Weight and Eating Lab

The Weight and Eating Lab (WEL) seeks to better understand factors that can impede or enhance healthy eating and weight practices. The WEL Director is Dr. Shannon Zaitsoff, an Assistant Professor at Simon Fraser University, and a registered psychologist.

Eating disorders (e.g., anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder) and weight-related disorders (i.e., obesity) are potentially life-threatening outcomes of unhealthy eating and lifestyle habits. Furthermore, eating and weight-related disorders are associated with a myriad of challenges, such as body dissatisfaction, binge eating, depressive symptoms, impulsivity, extreme compensatory behaviors (e.g., purging, laxative use), and reduced quality of life. Research suggests there is an increased likelihood of obesity in adulthood for obese youth, which highlights the importance of identifying factors that promote healthy eating and weight practices.

Although the onset of eating disorders typically occurs in adolescence, studies on the treatment of adolescent eating disorders are lacking. Family-Based Therapy (FBT) currently holds the strongest evidence for the treatment of anorexia nervosa amongst adolescents. A primary component of FBT is focusing on the family meal. Frequent family meals are associated with positive health and psychosocial outcomes, and the family meal is particularly amenable to change.

The WEL program of research examines: (a) the importance of family meals in relation to healthy eating and weight, (b) the process and experience of weight loss, and (c) the role of the patient-therapist relationship in family-based treatments for adolescents with eating disorders.