Body image avoidance: An under-explored yet important factor in the relationship between body image dissatisfaction and disordered eating

C. Alix Timko, Adrienne S. Juarascio, Lindsay M. Martin, Ashley Faherty, Cynthia Kalodner

Body dissatisfaction is highly predictive of disordered eating cognitions and behavior, however many more individuals experience body dissatisfaction than disordered eating. While several variables appear to influence the relationship between body dissatisfaction and disordered eating, one potential under-studied construct is experiential avoidance (EA) of body image. Individuals with high body image EA may be more likely to engage in behaviors designed to reduce body dissatisfaction and its associated cognitions and emotions, including disordered eating (i.e., restricting, purging, laxative use, etc.). The Body Image-Acceptance and Action questionnaire (BIAAQ; Sandoz, Wilson, Merwin, & Kellum, 2013) was recently developed to assess EA of body image, however despite promising initial validation data, it is still a relatively novel instrument and additional validation is warranted. The present study includes a series of cross-sectional studies designed to accomplish three goals: (1) to provide additional validation data for the BI-AAQ, (2) to assess the potential indirect effect of EA on the relationship between body image dissatisfaction and disordered eating cognition and behavior, and (3) to compare the BI-AAQ to an existing measure of body avoidance. Overall, results indicate that the BI-AAQ is a valid measure of body image EA; it partially explains the relationship between body image dissatisfaction and disordered eating. The measure also appears to have incremental validity over pre-existing measures. Future research is needed to further clarify the role of body image EA and to examine whether treatments targeting this construct can prevent or treat disordered eating.

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