joe Ulatowski is a Ph.D.
student in the department of philosophy at the University of Utah. His
interests include metaphysics and epistemology, particularly the philosophy of
logic, foundations of mathematics, and philosophy of science