Writing for Glasgow City of Science in the run up to Engage with Strathclyde week, Dr Petya Eckler highlights research on body image and eating disorders that will be discussed at an event on Thursday 5th May 2016, ‘Body Image and Eating Disorders: Future Research Priorities‘.


As Rachel sips her morning coffee, she flips through her favourite magazine, which reminds her once again how flat her tummy should be and gives her 10 ways to achieve it in 10 days. She checks her Facebook page, where her friends are sharing photos from spring break and discussing their latest diets and exercise plans. On the way to work, see sees an advert on the Tube for protein weight loss products, which asks her the question: “Are you beach body ready?” Her answer, of course, is “no”.

Young women like Rachel are bombarded daily with messages that they need to be thinner and held up to unrealistic standards of beauty by the media, the marketing industry and very often by their own peers, families and themselves. As a result, many develop negative body image or a poor relationship with food or exercise. A survey conducted recently of young women at an American university showed that 86% of them wanted to lose weight and the average amount they wanted to shed was close to 9 kilograms.

A small group of young people (women and men) develop eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, which can be linked to genetic but also environmental factors. A recent report commissioned by the eating disorders charity Beat estimates that more than 725,000 people in the UK (11% of those are men) are affected by an eating disorder.

Research on body image and eating disorders is becoming increasingly complex. The development of social media and other technology, the fact that both women and men of various backgrounds and ages could be affected, and the need for more evidence-based clinical practices are just some of the factors that complicate matters.

To address these challenges, a diverse working group of academics, clinicians, third-sector professionals and people with lived experiences is coming together during Engage with Strathclyde to brainstorm and propose a research agenda for the field. The event will also feature keynote speakers Dr Petya Eckler and Dr Andrea Tonner from the University of Strathclyde and blogger Halina Rifai from TYCI women’s collective.

Guests to the event will hear about the latest developments from the field of body image and eating disorders, will take part in discussions and have a chance to contribute to the experts’ brainstorming session with ideas or questions, and may get new ideas of their own for work in this area.

The event is organised in partnership with the Mental Health Foundation.

If you are able to join us on Thursday 5th May (11am till 2pm), please, register here.


Look-out for more posts from Engage with Strathclyde participants on the Glasgow City of Science Blog in the coming days and weeks and follow them on Twitter @EngageStrath