By: Kiersten Mannino

Kelly Romano, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Psychology at Old Dominion University, has always had an interest in both preventing the onset and improving the life functioning of individuals coping with eating disorders. Romano's research centers on the psychology of healthy eating, weight stigma, and health-related behavior change.

"Most of my recent research has focused on examining eating disorder symptoms from a positive psychology lens, which differs from most existing eating disorders research that is grounded in the tenets of the medical model and upholds a so-called deficit-based perspective," said Romano. Kelly focuses on the presence of health-promoting behaviors instead of disordered eating behaviors.

Recently, she was awarded an F31 grant which is funded through the National Institute of Mental Health. Her study is entitled, "Affect, Mind-Body Factors, and Eating Behaviors: Examining Naturalistic Associations among Female Young Adults with Eating Disorder Symptoms." This grant will fund her study for the next two years.

"Kelly has a genuine drive for identifying critical research questions and designing and executing studies to address these questions and advance eating disorder research," said Dr. Kristin Heron, associate professor in the Department of Psychology and a member of the Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology at ODU.

"I chose to pursue my Ph.D. at ODU through the Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology to work with my incredible mentor, Dr. Kristin Heron," said Romano.

Dr. Heron has many different research programs that focus on eating disorders, disordered eating, body image, and technology use. "Kelly is one of the most talented and ambitious doctoral student researchers who I have had the opportunity to work with at ODU," said Dr. Heron.

Romano said, "over my four years at ODU so far, I have been extremely grateful for her extraordinary mentorship and guidance and have learned so much from her about our field and the study of health behaviors via technology-mediated platforms."

Eating disorders are among the "highest mental health concerns because those who attain these disorders are not able to fully recover until 10 to 20 years after they become symptomatic." Through her research, Romano hopes to improve the quality of life of people struggling with eating disorders.