09/12/2012 04:12 PM
BATON ROUGE – In today’s media-driven world, a growing number of young girls and women
are trying to live up to an unrealistic “thin and beautiful” ideal, leading to body
dissatisfaction and a number of unhealthy behaviors. In response to this increasing
problem, LSU School of Education Associate Professor Laura Choate’s research has found
that certain factors can act as a shield against negative body image.
As coordinator of the School of Education’s community counseling track within the
counselor education program, Choate prepares future counselors to provide effective
prevention and treatments for their clients. Her current research has provided insight
into factors that can affect an adolescent’s body image.
In 2005, Choate formed a theoretical model proposing that certain dynamics can lead
to a healthy body image. According to Choate, about half of all college women are
affected by some form of negative body image, and many of them engage in unhealthy
eating practices such as excessive dieting, binging and over-exercising.
“My work as a college counselor working with younger women really brought this problem
to light,” said Choate. “I began to see how much of a problem negative body image
is; it gets in the way of young women living a meaningful life when they worry about
their weight and appearance.”
After the publication of her original model, Choate was contacted by a colleague from
Boston College interested in collaborating to validate the model empirically using
a sample of college women.
Choate and her colleagues surveyed 301 women in their freshman year of college to
determine whether certain “protective” factors in fact did shield them from a destructive
“We found that family support, resistance to cultural pressures, rejection of the
superwoman myth, active coping skills, a positive physical self-concept and a sense
of wellness and balance all are factors that protect women,” said Choate.
Choate believes that by integrating these factors into prevention programs, young
women will be less vulnerable to the unrealistic comparison standards that are prevalent
throughout the media. Young women can learn to value themselves based on all aspects
of their person, rather than just by outer beauty.
“Parents should also realize the powerful impact they have on their daughters,” said
Choate. “By giving them diverse opportunities and not making critical remarks on their
appearance, parents can shift their daughters focus away from over-valuing their body
Choate’s work has been referenced in several national media outlets, such as the Huffington
Post, the journal Sex Roles, the Daily Mail, YouBeauty.com and Ladies Home Journal.
Choate is now working on a book on adolescent girls’ mental health which should be
released in 2012.
Choate was the guest editor for the July 2012 issue of the Journal of Counseling and
Development which focuses on the treatment and prevention of eating disorders. This
journal is the flagship journal of the American Counseling Association and has more
than 40,000 subscribers.
While eating disorders are historically associated with young European and American
women, it now affects a wider and more diverse group.
“Eating-related problems have begun appearing increasingly in men, members of racial
and ethnic cultural groups, international problems and in the LGBTQ community,” said
Choate also edited a book, “Eating Disorders and Obesity: A Counselor’s Guide to Prevention
and Treatment” that will be published by the American Counseling Association press
The LSU School of Education, one of the top 100 schools of education in the nation
as ranked by U.S. News & World Report, offers 13 degrees in a range of areas from
PK3-12 to higher education, special education and counseling.
For more information about the School of Education, visit www.lsu.edu/education.
LSU has created a high-profile college that will have a major impact on the quality
of life of the citizens of Louisiana in the areas of social and human sciences. The
College of Human Sciences & Education consists of the School of Education, the School
of Human Resource Education & Workforce Development, the School of Library & Information
Science, the School of Kinesiology, the School of Social Work and the University Laboratory
For more information about the College of Human Sciences & Education, visit www.lsu.edu/chse.
Posted on Wednesday, September 12, 2012