8 Week Program for Eating-Disordered Participants

As part of her doctoral dissertation Dr. Jenn created an eight week treatment program for eating disordered women utilizing the non-diet philosophy, wrote a therapist manual, and created a workbook for participants.



In the United States, an estimated 8 million people suffer from eating disorders. Over 90% of those suffering are women, giving eating disorders the most lopsided gender ratio of any disorder known to psychiatry.

Eating disorders, considered to be in epidemic proportions in the United States were, until recently, relatively unheard of in non-Western societies. It has been argued that eating disorders in Western societies are “simply extensions of normative and culturally acceptable modes of behavior”. It has been noted in other cultures that the rate of eating disorders has risen as the influx of Western values has increased.

The purpose of this study was to create and apply a therapeutic treatment model for women with eating disorders. The researcher sought to address the research problem of whether or not an 8-week workshop could be created that would effectively use an intuitive eating approach to normalize eating disordered women's relationship with food. The research questions to be answered were:
  1. Can eating-disordered women learn to normalize their relationship with food?
  2. Can eating-disordered women learn intuitive eating?
  3. Can eating-disordered women learn to focus on their internal process over their external weight related goals?
  4. Can women who have been using eating-disordered behavior as a coping behavior learn more adaptive and nurturing coping behaviors in an 8-week program?
  5. Can eating-disordered women learn to derive pleasure from food?
  6. Can eating-disordered women learn to accept their own bodies?

Review of Literature

Many of the symptoms attributed to anorexia and bulimia are now thought to be biological symptoms of starvation or dieting. It has been shown repeatedly that dieting leads to loss of control with food and bingeing.

The 8-Week Intuitive Eating Program is based on an intuitive eating, or "non-diet" method. This approach is based on the concept of nonrestrictive eating and obeying the body’s signals. Intuitive eating principles are: not following a regimented diet, eating only when physically hungry, eating all types of foods without restriction, challenging the diet oriented schemas, obeying signals of satiety, deriving pleasure out of the eating experience, and coping with emotions without using food.

Research Methods and Procedures

A study was designed to reorganize eating disordered women's relationship with food using an 8-week workshop format. This program was process-oriented as opposed to goal-oriented in its approach, and, therefore, the focus was to help participants change their feelings about food and their bodies as opposed to making changes in body weight or symptomology.

Once the 8-week program had been administered to the participants, they completed a program evaluation questionnaire in order to generate the findings and to fulfill the stated research objectives. These findings were then evaluated by three experts, in the field of eating disorders.


Utilizing the results of the program evaluation questionnaire provided insights into the effects of the program on participants. It appeared from the results, that participants were able to reduce food related obsessions, binge less, eat when they were physically hungry, not eat restrictively, avoid purging, have healthier thoughts about their bodies and their food intake, reduce food related fears, stop eating when satisfied, and gain pleasure form the eating experience. While intuitive eating occurs on a continuum, it was clear from the results of this study that participants were closer to being intuitive eaters by the end of the eight weeks.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Based on the findings from the study, is that the 8-week intuitive eating workshop is an effective method to help eating disordered women normalize their relationship with food. Participants consistently reported an improved status with regard to food, body acceptance, and food-related cognitive schema.

The findings for this study suggest a number of different areas for further research. Utilizing expanded populations, studying responsiveness of participants with different types of eating disorders, applying other types of evaluation instrumentation, or comparing the effectiveness of the program to individual therapy would all be of interest.