Research uncovers prevention for eating disorders

Juleen Buser’s research highlights the connection between body image and eating disorder behaviors to help individuls prevent the development of an eating disorder.

By Joe Passero B

Rider associate professor and director of the school counseling and coaching programs Juleen Buser has been able to help uncover traits that can prevent the development of eating disorders in individuals.

Buser is known for her research in the connections between spirituality and eating disorders, as well as nonsuicidal self-injury, but this study focused on detailing what can stop self-image issues and eating disorders. 

“I have looked at body dissatisfaction and eating disorder symptoms in various ways, including how one’s spiritual faith plays a role in developing and maintaining such symptoms,” Buser said. “I have also looked at factors which may protect certain individuals from developing disordered eating behaviors and attitudes.”

The studies related to body image, which Buser has conducted along with her co-researchers, were first published in 2016, with some studies still in the publication process.

“For this vein of my research, I was interested in how individuals who are dissatisfied with their bodies may be able to avoid disordered eating behaviors and attitudes,” Buser said. “I wanted to better understand why, for some individuals, struggling with feeling displeasure about their body size and shape led them to engage in binge eating or extreme dieting.”

According to Buser, some of the factors that fight against eating disorders include valuing a healthy lifestyle, having a support system, culture and types of activities which an individual engages in.

“My co-researcher and I found that having a strong, secure sense of self served as a protective variable,” Buser said. “Other potential buffering factors [include] having a strong value of health in one’s life, having a body-positive support system and understanding the ineffectiveness of disordered eating.”

Buser used both qualitative and quantitative methods when conducting the experiment, which utilized hundreds of participants who had shown symptoms or had admitted to having eating disorders or being unsatisfied with their bodies. 

Buser’s research comes at a time when many people are unsatisfied with their bodies and look to make changes in their lives.

“Unfortunately, body dissatisfaction is an all too common and persistent problem,” Buser said. “As body dissatisfaction can easily lead to disordered eating symptoms, it is a troubling reality. Disordered eating is extremely damaging — emotionally and physically. Behaviors such as fasting, over-exercising and purging activities can harm one’s physical health in a myriad of ways and can be emotionally devastating.” 

Students have already began to praise Buser for her work, and have noted that this could be the start to a better future for those who suffer from eating disorders.

“It’s important to identify the causes of these issues because if you know what the causes are, you can take steps to avoid them and develop methods to either help cope with them or eradicate them,” said Javier St. Rose, a sophomore psychology major.

“If you identify what can stop body image, it will be a huge step in lowering the number of people who suffer from this by a huge margin,” St. Rose said.

Buser hopes that her research is both motivational and beneficial to those who struggle with eating disorders.

“Ultimately, I hope my research helps some individuals avoid disordered eating behaviors and attitudes,” Buser said. “Optimally, some of the results on which my co-researchers and I reported may give clinicians potential treatment directions. 

Moreover, these findings could also empower parents, teachers and others who are close to those who struggle with negative body image they could gain tools to help individuals avoid developing disordered eating habits,” Buser said. 

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