BY: Jessica Baker, PhD
DATE: August 11, 2016
UNC CEED is proud to announce that two faculty members received University Council Research Grants from the University of North Carolina recently.
Dr. Jessica Baker’s awarded project will examine in the moment associations, via ecological momentary assessment (EMA), between menstrual cycle phase and binge eating in midlife women and compare these associations to young adult women. Previous research has consistently shown an association between menstrual cycle phase, changing reproductive hormones, and binge eating in young adult samples.1 Specifically, binge-eating frequency is significantly elevated during the luteal/premenstrual phase of the menstrual cycle, when estrogen levels are low, compared with the follicular and ovulatory phases. However, this research to date has focused solely on retrospective recall of binge-eating behaviors throughout the day and ignored midlife. Dr. Baker’s project will be the first to assess binge-eating via EMA technology, which will assess binge-eating behaviors thought the course of the day. Further, eating disorders are often erroneously stereotyped as disorders of youth, yet at least 1 out of every 10 women with an eating disorder is over the age of 40.2 Midlife is when women experience perimenopause (i.e., the menopause transition) during which there are dramatic and extreme day-to-day fluctuations in reproductive hormones. However, it is unclear if similar associations between menstrual cycle phase and binge eating are observed during perimenopause. The results of this proposal will further clarify the association between menstrual cycle phase and binge eating.
Dr. Christine Peat’s awarded project (in collaboration with Dr. Cristin Runfola formerly at CEED now at Stanford) will pilot Embody Carolina – a peer-to-peer skills training program designed to improve the detection of and support for individuals with eating disorders. Embody has partnered with CEED since 2011 and has been actively training students at UNC since 2013; however, Dr. Peat’s project represents the first opportunity to scientifically examine the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy of a training program that capitalizes on the power of peer relationships. Research suggests that students report being more willing to seek help for a friend’s eating disorder than their own and are more likely to turn to peers over parents and formal courses of guidance and support.3,4 In fact, a UNC study also found those recovered from an eating disorder view supportive relationships as the most important factor in their recovery.5 Thus, Embody leverages student peers as an untapped resource that could aid in effective recognition of eating disorders, early intervention, and appropriate direction of care. If proven effective, a skills training program like Embody would represent a pivotal link in the ability to effectively connect students with eating disorders to the treatment they need.
- Baker, JH, Girdler, SS, and Bulik, CM. The role of reproductive hormones in the development and maintenance of eating disorders. Expert Rev Obstet Gynecol 2012. 7: 573-583.
- Hoek, H and van Hoeken, D. Review of the prevalence and incidence of eating disorders. Int J Eat Disord 2003. 34: 383-96.
- Tillman KS, Sell DM. Help-seeking intentions in college students: an exploration of eating disorder specific help-seeking and general psychological help-seeking. Eat Behav 2013;14:184-186.
- Mond JM, Marks P, Hay PJ, Rodgers B, Kelly C, Owen C, Paxton SJ. Mental mealth literacy and eating-disordered behavior: beliefs of adolescent girls concerning the treatment of and treatment-seeking for bulimia nervosa. J Youth Adolesc 2007;36:753-762.
- Tozzi F, Sullivan PF, Fear JL, McKenzie J, Bulik CM. Causes and recovery in anorexia nervosa: the patient’s perspective. Int J Eat Disord 2003;33:143-154.