Eating Disorders & Body Image

We are in the midst of a health crisis with eating disorders and body image.

In the United States, the majority of our population is obese or overweight; most us of are dissatisfied with our physical appearance; and, we have the highest rates of diagnosed eating disorders in history.

"To lose confidence in one’s body is to lose confidence in oneself."

~ Simone de Beauvoir

Why? Why is this true?

Although it is a complex answer with ties to biology, psychology, and sociology, cultural messages about appearance and weight drastically affect our relationship with our physical body. As a woman living in mainstream American culture, for example, being “beautiful” determines our value.

The "Ideal" Look. Is it never enough?

Specifically, we need to look eternally 18 years old with perfect skin, big eyes surrounded by long eyelashes, white teeth, and a very thin yet feminine figure. If we do not meet this ideal and are deemed unattractive, there is nothing we can do to make-up for it.  No matter how hard we try, we cannot be smart enough, funny enough, nice enough to compensate for our imperfect looks—we will never be as valuable as the “beautiful woman” sitting next to us.

Men are not exempt either. Although male gender-role is more tied to money, intelligence, and physical strength than it is for women, being muscular and fit makes men far more socially desirable.

Over time, we consciously and unconsciously internalize these cultural norms, evaluating ourselves and others in comparison to them.  Usually, without conscious awareness, we grow up trying to emulate whatever culture deems to be most valuable because we all want to be desired, loved, and wanted.

The large majority of my empirical research explores the relationship between Western sociocultural values of appearance and eating disorder symptomatology.

These values and ideals of appearance predispose us to become preoccupied with their appearance as they strive to attain the highly-valued yet unrealistic ideals described for their sex. However, given that few people deem themselves as attaining the highly prized yet virtually unattainable appearance ideal, many individuals experience dissatisfaction with their appearance and body.

In fact, the goal of most mass marketing and consumerism is to make us feel badly about ourselves. We are encouraged to lie to ourselves about our true value because the worse we feel, the more we will buy!

I can teach you:

  • Common sociocultural messages about physical appearance and value

  • How culture affects the lies we tell ourselves

  • The costs of lying to ourselves about our eating, weight, and body image

  • Specific steps to change our thinking to promote our health

  • Specific steps to change our health-related behavior

  • Why authentic choice and responsibility is critical to changing unhealthy behaviors

  • How to overcome body image and eating issues

Cortney Warren eating disorders

For more information about Dr. Warren’s work on eating disorders and body image, see these selected references: (*indicates a mentored student author)

*Rakhkovskaya, L. M. & Warren, C. S. (2016).

Sociocultural and identity predictors of body dissatisfaction in ethnically diverse college women. Body Image, 16, 32-40. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2015.10.004

*White, E. K., Warren, C. S., Cao, L., Crosby, R.D., Engel, S. G., Wonderlich, S. A. et al. (2016).

Media exposure and associated stress contribute to eating pathology in women with AN: Daily and momentary associations. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 49, 617-621. doi: 10.1002/eat.22490

Warren, C. S., *Schafer, K., Crowley, M. J., & Olivardia, R. (2013).

Demographic and work-related correlates of job burnout in professional eating disorder treatment providers. Psychotherapy, 50, 553-564. doi: 10.1037/a0028783

Warren, C. S., Lindsay, A., *White, E., *Claudat, K., & Velasquez, S. (2013).

Weight-related concerns related to drug use for women in substance abuse treatment:  Prevalence and relationships with eating pathology. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 44, 494-501. doi: /10.1016/j.jsat.2012.08.222

Warren, C. S. (2012).

Body area dissatisfaction in White, Black, and Latina female college students in the United States: An examination of racially-salient appearance areas and ethnic identity. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 37, 537-556. doi: 10.1080/01419870.2012.716520

Warren, C. S., *Holland, S., *Billings, H., & *Parker, A. (2012).

The relationships between fat talk, body dissatisfaction, and drive for thinness: Perceived stress as a moderator. Body Image, 9, 358-364. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2012.03.008

Warren, C. S., *Schafer, K., Crowley, M. J., & Olivardia, R. (2012).

A qualitative analysis of job burnout in eating disorder treatment providers. Eating Disorders: Journal of Treatment and Prevention, 20, 175-195. doi: 10.1080/10640266.2012.668476

Warren, C. S., Gleaves, D. H., Cepeda-Benito, Fernández, M. C., & Rodríguez-Ruiz, S. (2005).

Ethnicity as a protective factor against internalization of a thin-ideal and body dissatisfaction. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 37, 241-249. doi: 10.1002/eat.20102

Warren, C. S., Strauss, J., Taska, J. L., & Sullivan, S. J. (2005).

Inspiring or dispiriting? The effect of diet commercials on snack food consumption in high school and college aged women. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 37, 266-270. doi: 10.1002/eat.20100

Dr. Cortney Warren is Available for Keynote & Workshop Speaking