Body Image Research Lab - Team
I am a professor and registered psychologist with a research program in the prevention and treatment of eating and weight-related issues. In 2014, I was awarded with the Distinguished Research Supervision Award from the Werklund School of Education and in 2015 I was awarded a Werklund Research Professorship.
The primary objective of my research program is to lead and transform prevention research about weight-related issues like body image (perceptions, attitudes, and experiences about the body), disordered eating (e.g., unhealthy methods of weight change), weight-related disorders (e.g., obesity and eating disorders) and professional conversations and interactions about weight (e.g., weight bias). Body weight and embodiment are both important to well-being and healthy development. My research is informed by clinical and research experience in interdisciplinary team contexts, as well as linkages between my work in academia and committee work with policy-makers and community partners.
My research: (a) focuses on the prevention of eating-related issues particularly in school contexts; (b) considers the risk and protective factors that integrate the prevention of eating disorders and obesity with the promotion of mental wellness and resiliency; (c) uses various and mixed methodological designs to capture both process and outcome in an ecological framework; and (d) capitalizes on interdisciplinary knowledge in creating research teams.
Post Doctoral Scholars
Isabel Brun, MSc, PhD Candidate
I am originally from Fredericton, New-Brunswick. I moved to Calgary in September of 2014 to pursue my MSc in Counselling Psychology at the University of Calgary. As part of my MSc thesis research, I investigated remembered childhood experiences of parental feeding control (i.e., being put on a diet by your parents as a child). Through qualitative methods, I endeavored to shed light on the perceived psychological impacts of experiencing these feeding methods during one's childhood. In the fall of 2017, I began the PhD in Counselling Psychology program.
Melissa Glazer, MA
I am a PhD student in the counselling psychology program at the University of Calgary under the supervision of Dr. Shelly Russell-Mayhew. After the completion of my Honours BA in psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University, I went to Western University for the MA counselling psychology program, under the supervision of Dr. Alan Leschied. I completed my undergraduate honours thesis in the area of women and discrimination under the supervision of Dr. Mindi Foster and my SSHRC funded MA thesis assessed the use of courthouse facility dogs in helping to support child/young witnesses who were testifying in court against sexual abuse. I am passionate about research in court-related issues, weight bias, gendered discrimination, and children/youth populations. My doctoral research will tie in all these interests
Victoria Nieborowska, MA, MSc
I am a second-year PhD Counselling Psychology student at the University of Calgary. Prior to completing my MSc in Counselling Psychology at the University of Calgary, I completed an MA in Experimental Psychology from Concordia University and an HBSc in Psychology from the University of Toronto. My research interests include cognition, exercise, sensorimotor functioning, and body image in older adulthood. Under the supervision of Dr. Shelly Russell-Mayhew, my Master’s thesis investigated how cognitive functioning contributes to the dysfunctional and negative thinking towards body satisfaction among older adult women. As a cognitive developmental researcher, my goal is to promote healthy and successful aging. I also enjoy snowboarding, figure skating, horse back riding, and baking.
Lisa Taylor, MA
I am a physical education instructor and PhD student at the University of Calgary. As a second-year student in Learning Sciences, Werklund School of Education, I plan to study the impact of wellness initiatives on staff and students in Calgary schools using a Comprehensive School Health framework, for the purpose of my dissertation. To this work, I bring nine years of teaching experience with the Calgary Board of Education, where I specialized in physical education. Along with my experience as a teacher, I led a high school team of physical education teachers for four years and successfully spearheaded a Comprehensive School Health team in one secondary school and one primary school. As a mother to a little girl, I am eager to work to improve the quality of wellness support within Calgary schools.
Danielle Carli Lefebvre, BA (Hons), MSc
I am currently in my first year of my PhD in Counselling Psychology. I also completed my Master's of Science in Counselling Psychology at the University of Calgary in 2020. My areas of interest are body image, gender, societal expectations, and weight bias, and how I can extend this interest into advocacy work. My master's thesis research explored the experiences of transgender women with body image, and specifically how their relationship with their body was and is impacted by a cis-heteronormative society and male dictated standards for women. I also enjoy reading, hiking, and baking.
Janelle Morhun, BA. (Hons.)
I am currently a third year student in the MSc Counselling Psychology program at the University of Calgary. I also completed my BA (Hons) in Psychology at the University of Calgary where I examined the health-related quality of life and psychosocial well-being in parents of infants with cancer for my honours thesis. I am excited to expand my knowledge in the field of health psychology through my participation in the Body Image Research Lab and under the supervision of Dr. Shelly Russell-Mayhew. I am interested in body image research within chronic illness, romantic relationships, and social media contexts.
Sally Vos, BA. (Hons.)
Hi, my name is Sally! I am a third year MSc Counselling Psychology student at the University of Calgary. Throughout my undergraduate studies at Mount Royal University, I investigated the use of dissonance-based interventions to encourage healthy behaviour. Specifically, my honours thesis involved motivating university students to exercise more regularly through means of dissonance induction. My thesis research seeks to improve the efficacy of a dissonance-based body image program known as the Body Project. I believe that this may have important implications for public health and our understanding of eating disorder prevention.
Benjamin Kim, BSc (Hons.)
I am currently in my second year of the MSc Counselling Psychology program at the University of Calgary. I also completed my BSc (Hons) here at the University of Calgary, where I examined the first warning signs and symptoms between alcohol, gambling, and eating disorders for my honours thesis. I am excited to grow my knowledge in the field of body image and eating disorder research with a special focus on the sociocultural pressures of appearance ideals, social appearance anxiety and unhealthy eating behaviours. In the future, I would like to work with young adults and help them achieve a healthy understanding of their body, weight and diet.
Maureen Plante, B.A. (Hons)
I am currently in my first year of the MSc. Counselling Psychology program. I completed my honours psychology degree at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta, where I examined belief in dubious health claims using the framework of regulatory focus theory for my honours thesis. During my time at MacEwan University, I examined whether there is a direct relationship between regulatory focus and restrictive eating and, if so, which variables might mediate that relationship.
I am particularly interested in the prevention of eating disorders, specifically the ways we can use social processes and motivation to identify who might be at risk for disordered eating/eating disorders and when to intervene, and finding ways to reduce stigma around weight bias and eating disorders.
Hilary Herman, BA
I completed my B.A. in Psychology at the University of Calgary, which examined body image, eating behaviours, and associated risk factors in a diverse range of fashion industry students and professionals. My background as a former athlete and personal trainer has made me acutely aware of the presence of weight bias within the health and fitness world. I am thrilled to be a part of the Body Image Research Lab, and am interested in investigating the extent of this stigma and the impact it has on the experiences of individuals living in larger bodies in their pursuit of wellness. I am further interested in conducting research that will contribute to the development of initiatives to shift perspectives on wellness from body-size focused to more inclusive paradigms that will provide all individuals the equal opportunity to achieve wellness.
Sarah Nutter, PhD
After completing my Hon. BA in psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University, I came to the University of Calgary to complete my graduate training in counselling psychology program. I completed both my MSc and PhD degrees under the supervision of Dr. Russell-Mayhew, and I am now a post-doctoral scholar. I am passionate about research in weight bias, and I find myself especially interested in better understanding the causes of weight bias. Specifically, my master’s research examined the sociocultural and ideological correlates of weight bias. My doctoral research extended this work by further examining the role of the belief in a just world and deservingness in weight bias. As a post-doctoral scholar, I will continue my research on weight bias, as well as engage in research related to comprehensive school health and teacher education. I am passionate about advocating for weight bias as a social justice issue and working toward promoting equality and respect for persons of every size.
Jessica Saunders, PhD
Dr. Jessica Saunders received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Wellesley College and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Developmental Science and Quantitative Methods from Florida International University in 2018. Jessica joined the Body Image Research Lab after working for one year at the Women’s Research Institute of Nevada. Broadly, Jessica’s program of research aims to improve the lives of girls’ and women by capturing their lived experiences and bridging the gap between science and policy. She aims to prioritize women’s body experiences in psychological research and to better identify ways negative body experiences and social-cognitive processes (body dissatisfaction, self-objectification, and social comparison) can be altered and improved, and the direct and indirect ways culture influences these experiences.
Angela Alberga, PhD
Former Post Doctoral Scholar
Born and raised in Montreal, I completed my BSc (Major Exercise Science, Minor Psychology) at Concordia University. I then pursued my MSc and PhD in the School of Human Kinetics, specializing in Exercise Physiology at the University of Ottawa. My graduate research focused on the effects of exercise on improving the cardiometabolic health of children and adolescents with obesity. I chose to pursue an interdisciplinary postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Calgary to enhance my knowledge on the psychosocial aspects of weight-related issues and their implications for public health. While at the University of Calgary, I was supervised by Drs. Shelly Russell-Mayhew (Werklund School of Education, Counselling Psychology), Kristin von Ranson (Psychology, Faculty of Arts) and Lindsay McLaren (Community Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine). I am now a faculty member in the Department of Health, Kinesiology, and Applied Physiology at Concordia University.
Kayla Balsden, MSc
I graduated with my Master of Science in Counselling Psychology degree in the spring of 2015. I completed both my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Honours degree and my Master of Science in Counselling Psychology degree at the University of Calgary. During my graduate degree, I worked closely with the members of the body image lab. I currently work as a Registered Provisional Psychologist. I am a strong believer of holism and I recognize that many factors and systems will influence, and be influenced by, an individual. I am particularly interested in research on positive embodiment, positive body image, self-compassion, and resiliency. I completed my Masters thesis on how young women experience and maintain positive embodiment in a Western sociocultural context. I am also interested in prevention and intervention initiatives involving positive relationships, mentorship, and leadership.
Crystal Dittrick, PhD
Angela Grace, PhD
I completed my Ph.D. in Counselling Psychology with a specialization in the prevention and treatment of eating disorders. My Ph.D. research focused on a feminist-informed approach to engaging a school community in a collaborative approach to body image and diversity acceptance. I have a passion for feminist and social justice approaches to creating healthy school and work environments. I have a private counselling practice focussing on girls and women and advocate for eating disorder prevention and Health at Every Size in the media. I am currently writing a book about holistic approaches to eating disorder recovery, and enjoy yoga, dance, making pottery, playing the piano, spending time with family and friends, and outdoor adventures in our beautiful Rocky Mountains. My website is www.heartcenteredcounselling.com
Tanya Hutchinson, MSc
I completed my MSc in Counselling Psychology at the University of Calgary. My broad research interests include male body image and the factors related to body dissatisfaction among adolescent boys and young men. Specifically, I am interested in further understanding how men develop mental representations of the ideal body shape and size that they desire for themselves. My Master’s thesis investigated how social norms pertaining to body shape and size influence male body size estimates and how exposure to these norms differentially affected body size estimates based on preexisting levels of body dissatisfaction.
Alana Ireland, PhD
Former Postdoctoral Scholar
In 2018, I was a post-doctoral scholar, working with Dr. Shelly Russell-Mayhew. Prior to this, I completed my MSc and PhD at the University of Calgary under the supervision of Dr. Shelly Russell-Mayhew. With a foundation in prevention and health promotion, my research has focused on weight-related issues such as obesity, eating disorders, body image, and weight bias in schools. Specifically, my Master’s research explored the impact of professional development for teachers regarding weight-related issues. Building upon this and recognizing the limited success of many school-based programs, my PhD research took a step back to look more broadly at the situation of weight-related issues in schools within Alberta. I am currently a faculty member at St. Mary's University in Calgary.
Kirsten Klingle, PhD
Hi! My name is Kirsten and I completed my PhD in counselling psychology with Dr. Shelly Russell-Mayhew. Prior to attending the U of C, I completed my master’s at the University of Alberta under the supervision of Dr. Jessica Van Vliet. My research interests include body image, body shame, self-compassion, as well as female objectification. As part of my doctoral dissertation research, I conducted a SSHRC-funded hermeneutic study exploring women’s perspectives and experiences of body shame and self-compassion. Outside of school and research, I am passionate about physical fitness. When not in my office, you will often find me in a spin or yoga class or on a half-marathon training run in the ravine with my husband. I am also deeply dedicated to my teaching practice and relish the chance to work with diverse students.
Angela Lambert, MSc
Angela completed her MSc in Counselling Psychology at the University of Calgary. Her master’s level research focused on physical activity, weight stigma, identity, and the experiences of individuals living in large bodies. Angela started researching this topic by investigating her own experiences as a physically active woman living in a large body through an autoethnography. Prior to her graduate work Angela obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology degree from the University of Calgary where she completed an honours thesis focusing on memory and cognition. After completing her master’s degree Angela hopes to work with young adults as a registered psychologist.
Jewel Loewen, MSc
My clinical and academic pursuits are grounded in a dedication to advancing mental health services within educational and health contexts, striving towards empathic care, integrative practice, and creative approaches. I began my academic journey in Fine Arts and Psychology. With a commitment to helping others through these modalities, I went on to complete my M.A. in Creative Arts Therapies. I then broadened these foundations, pursuing my M.Sc. in Counselling Psychology, which was co-supervised by Dr. Shelly Russell-Mayhew and Dr. Charlene Elliott. Placing a specific emphasis on preventative education, I conducted a qualitative assessment of the Media Literacy and Food Marketing Lesson Plan II. This program was designed to provide children with effective tools for evaluating media and food messages. My study informed current and future Lesson Plan delivery for students in Grades 7-9.
Shannon Ross, PhD
I completed my PhD in Counselling Psychology at the University of Calgary. My research interests include the prevention of weight-related issues in adolescents, including eating disorders, obesity, negative body image, and disordered eating. My dissertation research examined the effectiveness of an eating disorder and obesity prevention program aimed at adolescents that targets shared risk factors while also promoting developmental assets and resilience. In terms of clinical work, I am passionate about working in individual and group contexts, with adolescents and young adults who are struggling with weight-related issues. I primarily work from a cognitive behavioural perspective while incorporating mindfulness, feminist, and strength-based frameworks.
Wendy Salvisberg, MSc
In 2015, I received my MSc in Counselling Psychology under the supervision of Dr. Shelly Russell-Mayhew. At this time, I began me PhD in Counselling Psychology at the University of Alberta, working under the supervision of Dr. William Whelton. My academic interests include eating disorders, emotional processing, family therapy, and collaboration between multi-disciplinary health care professionals. My Doctoral dissertation explores emotional processing within families comprised of a member experiencing a weight-related concern. When I am not studying, reading, or working, I enjoy spending time with friends and family and being engaged in physical activities. I feel very fortunate to have met so many hardworking and inspiring individuals in the Body Image Research Lab and look forward to developing new connections in the years to come.
Monica Sesma-Vazquez, PhD
Former Post Doctoral Scholar
I am a social constructionist psychotherapist, supervisor, and researcher from Mexico, where I pursued studies (Bachelor, Master and PhD) in Psychology and several specializations as an individual, couple, and systemic family therapist. I worked as a Professor in three Universities in Mexico City (Universidad de Londres, Universidad de las Americas, and Alliant International University) teaching and supervising contemporary family therapies and qualitative research methodologies in graduate programs. I was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Werklund School of Education (2014-2016), mentored by Dr. Shelly Russell-Mayhew. My research projects focus on family therapy treatments for eating disorders, mental illness stigma, psychiatric diagnoses as a social justice issue, and the embodiment of psychiatric/psychological discourses within the therapeutic space. My work examines how families and their children perform psychiatric understandings and mental illness identities in social interactions, how these performancesshape their relationships and experiences, and therapists’ positioning and role.
Karmpaul Singh, PhD
Former Postdoctoral Scholar
As part of his PhD studies, Dr. Singh’s research involved examining health anxiety (then hypochondriasis, now illness anxiety disorder) and its relation with internet use. He completed 5 studies. During his time with the research team in Southampton, he worked on improving the quality of life of cancer survivors (e.g. anxiety, depression; increasing physical activity) post-treatment. Here, he worked to produce bespoke digital interventions to improve these types of issues. To date, Dr. Singh’s research has overall sought how to improve the quality of life for various matters (i.e. health anxiety, post-cancer treatment), as such research on obesity/weight bias was within the domain of his interests, an area that he is keen to understand/research further.
Michelle Tkachuk, PhD
I was an Eyes High PhD student in Counselling Psychology at the University of Calgary. I am interested in teacher health education, and weight related issues within couples. My master’s thesis focused on the body satisfaction and health and weight beliefs and behaviours of pre-service teachers. My PhD research focused on couples experiences in couples therapy for a variety of weight related concerns (e.g., eating disorders, obesity, body dissatisfaction). I am passionate about addressing weight related stigma and the cultural misnomers about individuals experiencing weight related concerns, along with therapeutic techniques to address these challenges. In the future, I hope to have a private practice specializing in weight related issues, depression, and family/couple therapy.
Molly Williamson, MSc
I completed my MSc in Counselling Psychology under the supervision of Dr. Tom Strong and Dr. Shelly Russell-Mayhew. For my SSHRC funded graduate thesis I used situational analysis to examine how food, eating, and weight are differently represented in cultural discourses at eating disorder conferences versus obesity conferences. The purpose of this research was to facilitate a more harmonious approach to preventive education regarding disordered eating, and to present the public with more coherent and understandable messages. Prior to this, I completed a Bachelor of Arts (with Honours) in Psychology at Mount Allison University under the supervision of Dr. Louise Wasylkiw. I examined the role of peers in young women’s body concerns for my undergraduate thesis. I plan to work with adolescent girls and young women experiencing concerns such as disordered eating, anxiety, depression, self-harm, and/or addiction.
Emily Williams, MSc, PhD
Born and raised in Toronto, I moved to beautiful Alberta for graduate school. I am a PhD candidate in the Counselling Psychology program at the University of Calgary. I am interested in maladaptive behaviours individuals use to cope with emotion dysregulation, particularly disordered eating. My SSHRC funded master’s thesis examined the experience of disclosing an eating disorder. I sought to determine what factors invited or prevented an individual to tell others about their disordered eating patterns, and more generally I was interested in the broad experience of telling others an intimate secret. As a doctoral student, I investigated the experiences of parents who discover their child has anorexia nervosa. I have received support for this research in the form of a SSRCH Doctoral Fellowship. I am currently completing my pre-doctoral internship at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.
Katrina Boutilier, BA, MSc
I am originally from Vancouver Island, which is where I did my BA in Psychology. I moved to Calgary about 3 years ago to pursue work in the social services, and I was ecstatic to be accepted into the MSc in Counselling Psychology program for the Fall of 2016. My master's research is investigating how students in mental health related graduate programs make sense of healthy weight.
Laura Richardson, BA, MSc
My interest in psychology and health began when I completed my Bachelor of Arts with Honors in psychology at St. Francis Xavier University (Go X Go!). My thesis research with Dr. Russell-Mayhew examines how a two-day professional development conference on health and wellness affects the professional identities of pre-service teachers. My overarching research focus is psychosocial outcomes in health research; I’ve had the opportunity to pursue projects related to this broad topic as a research assistant with The Atlantic Centre for Transplantation Research (Dalhousie University), and for the Cumming School of Medicine (University of Calgary) with the Department of Clinical Neurology and most recently, with the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology.
Elizabeth Tingle, BEd, MA
I am an MA student in Educational Research, specializing in Adult Learning. I am interested in researching how weight bias can be unlearned, and what kinds of learning experiences may invite an individual to challenge the dominant messages surrounding weight in our culture. As a former school teacher and mother to three school-aged children, I am particularly passionate about making schools more weight-neutral spaces. I received a scholarship to attend a Body Positive Facilitator Training in Boston (2018) and I'm now a licensed Body Positive facilitator.