Posts Tagged ‘Research’

The Dangers of Striving for Perfection

A person looks down at their work with anxiety and frustration

Many people view perfectionism unequivocally as a positive. It’s often considered admirable, perhaps even healthy. It’s equated with success. But the pursuit of perfection comes with serious risks to mental and physical health, including the development or worsening of eating disorder thoughts and behaviors.

In this article, we explore the trait of perfectionism, including common signs, thought patterns, and health risks. Learn the difference between perfectionism and healthy striving, as well as ways to challenge perfectionism to protect against the negative toll it can take on a person’s life.

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Food Insecurity and Eating Disorders

A person holding a bag of groceries

Eating disorders are complex illnesses. Diverse and multifaceted, they are associated with biological, psychological, and social factors that themselves are complex and interact with one another in complex ways.

One factor often overlooked in conversations about eating disorder development, illness, and recovery is food insecurity. Research about the link between food insecurity and eating disorders has emerged in recent years, as food insecurity has likewise seeped into the public consciousness more generally.  

This article describes what we know about food insecurity and eating disorders to date, how to screen for food insecurity, and how to integrate food insecurity support into eating disorder treatment and recovery. By addressing food insecurity in patients with eating disorders (and eating disorders in patients experiencing food insecurity), providers can play a critical role in intervening and supporting those dually affected.

What is food insecurity?

Food insecurity, as defined by the USDA, is the “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food” or the “limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.” Assessed on a household level, food insecurity is influenced by multiple factors and occurs at different levels of severity.  

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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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