Posts Tagged ‘Education’

The Truth About 5 Eating Disorder Myths

5 people in a group therapy setting

An estimated 30 million people in the United States have an eating disorder. The majority of them do not receive professional care. Many experience shame and stigma because of their illness, and many struggle all alone.

By educating ourselves and others, we can work to reduce stigma and to better understand these complex illnesses that affect so many. Here are five myths and facts about eating disorders.

Myth: Eating disorders affect only thin, young, white women.

Fact: This is the stereotypical image of eating disorders—a thin, young, white woman. It is this woman we’ve seen in media depictions of these disorders and heard about most in common chatter. Even within the field, research has historically focused on clients who fit this profile, in part because white women were (and still are) the most likely to receive care.

But this narrow demographic does not accurately reflect the diversity of those who experience these illnesses. Far from it. Eating disorders affect people of all ages, races, genders, sexual orientations, body sizes, classes, and abilities. They’re not just a “teenager’s problem” or a “white girl’s problem.” They’re not something that affects only wealthy people, or only cisgender people, or only people of any other social group. Eating disorders don’t discriminate in these ways; they span across all social categories.

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Weighing in on Weigh-ins in Eating Disorder Treatment

A doctor and a patient by a scale

There is likely no topic more on the minds of clients than weight. While the degree of preoccupation with weight varies—some clients admittedly experiencing little to none—weight is a construct that carries extraordinary meaning within and outside of the eating disorder experience. For those with and without these disorders, weight is a common source of concern and is often given disproportionate influence as a vital sign measure.

We live in a society that obsesses over weight. It erroneously conflates weight with health, attaching both social and moral significance to our body size. Weight bias is pervasive, and people who live in larger bodies face discrimination in settings from the workplace to the doctor’s office.

Eating disorders often compound the significance of weight even more. When we have these illnesses, the number on the scale can operate as a definition of who we fundamentally are. Our essential value as a person becomes attached to that numeric value. While we may know rationally that weight should not hold so much power, eating disorders are not rational illnesses. Therefore, the topic of weighing in eating disorder treatment is not simple at all.

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Can You Have Anorexia and Bulimia at the Same Time?

A therapist and client

Is it possible to have two eating disorders at once? What if you restrict and binge and purge? Is that anorexia or bulimia? Both? Neither?

It’s a common question, one that makes sense to ask. Many people do experience a continuum of disordered behaviors within or over the course of their illness, at times restricting, bingeing, and purging. One behavior leads to another in what is often called the eating disorder “cycle.” Trapped in this cycle, people experience symptoms that overlap multiple eating disorder diagnoses. They may be left to wonder: Exactly what, then, is the appropriate diagnosis?

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Beyond “Eating Disorders Don’t Discriminate”

A Black woman looking to the side

When those of us in the field say “eating disorders don’t discriminate,” we’re trying to express that eating disorders affect everyone. The intention is to challenge the stereotype of the thin, white woman and recognize a diversity of experiences and identities.

And while it’s true that eating disorders affect all social groups, this statement is inadequate. Much like “eating disorders see no color,” it lacks nuance and complexity. Taken alone, it doesn’t advance meaningful conversation about race-related body, food, and illness experiences. 

The conversation about eating disorders in the Black community cannot stop here. 

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What Does Recovery Mean?

Woman enjoying food

The question of what constitutes recovery from an eating disorder is one that has been debated in many places by many people. Providers, families, and clients often have different perspectives, and there is a wide spectrum of beliefs within each of these groups. A key reason for this is that eating disorders have distinct physical and psychological manifestations

The physical manifestations of eating disorders are usually what drive people to the highest level of care. That is because these manifestations often carry an immediate risk to one’s physical health and require intensive clinical support. Recovery from physical manifestations is very important, but it does not constitute full recovery.

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Nutrition Labels Are Changing: What to Know about the New FDA Guidelines

A close-up view of a nutrition label

Beginning this year, food manufacturers will be required to start phasing in a new version of the food label (officially the “Nutrition Facts Label”) on packaged food and beverages. Though the label’s “improvements” will likely be helpful for some people, these changes may present new difficulties for individuals struggling with issues around food and eating. Here is an overview of what is changing and what to look out for.

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