Full of Ourselves:  Advancing Girl Power, Health and Leadership

Full of Ourselves is a dynamic educational program, created by Catherine Steiner-Adair, Ed.D. and Lisa Sjostrom, Ed.M., that aims to sustain girls in their health and decrease their vulnerability to the development of body preoccupation and eating disorders.  This model prevention program emphasizes girls’ personal power and overall mental and physical well being. It has been piloted with more than 1000 girls in five states and proven feasible and effective.

What is Full of Ourselves?
This is a primary prevention program aimed at a general (i.e., healthy) population of girls; no one need be at risk for an eating disorder to participate.  Two distinct program phases are geared toward girls of different ages.  During phase 1, a group of 6th, 7th or 8th graders completes the eight-unit Full of Ourselves curriculum under the guidance of one or two women leaders.  During phase 2, these same
girls become peer leaders and lead several sessions with 4th or 5th graders.  Any interested school or youth organization can adopt the program.  All that’s needed is a supportive community and two committed adults—often teachers, guidance counselors or school nurses—to facilitate the weekly group sessions.

Give me an idea of what happens during a Full of Ourselves group
Each of the eight Full of Ourselves units takes 45-60 minutes to complete.  Through dozens of activities—discussions, art activities, role plays, guided meditations and a host of others—girls explore a range of topics, including self and body acceptance; weightism as a social justice issue; media literacy; nutrition basics; how to nourish emotional hungers; and the power of healthy relationships.  Each unit ends with a “Call to Action” directing girls to translate new-found knowledge into positive action at school, at home and in the wider world.

How are the younger girls involved?
The exciting second program phase is where some of the most profound learning takes place. The 7th and 8th graders, now mentors, design and lead 3-5 sessions for 4th or 5th grade girls.  They draw upon suggested activities in a second curriculum titled Throw Your Weight Around: A Guide for Girl Leaders.

What are your goals?
Numerous!  Most importantly, we want girls to gain higher levels of body and self acceptance, higher levels of self esteem and confidence, as well as a wider range of coping skills to use in response to stressful or emotional situations (rather than turning to a fad diet or a pint of ice cream).  We also hope that girls will gain healthier eating habits, a proficiency with basic media literacy skills, and the courage and wherewithal to speak up in the face of “weightist” teasing and bullying.

How do you know if the program’s a success?
We evaluated the program extensively.  Participating and control group girls answered a research questionnaire pre-program, post-program and six months later. Research reveals that Full of Ourselves is feasible, that it causes no harm, and that it effects positive changes in several key areasThis is the first prevention program of its kind to effect sustained positive changes in girls’ body image, body satisfaction and body esteem, important risk factors in the development of eating disorders.  The program also resulted in sustained positive changes in girls’ knowledge about health, nutrition, weightism and puberty.

Where to next?
Full of Ourselves moves out into the wider world, as we publish, disseminate and replicate the program nationwide.  To support quality program implementation, we will run a Leaders’ training in Camden, Maine on Friday, March 18, 2005.

To reserve a space at the adult training, please contact Mary at megirls@midcoast.com.
The Full of Ourselves project is located at McLean Hospital.  Add your name to our mailing list by emailing Catherine Steiner-Adair, principal investigator, at csadair@comcast.net.  Feel free to call her with any questions at 617/332-2001.