Our projects aim to improve the lives of individuals with eating, weight and body image concerns.
Trajectories of post bariatric surgery weight loss and psychosocial predictors of trajectory class membership
Bariatric surgery is the most effective weight-loss treatment for individuals who are obese. However, 10-15% of bariatric surgery patients do not achieve and/or sustain the weight loss required for improved physical and mental health. To date, efforts to identify those at risk of poor outcomes have yielded few consistent findings. This project combines two advanced data-analytic techniques to identify; (1) common post-surgical weight loss trajectories, and (2) pre-surgical demographic, clinical and psychosocial predictors of these trajectories. Results will enable early identification and intervention for those at risk of poor weight-loss outcomes, thus improving the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of bariatric surgery.
Psychological Treatments of Eating Disorders in Women with PCOS: A Feasibility Study
The prevalence of eating disorders is higher in women with PCOS than in women without PCOS. Eating disorders area associated with a range of negative consequences. It is also likely that eating disorders exacerbate PCOS symptoms and interfere with PCOS treatment. Despite this, there are no published trials evaluating disordered eating/eating disorder treatment in women with PCOS. This study aims to determine the feasibility of conducting a randomised control trial (RCT) evaluating the efficacy of three psychological treatments (interpersonal therapy, enhanced cognitive behaviour therapy, behavioural weight loss) for eating disorders in women with PCOS. Results will also provide preliminary evidence regarding the effectiveness of interpersonal therapy, enhanced cognitive behaviour therapy, behavioural weight loss in the treatment of eating disorders in women with PCOS.
Body Image Assessment and Intervention in Adults who are Overweight or Obese
Despite the high and increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity, and the high prevalence and negative consequences of body image dissatisfaction among people with overweight or obesity, few studies have examined body image interventions in this population. This study aims to evaluate the assessment and treatment of body image concerns in adults who are overweight or obese. The following research questions will be addressed:
1. Are body image interventions effective in improving body image in adults who are overweight or obese (Study 1)?
2. Are existing body image measures valid and reliable for use in adults who are overweight or obese (Study 2)?
3. What is the feasibility and impact of a body image intervention group for adults who are overweight or obese (Study 3)?
Using experimental approaches to test theoretical models of disordered eating.
The most widely accepted model of eating disorders is the cognitive-behavioural model introduced by Fairburn and colleagues (Fairburn, Cooper, & Shafran, 2003). Indeed, the cognitive-behavioural model is the only theoretical model of disordered eating to have been translated into an effective intervention in "real world" settings (Pennesi & Wade, 2016). Evidence in support of this model comes from various sources: clinical effectiveness, longitudinal and cross-sectional studies. Although these types of evidence are necessary to support the potential validity of the mechanisms hypothesized in the model, they are not sufficient to demonstrate that these mechanisms are at play. To assess the causal mechanisms hypothesizes in the CBT model, experimental studies are needed. This project attempts to use experimental approaches to test some of these mechanisms.
1. Does body-checking increase restraint, and shape and weight concerns?
2. Does dichotomous thinking moderate the relationship between restraint and eating?
Leveraging digital technology to reduce the prevalence and severity of eating disorders in Australia
Although a range of evidence-based prevention and treatment programs are available for eating disorders, the majority of individuals who would benefit from treatment do not seek or receive help. Our Web- and app-based Interventions for Reducing Eating Disorders (WIRED) framework seeks to increase engagement with evidence-based eating disorders treatment and prevention resources via: (1) personalized, eHealth-based delivery of content, and (2) use of social media to identify and engage those in need of treatment. Across a series of inter-linked studies, we will evaluate efficacy and cost-effectiveness of our proposed intervention platform for eating disorders through randomised controlled trials, as well as gain insights into how to tackle propagation of eating disorder-related content via social media.
The psychosocial impacts of time restricted feeding for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes
This project aims to determine the efficacy of time-restricted eating (TRE; eating within a window of ~9 h/day) as a practical, sustainable dietary intervention to improve glycaemic control (assessed by the glycaemic response to a meal test) in individuals with type 2 diabetes. The impact that time-restricted eating has on psychosocial wellbeing will also be explored to understand the impact that TRE may have on quality of life and eating behaviours. We aim to examine the psychosocial consequences of TRE. Participants will complete self-report questionnaires assessing health-related quality of life, psychological distress, disordered eating, and sleep quality, at before, during, immediately after, and 6 months after intervention. Qualitative semi-structured interviews will be performed at 1, 3 and 6 months. The combination of physiological and psychosocial measures will allow us to demonstrate the efficacy and safety of using TRE in a real-world setting to reduce the psychological burden of dietary modifications, whilst improving glycaemic control, for individuals with type 2 diabetes.
PhD Students and Their Projects
Annemarie is a PhD candidate and registered psychologist. Her research and clinical interests include disordered eating and body image, intuitive eating, the psychological experience of hunger and satiety, and pre and post-bariatric surgery eating behaviours and well-being. Annemarie's PhD research examines early post-surgical predictors of well-being and weight loss outcomes after bariatric surgery.
Tani is a PhD student, research assistant, and consumer insights & strategic planning specialist. Her research interests include consumer behaviour, plant-based foods, and animal welfare in emerging markets. Her thesis examines the ways in which the practice of meat eating is changing in urban India and Australia.
Stephanie is a PhD student, provisional psychologist in the Masters of Psychology (Clinical) program, and psychology tutor. Her research interests include exploring the impact of weight related stigma on biopsychosocial health and wellbeing. Her thesis involves the development and psychometric assessment of a measure of weight-stigma.
Master of Psychology Student Projects
Sophie Allan (Australian Catholic University)
Compassion-focused therapy for eating and weight concerns
This project aims to evaluate the efficacy and effectiveness of compassion-focused therapy for eating disorders (CFT-E). It will use a systematic review and meta-analytic design to review and synthesise the existing research to determine effects of CFT-E. Results will provide a summary of the evidence base for CFT-E and will have implications for the improvement of CFT-E protocols.
Charlotte Arnold (Australian Catholic University)
Social Media and Bariatric Surgery Decision-Making
This project aims to determine whether social media impacts bariatric surgery decision-making. Individuals who have had bariatric surgery, or are considering bariatric surgery, will be asked to complete an online questionnaire regarding the factors influencing their decision. Results will identify how individuals use social media to make decisions about bariatric surgery.
Mary Barillaro (Australian Catholic University)
Treatment of Body Dysmorphic Disorder: A systematic literature review and meta-analysis
This project will use a systematic literature review and meta-analysis design to collate the existing evidence of the efficacy of psychological and pharmacological treatments of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). These findings will have implications for informing best practice standards and treatment guidelines for BDD and will provide directions for future research.
Claudia Geils (Australian Catholic University)
Qualitative Evaluation of Time Restricted Feeding Intervention for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
Co-Investigator: Dr Evelyn Parr
This project aims to to explore the acceptability and feasibility of time-restricted eating (TRE) as an ongoing dietary pattern for individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). This will be examined via semi-structured qualitative interview exploring participant perspectives on potential barriers, facilitators, and experiences of a 4-week time restricted eating regime. Results will provide important information about the feasibility and acceptability of time restricted feeding as a lifestyle approach to the management of T2DM.
Phoebe Gleeson (Australian Catholic University)
What are dietary restraint scales actually measuring?
This project aims to understand what constructs are being measured by dietary restraint scales. To achieve this, this study will (1) systematically review the literature to identify all measures of dietary restraint/restriction and (2) examine the psychometric properties of all restraint/restriction scales identified by this systematic review. Results will have implications for prevention and treatment of eating disorders and obesity.
Giulia Flammea (Australian Catholic University)
Psychological Characteristics of Individuals with Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A Systematic Review.
This project will use a systematic literature review and meta-analysis design to explore the psychological characteristics of individuals with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Findings from this research could help to distinguish which specific psycho-social characteristics are implicated in this disease, and therefore, need to be considered in treatment.
Amy Kierce (Australian Catholic University)
Eating Disorders in Middle- and Older-Adulthood: A Systematic Review and Analysis
This project aims to examine eating disorders in middle- and older-aged adults. It will use a systematic review and meta-analysis design to determine the prevalence, assessment and treatment. the prevalence and treatment outcomes of late onset eating disorders. Results will have implications for future research regarding the prevention, assessment and treatment of eating disorders in middle- and older-aged adults
Suzannah Willis (Australian Catholic University)
Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis.
This project aims to improve our understanding of the prevalence, risk factors and treatments available for ARFID. It will use a systematic review and meta analysis to collate data currently available on ARFID and provide a measure of efficacy/effectiveness of treatments for ARFID. Results will have implications for informing the treatments of ARFID.
Fourth Year Psychology Student Projects
Shona Flynn (La Trobe University)
The role of heuristic processing on short-term diet commitment in vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores
This project investigates whether priming the common is moral heuristic changes short-term dietary intentions within groups of vegans, vegetarians and omnivores. It will use an online experimental design; materials and hypotheses will be pre-registered on the Open Science Framework. Results will have implications for campaigns encouraging people to transition to more plant-based diets and the marketing of plant-based food products.
Phillip Jayasinghe (La Trobe University)
Attitudes to vegetarians and vegans in France and the UK
This project investigates people's attitudes to vegetarians and vegans in a country where plant-based diets are relatively common (UK) and uncommon (France), and examines the extent to which these attitudes are related to the meaning of food in people's lives, their endorsement of common meat-eating rationalisations, and dietary behaviour. It will use a cross-sectional online survey design; materials and hypotheses will be pre-registered on the Open Science Framework. Results will have implications for intergroup relationships and campaigns encouraging people to transition to more plant-based diets.
Rachel Martin (La Trobe University)
How well do emotional eating questionnaires measure emotional eating?
This aims to examine the measurement of emotional eating. To achieve this, this study will (1) systematically review the literature to identify all published measures of emotional eating and (2) examine the psychometric properties of all emotional eating measures identified by this systematic review. Results will have implications for the measurement, prevention and treatment of emotional eating.
Jennifer Moufarij (Australian Catholic University)
The Impact of Body Positive/Body Diverse Media Images
This project aims to explore the effect of exposure to body positive/body diverse images on body image. This will be examined in two studies. The first a systematic literature review and meta-analyses exploring body positive/body diverse images on body image and related constructs. The second will be an analysis of Instagram content exposure and its relationship to body image and disordered eating in females.
Morgan Nicholson (Australian Catholic University)
Biopsychosocial Correlates of Intuitive Eating
This project aims to explore the biopsychosocial correlates of intuitive eating. This will be examined in two studies. The first a systematic literature review and meta-analyses, and the second an online questionnaire study. Results will provide important information about the biopsychosocial correlates of intuitive eating and will inform future interventions targeting eating, weight and body image.
Jessica Piazzon (Australian Catholic University)
The Morality of Food
This project aims to explore the moral judgements people make of others based on what they eat. This will be examined in two studies. The first a systematic literature review and meta-analyses of the observed effects of judgments of others based on what they eat. The second will be an comparing the judgments for food consumption that varies on two dimensions ("healthy" vs "unhealthy" and "sustainable/organic" vs "non-sustainable").
Jerome Scaffidi (Australian Catholic University)
Men's Body Image
This project aims to explore body image in men. This will be examined in two studies. The first a systematic literature review and meta-analyses exploring the relationship between drive for muscularity and body image in men. The second an online questionnaire investigating the relationship between men's use of Instagram (specifically, following fitness and muscle building related content) and their body image and disordered eating behaviours.