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..]. Furthermore, studies indicate that between 60 and 80% of college women engage in regular binge eating and other abnormal behaviours that fall short of the criteria set by clinical scales. Many college women who are at normal weights continue to express a strong desire to be thinner and to hold beliefs about food and body image that are similar to those of women who have actual eating disorders" (Hesse-Biber et.al., 1999; 385-6)
One possible explanation for the increased presence of eating disorders among young college students is given by the amount of stress, in terms of having to face some important challenges and take some major decisions (or at least perceived as such) and there might be a negative correlation between the level of self-satisfaction (as academic performance and as correct decisions) and the occurence of eating disorders, as some studies suggest (Hesse-Biber et.al., 1999)
The therapy will be continued for a duration of six months to one year, because behavioural and attitudinal change is a process that requires time. The sessions will be held once or twice per weeks, in groups of 5 to 10 persons, depending on the sample selected. The size of the group depends on the individual and therapeutical needs of the patients - and here the indepth interviews will bring light, and the high level of education is a plus, assuming that it is associated with a higher level of self-awarness and an increased ability to express and communicate the problems. Before the therapy program begins, the subjects will be interviewed and, during the sessions, they will be given a self-monitoring program, in order to fully assess the efficiency of the therapy and the development of the patients
Here, some additional comments have to be made. First, the therapy is focused on overweight women and not on eating disorders, therefore it might address to patients who suffer from obesity from medical causes. Nonetheless, these patients are in the same need of support as those suffering from an eating disorder, particularly in terms of self-conceptualization, self-acceptance and social integration. The women suffering from obesity from medical causes will have to face the same problems of adaptation as those suffering from eating disorders, but the two categories should not be reduced to only one.
The self-concept is constructed through a permanent negotiation between a sense of relationship with the others and a sense of autonomy from them (Hesse-Biber et.al, 1999; 387). Similalrly, the self-esteem is given by the measure of appreciation one has for his or her self-concept, by the closeness to the standards one desires to reach in terms of personal and social development. Accordingly, "theorists [...] claim the psychological experience of self is intimately connected to sense of one's own body; and researchers find that physical appearance is related to emotional well-being, happiness and self-esteem" (Hayes & Ross, 1986; 387). In this apparently closed circle of social aesthetics norms / appearance / self-esteem obesity can create a disruption and interfere in the social and personal dimensions of one's life.
The importance of this therapeutical project lies in several aspects. First, it can enrich the theoretical framework, exposing the risks a certain category is subject to, through providing answers to a few questions: are female students a risk group for obesity and/or eating disorders? If so, then what are the factors that predispose them towards such disorders and do they lie primarily in the socio-cultural determinants, or in the personal dimension?
Second, the project can contribute to the group therapy understanding, exposing the effects on this approach over this category of subjects and this type of disorders. Third, and probably most important, it will bring an element of change and improve the quality of life of the patients benefitting from the treatment. As explained here, obesity is not only a personal issue, but raises problems of social adaptation and integration. Moreover, the cases of obesity and overweight are multiplying in the United States, therefore the importance of the treatment and of the therapy also become a matter of social importance.
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