Category: Treatment - Other
Body image distress (BID) is prevalent among US college women and has consistently been implicated in the development and maintenance of disordered eating. Change-focused dissonance-based (DB) interventions have received the most consistent empirical support; however, given the high value placed on physical attractiveness in US culture, questions have been raised about acceptability and likelihood that changes in BID can be maintained. Acceptance-focused self-compassion (SC) interventions have been proposed as an alternative, potentially more acceptable and/or sustainable method to address BID. Toole and Craighead (2016) reported that brief exposure to SC-based meditation reduced aspects of BID in college women, but few participants actively engaged in the daily intervention exercises. Qualitative responses revealed fears that SC might undermine efforts to manage weight/appearance. This study directly compares a SC intervention, modified to address those issues, with a change-focused DB approach provided within a similar format. The SC intervention involves psychoeducation about SC and the costs of harsh self-criticism (to reduce fears of SC and increase engagement), a SC letter writing exercise, and daily SC intention setting and self-care practices. The DB intervention involves psychoeducation about the thin-ideal and benefits of challenging it, a dissonance-enhancing letter writing activity, and daily “body activism” (i.e., thin-ideal rejection) intention setting and practices. We hypothesize that participants in the SC group will rate the intervention as more acceptable and be more willing to participate in the practices than those in the DB group. We predict that lower acceptability ratings and compliance will be associated with higher baseline fear of SC in the SC group, and higher baseline thin-ideal internalization in the DB group. Fifty college women will be randomized to the 1-week SC or DB intervention by October 1 and results will be reported. One-way ANOVAs will compare mean acceptability ratings (self-report) and rates of compliance (number of daily practice questionnaires completed) across groups. Pearson correlations will report associations between fears of SC/thin-ideal internalization, acceptability ratings, and compliance. Qualitative responses will also be examined to understand the perceived helpfulness of the various intervention components. Preliminary results from this pilot study will inform future body image intervention research, shedding light on intervention elements deemed most acceptable and helpful for college women with body image concerns.