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March 01, 2013

Eating Disorder Awareness Week: What you may have missed at “Body Beautiful”

Re-posted from Cleveland Center for Eating Disorders (CCED) blog archives. CCED and The Emily Program partnered in 2014.

Our expert panel answers your questions about body image disorder and eating disorders.

Thanks to those of you who joined us on Monday at "Body Beautiful," presented by Cleveland Center for Eating Disorders and John Carroll University. We had a great turnout! Students, professors, eating disorder professionals and families came out to increase awareness and promote hope around body image disorder and eating disorders.

The event, which ran in conjunction with National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, featured a student interactive art show, "Mirror Images" and a screening of the popular documentary, "America the Beautiful." Immediately following, our expert panel was there to answer questions from the audience.

The event, which ran in conjunction with National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, featured a student interactive art show, "Mirror Images" and a screening of the popular documentary, "America the Beautiful." Immediately following, our expert panel was there to answer questions from the audience.

The panel included Kelly Bhatnager, PhD, of Cleveland; Mary Beth Javorek, PhD, of JCU Counseling Center; Dr. Mark Warren, CCED's co-founder/medical director who recovered from an eating disorder; Victoria Kress, PhD, professor at Youngstown State University who recovered from an eating disorder; and Malia McAndrew, PhD, of JCU's history department.

In case you missed it, here's some of what they discussed:

Why are eating disorders considered dangerous?

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate among psychological illnesses, says Dr. Bhatnager.

How can we decrease media consumption among our children?

It's about media literacy, says Dr. Javorek. We need to teach our children to be critical viewers of the media. Media is not always true. It's one-sided; they want us to buy something.

How can I help my teenage daughter eat healthier without hurting her body image?

First of all, there's no evidence to support an obesity epidemic, says Dr. Warren. The average girl going through puberty will gain 40 pounds. So we need to teach kids to love who they are — inside and out.

Is the healthy schools movement to serve healthier foods and encourage activity a dangerous and slippery slope?

Yes, but it depends on the goal of the program, says Dr. Bhatnager. If the goal is promotion of social interactions, it is very different than a goal that is weight-based. A body can be healthy at the 25th percentile or the 75th percentile. Everyone is different. It goes against what some bodies are genetically predisposed to do.

What advice can you offer if someone is restricting their diet, but won't seek help?

Tell an adult, someone who is supportive in their life, to help them, says Dr. Kress. When you're sick and suffering from malnutrition, things can be very distressing and you may not be able to think clearly. They can't fight the illness themselves. They need someone who can make an impact on them because you won't convince them.

What is being done in the eating disorder world to change the perception that it's not just a female's disease?

The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) is getting rid of criteria that is slanted toward females, says Dr. Warren. Also, assessment questions used to assist in diagnosing eating disorders are being changed so they are not biased to females. They now are including male-based questions.

There's also more research being done on eating disorder activity. Men tend to focus on muscularity and will abuse drugs to enhance muscular performance. So, there's a large push to expand the definitions so the male perspective is better understood.

Is extreme overeating similar to binge eating?

There is a difference between overeating and binge eating, says Dr. Bhatnager. Binge eating is defined as eating large amounts of calories in a short amount of time and there's a significant distress associated with it. The treatment used for binge eating is cognitive behavioral therapy. It focuses on altering the individual's thoughts and helping them to change their physical environment.

Why isn't obesity incorporated into eating disorder treatment?

Again, overeating and binge eating are different, says Dr. Warren. Someone who is obese may not have an eating disorder.

By the way, all data is open to questions. There's not an obesity epidemic going on in this country. The ideal BMI (Body Mass Index) is defined as 22, but statistics show people with a BMI between 25 and 30 live longer. There's clearly a problem with childhood obesity, but the statistics are questionable.

How are eating disorders and addictions similar or dissimilar?

An eating disorder is a psychological illness, whereas addictions have been shown to be a serotonin problem, says Dr. Warren. The addiction model for treatment has been shown to be ineffective for eating disorder treatment.

What are effective techniques so someone doesn't relapse?

I want to emphasize the role of support, says Dr. Kress. Unfortunately, relapse is the rule not the exception. You need someone who can hold you accountable when you slide into negative behaviors and can keep you healthy.

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