x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

New app by Zayed University helps manage eating disorders

A tool for diagnosing body dysmorphic disorder may soon become widely available for iPads, thanks to the work of faculty at Zayed University.

DUBAI //Do you think you are more overweight than you actually are? There's an app for that.

A tool for diagnosing body dysmorphic disorder may soon become widely available for iPads, thanks to the work of faculty at Zayed University.

The app, called iAna, allows people to manipulate a distorted image of themselves into how they think they look, and how they would like to look. It then measures the images with the original to calculate discrepancies.

Justin Thomas, the assistant professor in psychology at Zayed University who developed the app, said dysmorphia could be a cause of eating disorders such as anorexia.

"All of us are inaccurate to some degree but if you're hugely inaccurate, it's a risk factor or a symptom of an eating disorder," Mr Thomas said.

The app is a truncated version of Anamorphic Micro, a body-assessment tool developed by Mr Thomas eight years ago, which is now widely used in eating disorder clinics in the UK and Germany. It was developed over the past two months, partly to aid a student study into perceptions of beauty among Emirati females.

There are several technical issues to clear up before it is made more widely available, Mr Thomas said.

Becky Hart, a personal trainer in Dubai, said the app could be handy.

"If you don't see your body as it is, some people can go to extremes in overtraining," Ms Hart said. "Something like this would stop people from becoming obsessive."

On the flip side, Hala Abu Taha, a nutritionalist at the healthy-eating company Right Bite, warned it could trigger eating disorders in those who find themselves larger than they anticipated.

"I think this would kill all the young ladies," Ms Abu Taha said. "Already they are seeing themselves as obese, but if they see this they will be more obsessed about their body image."

Mr Thomas, who has only ever found two people who thought they were thinner than they were, thinks that is unlikely.

mcroucher@thenational.ae