Eating behaviours, disorders and body image
The School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences is committed to conducting internationally renowned research into eating behaviours and clinical and sub-clinical eating disorders.
Our researchers conduct a broad range of cutting-edge research into eating behaviour and eating disorders. We investigate and answer fundamental questions on the psychology of eating behaviour to make a real-world impact, improving the health and wellbeing of children and adults.
Our researchers specialise in quantitative and qualitative research including experimental, correlational and descriptive methods and an array of study designs.
To discuss opportunities to work with researchers working in the area of Eating behaviours, disorders and body image, or if you are interested in a research studentship or a self-funded PhD with us, please visit our researcher’s staff profile pages via the 'People' tab below.
Current research specialisms include:
- Exercise and eating disorders; including the development of new evidence-based measurement and management approaches.
- Prevention, identification and management of disordered eating in athletes.
- Infant and child feeding, including parent and caregiver feeding decisions and practices.
- Eating behaviours in children and adolescents, including developing interventions to promote healthy food intake.
- Unhealthy food and beverage consumption in children and risk of overweight and obesity.
- Parental cognition and mental health in relation to obesity, eating and feeding disorders among children.
- Mealtime factors and mealtime interaction within the eating disorders; including experimental assessment of environmental factors.
- Food insecurity and its impact on children’s eating behaviour and health.
- The impact of pre-meal decisions on food choice, portion selection and food intake in adults and children.
- Non-academic engagement methods for communicating the understanding of healthy and disordered mental representations of the body in chronic pain and other states.
Our research is funded by a range of organisations, including the Economic and Social Research Council, UK Medical Research Council, the British Academy, UK Nutrition Partnership, Garfield Weston Foundation, and the Midlands innovation Commercialisation of Research Accelerator (MICRA).
The main aim of the eating disorders and behaviours research undertaken in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences is to deliver real-world impact, to change the lives of people across the globe.
Through the work undertaken by our researchers, various commercial products, policy recommendations and healthy eating behaviour strategies have been created and disseminated to various stakeholders.
Here are some examples of where our research has had an impact:
- Child Feeding Guide – An evidence-based support resource designed to help caregivers with feeding young children. Available as a website, a free mobile app, and delivered as training courses for parents/caregivers, childcare staff and health professionals.
- Vegetable Maths Masters – A free, fun maths app using vegetables. Children can practise maths skills whilst playing with real images of vegetables. The app is designed to support maths and, at the same time, encourage healthy eating.
- Baby Feeding – A workbook and related teacher manual designed to be used with young people to challenge negative beliefs and attitudes about breastfeeding and encourage both pregnant and non-pregnant teenagers to think about methods of feeding babies.
- Child nutrition – Working closely with the African Population and Health Research Centre and a range of African partners, we are helping to improve child nutrition and the development of feeding policies and programmes in Kenya where breastfeeding is not common practice. The impact of the work is starting to extend to other countries – reducing child mortality and enhancing lifelong health worldwide.
- Reducing compulsive exercise among eating disorder patients – The development of the Compulsive Exercise Test (CET) and the Loughborough Eating Disorders Activity Programme (LEAP).
- Disordered Eating in Athletes (DEIA) – Coach and athlete educational coaching, workshops and resources for the prevention, early identification and management of disordered eating in athletes and sport.
- Appetite in Preschoolers – Producing Evidence for Tailoring Interventions Effectively (APPETItE) – This collaborative 3-year project funded by the ESRC, will examine feeding and eating in preschoolers with avid appetites to understand more about different children’s susceptibility to ‘obesogenic’ environments. It also aims to inform the development of future tailored support for children and families.
- Eating problems in athletes – Disordered eating and clinical eating disorders are more common among athletes than non-athletes. During the past decade, we have developed resources and training for sports professionals to help them successfully identify and manage them.
- Supporting former Olympians experiencing retirement induced body dissatisfaction – A research project, led by Dr Anthony Papathomas and backed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), analysed body image perceptions in retired Olympians, leading to the production of psychoeducational resources to support former Olympians experiencing retirement induced body dissatisfaction.
Our highly skilled and experienced researchers have an array of specialisms in the field of eating behaviour. Please visit their individual profiles for more information.
If you would like to collaborate with our researchers, engage in consultancy or discuss potential PhD projects, please contact them using the information on their staff profile.
- Professor Emma Haycraft – Children’s healthy development, with particular focus on children’s eating, and caregivers’ feeding, behaviours.
- Dr Clare Holley – Promotion of healthy eating among children, including those who experience food insecurity.
- Dr Chris McLeod – Exploring psychological drivers of eating behaviour and interventions to increase the health span of adults.
- Dr Roger Newport – Interactions between perception of the self and sensorimotor processing in healthy and disordered mental representations of the body.
- Hibbah Osei-Kwasi – Dietary practices and behavioural change interventions for Black minority ethnic groups; and global health and nutrition research to reduce inequalities in low/middle income countries.
- Dr Anthony Papathomas – Body image experiences across sport and exercise contexts; including disabled bodies exercising in ableist spaces, and elite athlete body dissatisfaction and its psychosocial consequences.
- Dr Carolyn Plateau – Mental health, wellbeing and disordered eating in sporting populations.
- Dr Florence Sheen – How individuals interact with their food and social environment to create impactful interventions that facilitate the health and wellbeing of individuals of all ages.
- Dr Hannah White – Disordered eating and mental health among adolescents and young adults.
- Dr Gemma Witcomb – Impact of gender, gendered-experiences and LGBTQ+ status on body image, psychological wellbeing, and eating behaviours.
Our doctoral researchers (PhDs)
- Tash Bayes – An examination of the role of sports-based solutions in addressing food poverty and in promoting healthy eating behaviours.
- Parita Bharadia – Physical activity parenting: Exploring the role of family interactions in adolescents' healthy and unhealthy exercise behaviours.
- Robbie Crowder – The impact of school gardening programmes on children's dietary preferences, fruit and vegetable intake, and BMI.
- Natalia Iris – Physical activity calorie equivalent labelling.
- Jess Large – The acceptability and feasibility of healthy weight brief intervention by dental teams for children.
- Ruth Northey – Exercise and calorie tracking apps: investigating the potential for harm.
- Ditope Rabodiba – Development and implementation of preterm infant feeding guidelines post hospital discharge in Limpopo Province, South Africa.
- Kalli Reynolds – Exploring the influence of friends and peers on compulsive exercise attitudes and behaviours among adolescents.
- Ellie Robson – Life course epidemiology of the UK obesity epidemic.
- Rachel Sharp – Motivation and health behaviours. The effect of personality traits, cognitive deficits and time on weight management.
- Erin Prior – Exploring Applied Interventions for Athlete Mental Health.
Research spotlight: The Child Feeding Guide
Fussy eating is common in half of the UK’s children – and an unhealthy diet during childhood can contribute to preventable health conditions later in life. In response, our researchers have created a series of online strategies and tools to improve the way we feed children and nurture lifelong healthy eating habits.