Designing, Testing, and Implementing BIAS (Body Image Awareness Seminars): A Positive Body Image Program
Dissatisfaction with the body is prevalent in North America and body image researchers have called this phenomenon a norm, suggesting it is abnormal for people to love their bodies. Positive body image programs are needed now more than ever but currently they are scarce, and this is especially true for individuals outside adolescent and university student populations. This dissertation describes the design, testing, and implementation of a new positive body image program called BIAS (Body Image Awareness Seminars). This program is unique in three ways: 1) it was created by working with participants using action research, 2) it is applicable to a diversity of people including older adults and people with physical disabilities, and 3) it was informed by positive body image research. In study 1, initial interviews and focus group meetings revealed a potential knowledge gap in understanding body image between body image researchers and the non-academic community. Participants described a need to understand body image better in order to improve their body image experiences. This study led to the conclusion that psychoeducation is an important component of a positive body image program which significantly informed the design of BIAS. Study 2 describes the creation of BIAS using action research. Very few body image programs have been designed using participatory methodologies. Instead, most body image researchers create and implement body image interventions without any participant feedback. Study 2 highlights both the advantages and disadvantages of using action research in the design, testing, and implementation of the BIAS program. Study 3 is an evaluation of the effectiveness of BIAS. Using mixed methods, qualitative and quantitative data were analyzed and both concordance and discordance of results were reported. Participants’ body image was found to significantly improve and this improvement was sustained 6-weeks later. Additional findings include participants experiencing self-compassion, greater knowledge about body image, and becoming positive body image advocates. Study contributions to both the body image and mixed methods literature are discussed.