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Health, Well-being, and Mindfulness Lab

The Health, Well-being, and Mindfulness Lab's research is primarily focused on

  1. The prevention and treatment of disordered eating
  2. Mindfulness-based approaches to improving health behaviors

Our lab's overall goal is to identify strategies that can help individuals, families, and communities improve their health and well-being. The lab is currently developing a mindful parenting intervention intended to reduce parent stress and improve parent feeding behaviors. We are also conducting research to explore strategies that might reduce weight bias in medical settings to improve patient care. We recently completed a nationwide study examining the antecedents and consequences of disinhibited eating in young men, in collaboration with the Renew Lab at the University of Oregon. Finally, the lab collaborates with Dr. Stacey Snelling’s Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities Lab to implement Faithfully Fit, a peer-led health promotion program at faith-based organizations in DC, intended to reduce congregation members’ risk for chronic disease.

Research Team

Dr. Elizabeth Cotter, Director

Dr. Elizabeth Cotter is an Associate Professor in the Department of Health Studies at American University and the Director of the Health, Well-being, and Mindfulness Lab. She is a licensed psychologist with research interests related to 1) the prevention and treatment of disordered eating; and 2) mindfulness-based approaches to improving health behaviors. She has published in a variety of peer-reviewed journals in the areas of disordered eating and mindfulness. Her research lab is currently examining how parent mindfulness might influence parents' stress and feeding behaviors. Dr. Cotter is also examining factors associated with disordered eating in young men. In addition, Dr. Cotter is a collaborator on several community-based, chronic disease prevention studies.

Megan Coelho Little

Megan Coelho Little is currently a fourth-year undergraduate student at American University. She is pursuing a major in Biology with minors in Public Health and Spanish Language and Culture. Upon graduating from AU, she plans to continue conducting research during her gap year before attending medical school. Her research interests include maternal and sexual health, as well as racial disparities in health.

Amanda Flores-Saez

Amanda Flores-Saez is a senior undergraduate at American University. She is pursuing a major in Psychology and a minor in Public Health. After graduating, she plans to work in research for a year before applying to grad schools for clinical psychology. Her research interests include child development, behavioral health, and health equity.

Ana Keene

Ana Keene is currently a senior at American University pursuing a combined BS/MS in Biology, and minoring in Public Health. Ana is also on the pre-med track and plans to go to Medical School after college. Ana runs Cross Country and Track at the DI level at American University as well, specializing in long distance events. Ana is passionate about implementing the Health at Every Size (HAES) model into modern day medicine and patient care and hopes to practice this model one day as a physician herself. Ana’s other research interests include: health equity, the intersection between eating disorders and athletes, genetics, and sports medicine.

Raya Rukab

Raya Rukab is currently a fourth-year student at American University pursuing her BA in Public Health with a minor in International Studies and her MS in Health Promotion Management. Her research interests include maternal and child health, sexual and reproductive health, violence prevention, health promotion, and health equity.

Pronouns: she/her

Jessie Sadel

Jessie Sadel is currently an undergraduate junior at American University. She is currently working to achieve her BS in Public Health with a minor in Biology. She aspires to work for her Masters in Biology after graduation, then attend medical school. Her research interests include community health and the social determinants of health.

Isabel Thorstad

Isabel Thorstad is a senior at American University pursuing a degree in Sociology (BA) and minors in Psychology and Studio Art. Through her honors coursework, Isabel is researching the impact of suicide on social support networks. She is interested in the transformative potential of reflective practices (e.g. mindfulness, gratitude) on individual and group levels. After graduation Isabel plans to gain more clinical experience and apply to graduate programs in order to provide culturally and structurally competent, research-led therapy to teens and adults.

Selected Publications

Kelly, N. R., Cotter, E. W., Guidinger, C., & Williams, G. (In press, accepted April 9, 2020). Perceived discrimination, emotion dysregulation and loss of control eating in young men. Eating Behaviors.

Cotter, E. W., Hornack, S. E., Fotang, J. P., Pettit, E., & Mirza, N. M. (2020). A pilot open-label feasibility trial examining an adjunctive mindfulness intervention for adolescents with obesity. Pilot and Feasibility Studies, 6(1), 1-11.

Cotter, E. W. & Jones, N. (2020). A review of mindfulness interventions with Latinx participants. Mindfulness, 11, 529 – 553.

Lydecker, J. A., Cotter, E. W., & Grilo, C. M. (2019) Associations of Weight Bias with Disordered Eating among Latino and White Men. Obesity

Cotter, E. W. & Kelly, N. R. (2018). Stress-related eating, mindfulness, and obesity. Health Psychology, 37, 516 - 525.

Kelly, N. R.; Cotter, E. W.; & Guidinger, C. (2018). Men who engage in both Objective and Subjective Binge Eating Have the Highest Psychological and Medical Comorbidities. Eating Behaviors, 30, 115 – 119

Lydecker, J. A., Cotter, E. W., Palmberg, A. A., Simpson, C., Kwitowski, M., White, K., & Mazzeo, S. E. (2016). Does this Tweet make me look fat? A content analysis of fat stigma on Twitter. Eating and Weight Disorders - Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity, 21, 229 – 235.

Kelly, N. R., Cotter, E. W., Tanofsky-Kraff, M., & Mazzeo, S. E. (2015). Racial variations in binge eating, body image concerns, and excessive exercise among men. Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 16, 326 - 336.

Past Lab Members 

  • Jenny Fotang
  • Corinne Pines
  • Tenzin Choezin
  • Hannah Gandell
  • Nikita Kubal
  • Janae Kuttamperoor
  • Katherine McManus
  • Anthony Orsino
  • Isabel Nunez Pena
  • Nora Nunez Pena
  • Brooke Wong