The Body Project

The Body Project is a body acceptance intervention that was designed to help high school and college age women resist sociocultural pressures to conform to the thin ideal and reduce their pursuit of thinness.

This group-based intervention targets females who are between 15 and 22 years old with body dissatisfaction, a known risk factor for eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating. The program is based in cognitive dissonance theory, proposing that reductions in the internalization of the thin ideal will result in a decreased desire to conform, consequently decreasing eating disorder risk factors and symptoms among participants.

The Body Project is not intended as a stand-alone treatment for individuals meeting criteria for an eating disorder, so attempts should be made to exclude such individuals.

Body Project participants receive four one-hour group sessions that provide them with social support, opportunities for self-affirmation and the skills needed to resist social pressure. The weekly sessions, which accommodate five to ten participants, include verbal, written and behavioral exercises that attempt to create dissonance in participants by engaging them in a critique of the thin ideal.

It is recommended that group facilitators be individuals with Master's-level training in a mental health discipline or peer educators under supervision of a mental health professional. All program materials, including training and fidelity monitoring resources, are available online. The developer also offers in-person trainings, technical assistance and fidelity consulting.

The Body Project was named a Blueprints Model Program after several randomized control trials reported consistent evidence of effectiveness among the target population. All five studies used similar recruitment methods at universities and high schools, enrolling females who were between 14 and 22 years old with body image concerns.

Throughout the studies, Body Project participants reported more desirable outcomes compared to control groups and other conditions, including healthy weight intervention participants and expressive-writing intervention participants. At posttest, Body Project participants often had significantly greater reductions in thin-ideal internalization, body dissatisfaction, dieting, negative affect and eating disorder symptoms. All of these outcomes were maintained at one-, two- and/or three-year follow-up in at least one of the studies that collected follow-up data.

At the time of its Blueprints application, the Body Project was being implemented at more than 110 universities in the United States and the Dove Corporation was disseminating a variant of the program to younger female adolescents in 70 countries.

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Return to Blueprints Bulletin Issue 2. May 2017.

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