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Body Image 2007: a pilot prevention program for

Eating Disorders in Italian adolescents

by Emanuel Mian

Body Dissatisfaction and wrong eating attitudes often begin in teenagers and
can be the first step of an Eating Disorder (ED). Previous research indicated
that primary prevention programs of ED by means of psychoeducative
strategies alone, though increasing knowledge about these psychopathologies
were ineffectual, and in some cases deleterious. The “Body Image 2007” (BI07)
pilot prevention program, originates from the growing need of valid strategies
for the prevention of ED in adolescence and also addresses the strong need to
aquire informations about eating behaviors, ED knowledge and body image of
Friuli Venezia-Giulia's (North-East of Italy) teenagers.

BI07, is a 6-week program with twelve classroom sessions with a duration of

one hour each, that uses a new interactive multimedia content-presentation
technique instead of brief psychoeducative lessons. ED topics included social
acceptance, cultural pressure for thinness, physical appearance, self-esteem,
anxiety, depression and self-harm that are usually linked to an ED. BI07
emphasized particularly on body image consciousness raising and in changing
the community norms and values of drive for thinness. To ensure action and
participation of students during each session, operators (a male psychologist
and a female researcher) conducted a dialectical and critical review of
images/movies and “thin-based topics” contained in media communications.
These reviews were taken as arguments for class and homeworks by teachers
during subsequent formal lessons.

Eighty students (male n=46 ; female n=34 ; mean age 15 +/- 1) attending a
secondary school in Trieste were assigned to BI07 program. A screening
questionnaire with items involving ED base knowledge, body image, eating
habits, alcohol/substance abuse and phisical activity was subministered
together with the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT12), the Inventory for Screening of
Eating Disorders (ISED) and the Eating Disorders Inventory (EDI2).

Results indicate that self-concept, eating behaviors and history of dieting are
different between male and female group. Male students were rarely on a self-
managed diet than female students ((F = 57,973 ; p < 0.0001) and this was
correlated (r = .76 ; p < 0,0001) with Drive for Thinness EAT12 subscale.
Female students rated their physical appearance significantly higher (F = 8,875
p < 0.005) thanmale students, and this result was correlated (r = .47 p < 0.01)
with body dissatisfaction.

The results of a short-term follow-up within one week afterwards the end of the
intervention, showed that BI07 significantly reduced eating disorder attitudes
and dieting behavior (EAT12/ISED vs EDI2), and improved knowledge in both
female and male group. A follow-up of 6 months is scheduled for October 2007
to continue the estimation of program’s objectives. New classes of students will
suddenly be enrolled in the Body Image 2008 program to enlarge sample size
for further investigations.