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Body Image Eating Disorders Mental Health Recovery

Eating Disorders: Recovery and Service

Eating disorders can breed contempt or denial in those that don’t understand them while feeding the silent devastation and fear in those who have them. This is an inherently challenging situation. Types of eating disorders vary but we are most familiar with Anorexia and Bulimia or a variation of the two. Still, there are some who suffer from disordered eating. I’ve heard it said that disordered eating is not an “actual eating disorder,” but rather a “phase” of bad eating behaviors.  However, the DSM and professionals in the field of addiction and mental illness have proven that not to be the case. For example, disordered eating has now earned the diagnostic term Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified or EDNOS.

For real clarification, the DSM descriptions of the various criteria for Anorexia, Bulimia, and EDNOS can be found below:

Eating disorder not otherwise specified includes disorders of eating that do not meet the criteria for any specific eating disorder.

  1. For female patients, all of the criteria for anorexia nervosa are met except that the patient has regular menses.
  2. All of the criteria for anorexia nervosa are met except that, despite significant weight loss, the patient’s current weight is in the normal range.
  3. All of the criteria for bulimia nervosa are met except that the binge eating and inappropriate compensatory mechanisms occur less than twice a week or for less than 3 months.
  4. The patient has normal body weight and regularly uses inappropriate compensatory behavior after eating small amounts of food (e.g., self-induced vomiting after consuming two cookies).
  5. Repeatedly chewing and spitting out, but not swallowing, large amounts of food.

The criteria for Anorexia Nervosa is:

  • Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height: Weight loss leading to maintenance of body weight <85% of that expected or failure to make expected weight gain during period of growth, leading to body weight less than 85% of that expected.
  • Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though under weight.
  • Disturbance in the way one’s body weight or shape are experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight.
  • Amenorrhea (at least three consecutive cycles) in postmenarchal girls and women. Amenorrhea is defined as periods occurring only following hormone (e.g., estrogen) administration.

And the criteria for Bulimia Nervosa:

  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating characterized by both:
  1. Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat during a similar period of time and under similar circumstances
  2. A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode, defined by a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating
  3. Self-induced vomiting
  4. Misuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or other medications
  5. Fasting
  6. Excessive exercise
  • Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behavior to prevent weight gain
  • The binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behavior both occur, on average, at least twice a week for 3 months.
  • Self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight.
  • The disturbance does not occur exclusively during episodes of anorexia nervosa

Recovering from any of these eating disorders is hard work. We have to learn to navigate the food playing field with healthy awareness. One of the interesting things I’ve learned about recovering from my own eating disorder is that food is merely a symptomatic component of the greater problem: low self-esteem, an out of control environment, poor body image, fear, control. Not eating was always a way to control the chaos around me. What I was clueless about was the fact that I was created chaos within. The more out of control the outside environment is, the more control someone struggling with an eating disorder requires to simply survive. Yes, there’s deep irony in the use of “survive” here, because the end result of some severe eating disorders is ultimately death.

Chelsea Roff, a recovering anorexic, yoga teacher, speaker, and author, has come out publically with her story of recovery. Chelsea suffered from a stroke when she was 15 and ended up in a hospital for 18 months under constant care. Her essay, bravely discussing her story first appeared in the book 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics, & Practice. From there, she was swept into the fray of instant publicity and exposure, ranging from the Huffington Post to Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN. While being in recovery isn’t about celebrity, there’s something to be said for a young girl who is taking this exposure and using it for good. There’s something deeply inspiring about someone who came from near death and is now thriving and being of service. In the end, being of service is what it’s about.

Eating disorders have their way of creeping back in when we least expect it. When we are of service and helping others, our own transparency is paramount to that process. In other words, being of service helps keep us honest. We have to eat. We have to learn to develop healthy relationships with our bodies and with food. Here, instead of vigilantly controlling our intake of calories, we can direct our vigilance to being of service. I look to Voice in Recovery and Chelsea Roff as young women who give back what was so freely given to them. I look to Melanie Klein (also a contributor in 21st Century Yoga) and Claire Mysko to provide the education and passion for body image advocacy in order to help young people gain a better understanding of the deeply rooted, media-infused sources of poor body image and eating disorders.

Kindness starts from within. We can and will recover.

RESOURCES:

NEDA

NIMH

Proud2BMe

Voice in Recovery (ViR)

 

Categories
Body Image Eating Disorders Mental Health

Adios, Chubby Chatter!

Image by Brent Weichsel via Flickr

“Do I these pants make me look fat?”

“OMG, I feel so fat today!”

“I can’t believe she’s wearing THAT!”

I honestly wish this commentary occurred less than it actually does, but the reality is, it doesn’t. It occurs on a daily basis in the lives of girls (and boys) from elementary school age to women in their older years. It’s the baseline for many conversations and it’s more often than not done without concern for those around them. Think about this: when someone who’s a size 2 says to a friend who’s a size 10 that she feels “fat,” there is an  implication of body-image judgment, regardless of intent or level of self-esteem of the person hearing the comment. As soon as we start adding to the ever-present dialogue that one body type is somehow better than another, we inadvertently fuel the fire of low self-esteem and negative body image. In fact, when asked about the consequences of fat talk, Elizabeth Easton, PsyD and clinical director of child and adolescent services at the Eating Recovery Center says, “Negative body image is an easy hook for individuals who struggle with self-esteem or identity to latch onto as a way to feel more confident and even accepted by others.” Fat talk is damaging, no matter how you look at it.

Parents play a huge part in this as both contributors and as allies in our efforts to combat this type of language. We need to be mindful of what we say about ourselves, letting go of the delusion that we are “just talking about ourselves,” because in the eyes of an impressionable young girl or boy, the negative impact is very real. We are our kids’ first teachers, and if we teach them to hate themselves because of our own perceived weight problem, we potentially create a lifetime of body-image issues that can translate into disordered eating and/or eating disorders. I’ll never forget the kindergartener at my son’s school who burst into tears during a dress rehearsal because her costume made her look fat  (she was playing Toto!); or the 8-year-old who won’t eat because she’s afraid she might get fat. Neither of these kids have a weight problem: rather, they have a perception problem brought on by the fear-inducing commentary from their parents, peers, and media. Fat talk is a real issue and one we need to ardently address. There are some very real consequences to this constant barrage of body bashing, and it shows in these eating-disorder statistics from NEDA:

  • In the US, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are struggling with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia;
  • 80% of American women are dissatisfied with their appearance;
  • The mortality rate for 15- 20-year-old  females who suffer from anorexia is 12 times the death rate of all other causes of death;
  • Anorexia has the highest premature fatality rate of any mental illness;
  • 40% of newly identified cases of anorexia are girls 15-19;
  • 54%  of women would rather be hit by a truck than be fat;
  • 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat (Mellin et al., 1991).
  • 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner (Collins, 1991).
  • 67% of women 15-64 withdraw from life-engaging activities like giving an opinion, going to school, and going to the doctor because they feel badly about their looks;
  • Most fashion models are thinner than 98% of most American women (Smolak, 1996);
  • Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives (Neumark-Sztainer, 2005);
  • 46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets, and 82% of their families are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets (Gustafson-Larson & Terry, 1992);
  • 91% of women recently surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting, 22% dieted “often” or “always” (Kurth et al., 1995);
  • 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full syndrome eating disorders (Shisslak & Crago, 1995);
  • 25% of American men and 45% of American women are on a diet on any given day (Smolak, 1996).

Next time you wonder if you look fat in your outfit, or feel compelled to use body bashing as a conversation starter, name 3 things that are positive about yourself. Challenge yourself to be kinder to YOU so you can affect positive change on those around you. You’re worth it.

For more information on eating disorders:

National Eating Disorders Association’s Information and Referral Helpline: 1-800-931-2237  | www.NationalEatingDisorders.org

References for aforementioned Statistics as documented at NEDA:

Collins, M.E. (1991). Body figure perceptions and preferences among pre-adolescent children. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 199-208.

Crowther, J.H., Wolf, E.M., & Sherwood, N. (1992). Epidemiology of bulimia nervosa. In M. Crowther, D.L. Tennenbaum. S.E. Hobfoll, & M.A.P. Stephens (Eds.). The Etiology of Bulimia Nervosa: The Individual and Familial Context (pp. 1-26) Washington, D.C.: Taylor & Francis.

Fairburn, C.G., Hay, P.J., & Welch, S.L. (1993). Binge eating and bulimia nervosa: Distribution and determinants.

In C.G. Fairburn & G.T. Wilson, (Eds.), Binge Eating: Nature, Assessment, and Treatment (pp. 123-143). New York: Guilford.

Gordon, R.A. (1990). Anorexia and Bulimia: Anatomy of a Social Epidemic. New York: Blackwell.

Grodstein, F., Levine, R., Spencer, T., Colditz, G.A., Stampfer, M. J. (1996). Three-year follow-up of participants in a commercial weight loss program: can you keep it off? Archives of Internal Medicine. 156 (12), 1302.

Gustafson-Larson, A.M., & Terry, R.D. (1992). Weight-related behaviors and concerns of fourth-grade children. Journal of American Dietetic Association, 818-822.

Hoek, H.W. (1995). The distribution of eating disorders. In K.D. Brownell & C.G. Fairburn (Eds.) Eating Disorders and Obesity: A Comprehensive Handbook (pp. 207-211). New York: Guilford.

Hoek, H.W., & van Hoeken, D. (2003). Review of the prevalence and incidence of eating  disorders. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 383-396.

Mellin, L., McNutt, S., Hu, Y., Schreiber, G.B., Crawford, P., & Obarzanek, E. (1991). A     longitudinal study of the dietary practices of black and white girls 9 and 10 years old at enrollment: The NHLBI growth and health study. Journal of Adolescent Health, 27-37.

National Institutes of Health. (2005). Retrieved November 7, 2005, from
https://www.nih.gov/news/fundingresearchareas.htm

Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2005). I’m, Like, SO Fat!. New York: The Guilford Press. pp. 5.

Shisslak, C.M., Crago, M., & Estes, L.S. (1995). The spectrum of eating disturbances. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 18 (3), 209-219.

Smolak, L. (1996). National Eating Disorders Association/Next Door Neighbors Puppet Guide Book.

Sullivan, P. (1995). American Journal of Psychiatry, 152 (7), 1073-1074.