Body Aspect at EDIC 2018

Body Aspect attended the BEAT Eating Disorders International Conference (EDIC) conference at Imperial College London, 28th–29th March 2018.  Graham Hutton delivered a presentation on behalf of the company regarding the potential use of 3D image assessment technology in the therapeutic treatment for people with eating disorders.  The following is a Q&A with Graham about the conference:

Was this the first EDIC conference Body Aspect has attended?

The conferences are held every two years. I attended one in 2012 to get an idea of what was happening in the field.  Sam, our Service Development Manager, delivered a presentation at the conference in 2014; she gave an introduction to our 3D body image technology and its potential application to patients with eating disorders.

What was a highlight of this year’s EDIC?

Not only being able to showcase Body Aspect’s services and technologies but also learning from others.  It was an opportunity to interact with a range of delegates from academics, nurses and medical researchers to service users and their families. The open discussion sessions were particularly insightful, as they involved keynote speakers interacting with Beat Ambassadors.

What role did the Beat Ambassadors play?

Beat Ambassadors are volunteers of the charity who share their experiences of eating disorders and recovery. Their aim is to raise awareness, improve understanding of eating disorders and related issues, and advocate for others.  Their presence in the conference community was vital, and it was enlightening to hear their experiences.   The result was an increased collective motivation to work together to tackle these issues.

How was the company approached to attend and deliver a presentation?

We keep in touch with Beat, and keep an eye out for this conference. We submitted an abstract for a conference poster that would give an overview of our technology and services. The charity responded by asking Body Aspect to upgrade the poster to a presentation, as they felt the content would be particularly interesting and could contribute a unique element to the discussions.

What are the benefits for Body Aspect attending conferences such as the EDIC?

We keep abreast of various conferences in order to keep up to date with current research trends. For us it’s a chance to show people what we’re doing at Body Aspect and we received some good comments afterwards regarding our novel technology.

It’s also an opportunity to get feedback from the conference community which can inform our development plans. It enables us to decide what the demands are in specific areas, so we can consider applying for research funding and discuss the feasibility of providing new services.

What was your presentation about?

I presented the findings of a study that Body Aspect carried out in 2015 which was co-funded by Innovate UK. We used 3D Image Assessment software on members of a gym to assess body image issues. Participants were able to use this software to create realistic avatars which corresponded to perceived images of themselves. They were then scanned and the two images, their perceived image and their actual scan, were shown side by side. They were also able to see volumetric measurements which quantified the differences numerically. Using the software as a body image assessment tool enables a person to visualise and quantify body image distortion and dissatisfaction, and therefore has huge relevance for the field of eating disorders.

What impact did this study have?

The impact on the participants was positive. In fact, 80% of participants felt the process improved their understanding of their body image. Creating avatars of their target images was also regarded as a useful motivator for participants.

The study encouraged us to further develop the application, and in 2017/18 we received support from Innovate UK to help refine the software specifically for the purpose of weight management. It has enabled us to adapt the software so that people with higher body mass indexes (BMIs) could create realistic avatars as part of an effective weight loss tool.

Why did over 90% of subjects consider the 3D technology to be better than viewing their bodies in a mirror?

The first reason is that the 3D image captured by the scanner portrays your body in its simplest form, without clothing or skin to distract or distort the image. Secondly, the technology provides you with abilities that a mirror cannot; for example you can rotate the image to view your body from all angles.

How does this technology help a person better understand their own body?

The ability to create a realistic 3D image of what a person thinks they look like – designing a tangible form of a vision of what’s in their head – concretely shows any misconceptions a person has about their own body image. Clients can see their actual scan next to their perceived self-image, a comparison of which shows any differences between the two, advancing a person’s understanding of their body.

What were the key findings from the pilot study questionnaires?

We sought to demonstrate how the technology could be used to assess body image distortion and dissatisfaction. And we found that there were considerable groups who either overestimated or underestimated their size.

Many people reported being shocked or surprised at how inaccurate their self-perceptions were, but this was reported to be an empowering thing: it encouraged people either to be less critical of themselves and subsequently look after their mental health, or motivated them to make healthy changes with weight loss or weight gain.

What are some of the main benefits of using 3D body capture technology?

Our body imaging technology uses harmless infrared light to capture a 3D image of the surface of a person’s body from which we create an accurate 3D representation of the person. The scanning process itself is fast and completely safe to use.

Body Aspect has developed a specialised software programme with which to process the scan information for assessment. Using this unique software, we are able to evaluate body image distortion and dissatisfaction for each individual, as well as enable them to set motivational targets of how they would like to look in the future. This technology can also be used as a research tool to collect data, so that researchers can investigate common underlying issues among various groups of people.

How could this technology be adapted into an appropriate tool that health care professionals could use for treating people with eating disorders?

We are aware of some of the ethical challenges that could be raised, but our vision for the future is to work with other experienced professionals with the hope of providing an appropriate tool that could be used alongside other therapies and treatments.

What approach would Body Aspect take with regard to developing its technology and services to making it a suitable and effective form of therapy?

We believe our technology has the potential to act as a supportive element within an holistic treatment programme. With an informed and sensitive approach, our services could function in the right way to show a patient any distortion they perceive about their body image, as well as providing a healthy target image of what they could achieve.

Our approach would be to put people with eating disorders and their emotional well being first. Body Aspect is interested in becoming involved with research projects surrounding people with eating disorders, their families, relevant medical professionals and therapists. Gaining their expertise would enable us to refine our technology into a form that’s going to be most useful for patients and their treatment.

(by Rachel Bates)

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

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