Posts Tagged ‘Research’

How Do Eating Disorders Affect Relationships?

A young couple

Eating disorders are fierce, all-consuming illnesses. They develop gradually and insidiously, but once formed, impact more than a person’s relationship with food. They damage social relationships as well, affecting far more than the person experiencing the illness firsthand. Parents, siblings, friends, and partners are also subject to the toll of an eating disorder, their relationships with their loved one often strained in its presence. 

Given the secrecy and isolation common to these illnesses, eating disorders are particularly at odds with healthy intimate relationships. These relationships require vulnerability, honesty, and open communication, all qualities that are incompatible with an active eating disorder. The more consumed by disordered behaviors a person is, the more physically and emotionally distant from their partner they often are in turn. In situations where this distance or other relationship distress precipitated the development of the illness, the eating disorder only exacerbates it.

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Practicing Mindfulness in Life and Eating

A woman practicing meditation

Most mornings before I get up, I make a point of listening to a guided mindfulness-meditation tape (1). Each time I repeatedly try to focus on my breath as instructed, following it as it flows in and out of my body. Sometimes I can keep my focus on my breathing for several breaths but not much longer; then my mind wanders off…. to the day ahead, the night before, somewhere, anywhere but where I am, right there, in that moment with my body and with my breath.

Why, you might ask, repeatedly go through something I find so difficult to do?

Because I have seen the positive differences it has made in my life. Being able to pay closer attention to whatever I am working on. Being better at really listening and hearing what others are saying. Being less automatic in my responses and being more fully present to what is happening as it is happening. I am not much more than a novice at this, but I have learned how mindfulness can be helpful in life in general and more specifically in the areas of food and eating.

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Eating Disorders in the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Community

A heart made from hands set with a rainbow filter

Eating disorders are disproportionately common in segments of the LGBTQ community. Disproving the myth that these illnesses impact only straight, cisgender people, research and personal accounts show that all sexual and gender identities are affected—and sexual and gender minorities perhaps even more so than non-LGBTQ people.

The LGBTQ acronym encompasses several distinct sexual and gender identities. It is an umbrella term that represents a group as diverse and varied as non-LGBTQ people, though often treated as a singular group. While we cannot generalize eating disorder experiences within the LGBTQ community—or outside of it—here we explore eating disorders in one segment: those who identify as lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB). These terms refer to sexual orientation, while “transgender” refers to gender identity. For more on eating disorders in those who identify as transgender, please read Eating Disorders in the Transgender Community.

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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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The 2010s: A Decade in Review

Highlights of the decade

At The Emily Program we spend a lot of time looking ahead. To hope and healing. To expanded access to care for people with eating disorders. To advanced awareness, education, and treatment. Our vision is a future of peaceful relationships with food, weight, and body, where anyone affected by an eating disorder can experience full, lifelong recovery.

As we work to heal the future, we also acknowledge the past and present. We accept where we are and where we’ve been, both as an organization and a culture at large. We pause and we reflect so that we can move forward with greater clarity, knowledge, and compassion.

To that end, we are using the start of this new decade to reflect on the previous decade in the world of eating disorders. The 2010s witnessed changes in the fields of eating disorder awareness, research, and care, as well as the culture surrounding them.

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Eating Disorders in Older Adults

Woman standing on a bridge

There are many stereotypes that feed into society’s perception of the type of people afflicted by eating disorders. If we could, those of us at The Emily Program would scream it from the rooftops: Eating disorders do not discriminate! A person’s sex, race, age, socioeconomic status, and culture don’t matter when it comes to disordered thinking about food! In this post, we focus on age and the similarities and differences of eating disorders in older adults compared to young and middle-aged adults. We will also cover the importance of seeking help, no matter a person’s life stage.

Setting the record straight on eating disorders and age

Many people think eating disorders only affect young or middle-aged adults and that beyond those years, the disorders disappear. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Eating disorders do primarily affect younger populations, and they often manifest in younger adults. According to the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R), it is true that eating disorders appear in early adulthood: the median age of onset for bulimia and anorexia is 18, while the median age of onset for Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is 21. However, if one of those eating disorders—or any disordered eating—goes untreated early on, that simply means that those with the eating disorder will likely continue to suffer into late adulthood. In other words, if an older adult is suffering from an eating disorder, that person has been plagued with the symptoms for decades. Adding to that heartbreak, because these adults have suffered for so long, it’s less likely that they will seek help during their golden years.

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