Body weight-related issues including obesity, physical inactivity, eating disorders are complex far beyond individual control. Preliminary American data suggests that what appears as prevention could actually be harmful and result in unintentional consequences such as weight stigma and discrimination towards people with large bodies and body image disturbance, deterring individuals from engaging in healthy behaviours. My research program aims to better understand how broader environmental influences such as (i) societal, and (ii) school and other institutional factors, influence weight-related issues including obesity, eating disorders, physical inactivity and weight bias.
Using qualitative and quantitative research methods, my first research objective is to evaluate the unintended consequences of reports, policies, public health campaigns that are geared towards prevention of weight-related issues. Links to how these societal influences relate to the incidence and prevalence of obesity, disordered eating and practices of healthy and unhealthy behaviors will be investigated. Promotion of physical activity and healthy behaviors also requires changes to the content and process of university programs that train students and practitioners in the health and education sectors.
My second research objective will examine the effects of a new health curriculum on weight-related issues among two samples (i) students in Exercise Science and (ii) practicing health professionals in a clinical setting. Attitudes and beliefs about obesity, health behaviours and clinical skills and competencies will be measured before and after the intervention in comparison to a control group who will not be receiving an intervention.
Results of this work will inform future health policies, public health campaigns and recommendations to assist with promoting health for Canadians. This research will evaluate programs and training in the health, education and policy sectors to help prevent and better manage obesity as well as refine curricula and improve quality of care and experiences for students and patients.