Experiences of preadolescent girls participating in a mindfulness-based eating disorder prevention group

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A dissertation Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of DOCTOR of PHILOSOPHY in Counselor Education from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Concerns with body image and disordered eating behaviors are pervasive in today’s society. Recent cohorts of preteen girls experience increased risks in relationship to developing eating disorders due to changes in pubertal development and the widespread impact of social media. This dissertation describes a mindfulness-based eating disorder prevention program for preteens which integrates wellness practices such as mindful eating and noncompetitive exercise with awareness-building conversations about the messages society sends to girls and women about their bodies. Results of this qualitative phenomenological investigation revealed seven main themes: (a) body talk, (b) food, exercise, and healthy choices, (c) societal expectations, (d) mindfulness, (e) being in the group, (f) changes experienced as a result of group participation, and (g) what I learned and want others to know. These results are similar to those observed in previous studies of eating disorder prevention and expand knowledge related to participants’ perceptions of how their relationships with their bodies, food, and exercise change over the course of program participation. Results also provide support for the inclusion of targeted mindfulness interventions to foster the regulation of emotions related to one’s body and healthy engagement with food and exercise. This information is valuable in terms of providing support for a combined approach to eating disorder prevention, demonstrating the benefits of dissonance education and mindfulness-based interventions in supporting body acceptance for young women.
Counseling & Educational Psychology
College of Education and Human Development

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