Behavior Technology | Eating Disorders and Obesity


Tiffany Stewart, PhD

Tiffany Stewart, PhD

Research Focus

The Behavior Technology Laboratory is dedicated to Translational Research: Taking health behavior change programs and technologies from bench (science) to bedside (programs everyone can utilize). The mission of the Behavior Technology Laboratory is to investigate the novel assessment, prevention, and intervention approaches for eating disorders, obesity, and body image on health behaviors, physical and mental performance and resilience, and chronic disease outcomes.

About this Lab

With the dawn of new e-health technologies and population health research models to reach populations who don’t have access to or who are unable to participate in clinical programs and/or specialized health care, the Behavior Technology Lab’s work over the years has been focused on developing and testing community-based programs and technology-based health tools in order to disseminate prevention and treatment efforts to large populations.

Highlighted work includes:

Military Health, Readiness, Performance, & Resilience
Our Soldiers and their families are not immune to the obesity epidemic. As a part of the Military Health & Readiness projects, the Healthy Eating, Activity, and Lifestyle Training Headquarters (H.E.A.L.T.H.)® program was developed at Pennington Biomedical and represents an ongoing, nearly 20-year collaborative effort between the Research Center and the Department of Defense. The H.E.A.L.T.H. ® program is designed to aid Soldiers in maintaining healthy weight status, fitness status, combat readiness, and Warfighter performance. H.E.A.L.T.H. ® also includes programming to aid Soldiers’ family members in reaching overall health and fitness goals. H.E.A.L.T.H. ® incorporates cutting-edge interactive technology in a Smartphone application for Soldiers and their family members to use wherever they are in the world. H.E.A.L.T.H. ® has been deployed and tested in several projects, i.e. Fort Bragg, NC, the New England Reserves, and the Louisiana Army National Guard. To date, approximately 15,000 individuals have participated in the H.E.A.L.T.H. ® program. This work is currently being expanded with projects related to mental health, psychological resilience, and performance in Army Soldiers.

Athlete Health, Performance, & Resilience
Given the cost of treating mental health disorders and the substantial morbidity and mortality associated with these disorders, prevention of eating disorders (ED) has considerable public health significance. Research supports the use of a program targeting small behavior modifications in the prevention of ED onset and in reducing ED and obesity risk factors. Research suggests that disordered eating among female athletes is prevalent. ED is especially dangerous in female athletes because it increases risk for the Female Athlete Triad (i.e., low energy availability/disordered eating, menstrual disorders, and decreased bone mineral density/osteoporosis) and subsequent injury. This work includes a federally funded (NIH-R01) controlled trial to test the effectiveness of the Female Athlete Body (FAB) program among 500 collegiate female athletes across four university sites. This research program is currently being expanded with two newly funded trials that will study physical and psychological resilience in female athletes. These two new trials have been funded by the Wu Tsai Centers of Excellence for Athlete Health and Performance Alliance at Harvard and Stanford Universities. 

Z!G: Small Steps Lead to Big Change
Z!G™, an evidence-based smartphone app that takes a “whole health” approach, incorporating nutrition, fitness, sleep, and mental health in one app, will roll out to the public in fall 2022 and will include the latest artificial intelligence technology to personalize health and training plans and guidance for users. The new app aims to help users create habits that optimize mental wellness and physical health by building skills for long-term well-being and resilience. 

Children’s Health & Well-Being
Science tells us that if we don't appreciate our bodies, we don't treat our bodies well. How we view our bodies is a key component of successful health behaviors and significantly affects our quality of life. This workshop intervention series teaches children and adults to keep their bodies healthy through nutrition, fitness, sleep, and body image. The experiences gained through these workshops reframe the dialogue between kids and adults about healthy bodies while empowering kids to establish positive behaviors and improve their health for the long term. This workshop series, soon to be accompanied by a smartphone app, is currently a partnership with the Knock Knock Children’s Museum and Mayor Broome’s Healthy Baton Rouge Initiative. The workshop is currently being deployed at the museum, schools and summer camps throughout Baton Rouge.

Diabetes Model Clinic
In Louisiana, we aren’t obese; we have obesity. Obesity is a disease and in fact, we are one of the states that suffers from the highest rates of the disease. As a result, we also suffer from some of the highest rates of type 2 diabetes. Over the past 35 years, Pennington Biomedical has served as a global leader in obesity and diabetes prevention and treatment and has participated in all of the landmark trials targeting these diseases. It is this science that we aim to translate into practical applications and help the citizens of Louisiana. For the first time, Pennington Biomedical Research Center has expanded its mission beyond science to clinical treatment and has opened its doors to the community to treat obesity and reverse type 2 diabetes. This treatment mission is based on the last three decades of research, translating the best science into a community practice model. Pennington Biomedical has launched a weight-centric type 2 diabetes program for our Louisiana Medicaid recipients, working in collaboration with patients’ existing primary care physicians to make treatment a success. This model clinic is a partnership with the Louisiana Department of Health and is the first of its kind in offering a comprehensive program combining evidence-based medical management, intensive behavioral intervention, and novel technology to reverse the negative effects of diabetes that affect so many in our state. For more information on the Pennington Diabetes Clinic, visit our clinic site:
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