Preventing eating disorder pathology: Common and unique features of successful eating disorders prevention programs

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Over the past two decades, the field of eating disorders has made remarkable strides in identifying, evaluating, and disseminating successful prevention programs. The current review identifies and discusses nine distinct eating disorders prevention programs that reduce existing eating disorder pathology or prevent the onset of future pathology. Each program was evaluated in one or more controlled trial with a follow-up period of at least six months. We review the evidence base for these nine successful programs and discuss their common and unique features. Based on authors' descriptions of their programs in published trials, we found that all programs were theory-driven, targeted one or more eating disorder risk factor (e.g., body dissatisfaction), were delivered across multiple group sessions, and included at least some interactive content. Most programs included content related to healthy eating/nutrition, media literacy/sociocultural pressures, and body acceptance/body satisfaction. Notably, there was wide variation in some participant features (e.g., participant age, sex, risk status) and intervention features (e.g., setting and format, length and dose, providers), suggesting that a variety of programs are beneficial in impacting eating disorder pathology. Implications and directions for future research are discussed, including an increased focus on universal and indicated prevention programs, expanding programs to a wider age range and a broader spectrum of weight-related problems, and rigorous evaluation of programs through efficacy, effectiveness, and implementation research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number453
JournalCurrent psychiatry reports
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Eating disorder pathology
  • Eating disorders
  • Prevention
  • Review


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