Confirming My Career Path

I truly enjoyed my time as an Honors Scholar. During the fall and spring semesters, there was much less work than during the summer. My independent study during the fall was very easy to complete because of the extensive research I did, and I spent spring semester preparing for the Undergraduate Research and Artistry Day (URAD). The work was much more spread out during the two semesters. I learned that the prevalence of certain eating disorders is similar in both western and non-western countries and that Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders is rising in both males and females. While presenting at URAD, I had many people interested in my results, which was extremely rewarding.

Although I greatly enjoyed the research, the most rewarding part of my work was not my results; rather, my work as an Honors Scholar confirmed that I want to specialize in eating disorders as a registered dietitian. I am extremely passionate about eating disorders and want to make it my career to help those who suffer. Fortunately, I was accepted into Northern Illinois University’s Masters/Dietetic Internship, which will allow me to pursue a certificate in eating disorders and obesity. Since my time as an Honors Scholar, I have also began to volunteer for the National Eating Disorder Association. I am so grateful for the opportunity that I had to focus on eating disorders as an Honors Scholar, and the clarity that it brought me regarding my future.EatingDisorderWordmap

Summer Reflections

I made a great deal of progress this summer as an Honors Scholar researcher. I collected and analyzed over thirty studies, over forty if the proposal is included, regarding the prevalence of eating disorders in college students conducted in various countries including the United States, Hungary, Iceland, England, Puerto Rico, China, Japan, and Turkey. This was extremely tedious, time-consuming work due to the demographic specificities, but not eating disorder specificities. My goal was to find a multitude of studies regarding each eating disorder that accurately represented Western and Nonwestern countries. Moreover, I also began the historical analysis of the predominant eating disorders – anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.

During the fall semester, I will be working with Dr. Barrett to complete my Honors Capstone project. I will spend the first few weeks analyzing my systematic review from the summer and using that data to draw conclusions to answer my four research questions from my proposal:
1) Are prevalence rates of eating disorders rising or declining?
2) Are college students in Nonwestern countries as affected by eating disorders as college            students in Western countries?
3) Is there a specific eating disorder that is more prevalent than others?
4) Can evaluating the history of eating disorders help draw conclusions on trends in its     development?

I predict that yes, evaluating the history of eating disorders will help determine trends in development. The history of eating disorders is critical to understand because we should know why these disorders fostered in our society and others. Knowing this, we should be able to make decisions on how to best prevent these eating disorders in the future. We do not want to repeat our mistakes in the past; however, if eating disorders are strictly biological, research will have to change tactics in order to best prevent eating disorders in the future.
Once these four research questions are thoroughly answered, I will complete my Capstone paper and submit it to Dr. Barrett, my research mentor, for review. After I correct her edits, I will submit my final Capstone paper to the Honors Department to complete my Capstone class.

This experience as a summer researcher was incredibly rewarding, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in this amazing program. My work this summer has made me incredibly proud of that fact that I designed my own research project and conducted the work necessary to fulfill my goals. I think every student should pursue the opportunity to research, and I am so glad that I pursued mine.

by Ashley Kyle
Summer Reflections

My mentor is more than just my research mentor

Hello! My time as an Honors Scholar is quickly wrapping up, and I would like to talk about one person who I couldn’t have done it without – my mentor, Dr. Sheila Barrett. Barrett, SheilaI have worked with Dr. Barrett the past two years as a Research Rookie, so I was thrilled to be able to continue working with her throughout the summer and fall semester on my Honors Capstone. She is wonderful to work with in all aspects and will always find time in her busy schedule for me, which I greatly appreciate. Dr. Barrett possesses all the qualities of a great mentor: she keeps a positive mindset, sets clear goals for my research, and always provides feedback on my work, just to name a few. She is incredibly kind and patient with me, yet makes her expectations very clear. Furthermore, Dr. Barrett is incredibly encouraging, the sky is the limit with her, and I have gained so much confidence through having her as a mentor. In fact, her “sky is the limit” mentality is why I love research so much. We always dream big with any research we discuss, and I get so excited thinking of all the possibilities. Some of my favorite moments spent wither her are sitting in her office watching her get fired up over a research-related topic. The energy that fills her small office space in Wirtz is unbelievable, and it would be hard for anyone to not get excited.

Dr. Barrett does more than mentor me in research-related programs. She also counsels me on future plans such as graduate school and careers. I’ve asked her multiple questions about graduate programs, career plans, schools, etc. and she always sets my mind at ease. I feel secure about my future when talking with her. Lastly, Dr. Barrett motivates me constantly from school work to research to the Student Dietetic Association to just being a better person in general. I am so lucky that she wanted a Research Rookie in 2013 because having her as a mentor for 2 and a half years has been such a rewarding experience. I admire her and respect in all things, and am so grateful to have her as my research mentor.

by Ashley Kyle

Connecting research to my future career

“Why are you researching eating disorders?” I get asked this question a lot, actually, and it usually comes along with a statement similar to, “That’s really depressing.” Yes, I have to agree. It is really heartbreaking to see people of every age, gender, race, and culture develop a mental illness that causes them to harm their bodies – to starve their bodies, purge their bodies, or binge until their bodies can’t take it. That’s part of the reason why I eventually want to specialize in eating disorders as a Registered Dietitian and work in an eating disorder clinic. I want to help people overcome their illnesses and teach them that food is not the enemy and their body is not a cage. I want to show them how to nourish their body and make it the best it can be instead of tearing it apart. Therefore, researching eating disorders in general will help me along my future career path and give me a strong undergraduate background in eating disorder research. Furthermore, this research has been helping me understand more about the disorder and the people it affects.

“Why research the prevalence of eating disorders in Western and Nonwestern countries then?” I’m glad you asked. Prevalence rates are critical in understanding the widespread presence of an illness in a given population at a given point in time. For my research, I’m trying to find the prevalence of eating disorders in the years 1980-2015 in Western and Nonwestern populations. I can then compare this data to determine if the rates are similar or not. This is important to me because there is this false belief that eating disorders are a disease solely in women in Western societies. Through my research, I want to show that this is not the case, and eating disorders can affect anyone.

I not only want to work in the treatment of eating disorders, but also in the prevention. Therefore,get-your-plate-in-shape-800x6001 researching prevalence rates can show me the trends and how many people are affected by eating disorders, which could potentially impact future prevention strategies. If the rates decreased sharply, I can then look into what happened that caused those rates to decline. Maybe it was a prevention strategy, maybe it was societal, but whatever it was, it would be good to know. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses, and I would like to do my part to change that, through research, counseling, and whatever else is necessary.

by Ashley Kyle

Eating Disorders

Hello everyone! I have been working on my Honors Scholar capstone for the past several weeks, and I’d like to share my abstract so far with you:

College students are one of the more vulnerable population groups when it comes to mental health issues, and approximately one in four students have a diagnosable mental health concern, one of those being eating disorders. Students, especially women, have an increase focus on their body image and are willing to go to extreme measures to change their bodies’ shapes and sizes through unhealthy diet, purging, binging, or similar action. In the past, eating disorders have been primarily a Western disease, but research has suggested that Nonwestern countries are beginning to have eating disorder prevalence rates as high as some Western countries. Therefore, this study’s objectives are to compare the prevalence rates of eating disorders of college students in Western and Nonwestern countries to determine if the Nonwestern prevalence rates are indeed increasing as much as some studies have indicated. Furthermore, this study will also look into the history of eating disorders to determine if there are any trends that might be influencing the prevalence rates in both Western and Nonwestern countries. Eating disorders that will be examined are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and eating disorders not otherwise specified. This research is important to determine 1) whether or not Nonwestern college students are being affected by eating disorders, 2) if the prevalence rates of eating disorders in college students in Eating DisorderWestern and Nonwestern countries are increasing, and 3) what trends in the past have been occurring that might have influenced the prevalence of eating disorders. It is predicted that the prevalence rates have been rising in both Western and Nonwestern countries for all eating disorders.

To collect this data, I have been doing a systematic review of all studies since the 1980s that focus on the prevalence rates of eating disorders. I have been using databases such as Academic Search Complete, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Medline, ProQuest, and PubMed as well as resources from the NIU library to collect this data. To organize the data, I created an Excel file with a master spreadsheet and a spreadsheet for each study I have utilized. I will continue searching for research on prevalence rates and start drafting my proposal in these next few weeks. I believe that my summer research will provide valuable results on eating disorder prevalence rates and help to determine whether or not Western and Nonwestern countries need to focus more on decreasing the prevalence of eating disorders in the world.

by Ashley Kyle