I have recently added a category entitled 'personal stories.' I am looking forward to adding profiles of celebrities and reviews of eating disorder memoirs over the coming months. However, I also want to include the stories of real-life people who are struggling with eating disorders and are in recovery from readers (that means you!)
Please consider sharing your recovery story. If you don't see a question or topic that you are interested in writing about now, please keep an eye out as others will be added. You are also welcome to suggest topics to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You are also welcome to share about yourself or discuss topics related to eating disorders and recovery in the forum.
As you write, please remember that all submissions are edited for content prior to publication. The following link provides guidelines to keep in mind.
Pressures to conform one's body to the 'thin ideal' are extremely prevalent in our society today - so much so that it is considered somewhat 'normal' to be unsatisfied and critical of one's body.
In an effort to find out what fights against negative body mage and self-objectification, researchers at San Jose State University in California, interviewed adult women who practice yoga on a regular basis. Out of all of the participants, 74% reported that at some point in their lives they had struggled with their weight or with negative body image. Interestingly, 75% of participants reported that their body acceptance and appreciation increased after developing a yoga practice.
Not only did these women report increased body acceptance, but they also reported that they attribute positive feelings and a feeling of well-being to their yoga practice. They also expressed "greater connection to themselves, to others, and to their notion of the divine" and were more likely to practice intuitive eating. The researchers concluded that yoga seems to have helped these women by improving physical and emotional awareness and providing a method for grounding and introspection or meditation.
Do you practice yoga as part of your recovery? What has been your experience?
Dittman, K.A. & Freedman, M.R. (2009). Body awareness, eating attitudes, and spiritual beliefs of women practicing yoga. Eating Disorders, 17. 273-292.
- Yoga for Eating Disorders
- Become a Critical Viewer of the Media
- Six Signs You're Overexercising
- 10 Ways to Improve Your Body Image
- Six Steps for Successful Grocery Shopping
As more and more of our lives and businesses are conducted online, the mental health world is no different. Many therapists have looked into providing services online, whether it be through video-conferencing or e-mail. Other providers have designed online based treatment programs and self-help software for various issues as well. Online and computer-based treatment options have many benefits such as being cost effective and anonymous, but, are these treatment options actually effective?
A recent review of the literature by researchers in the Netherlands examined twenty-one different studies that looked at the efficacy of internet-based treatments on eating disorder symptoms. Although the majority of the studies did show improvement in symptoms, the results were truly mixed. For example, the most improvement was seen in people suffering from binge eating and purging symptoms with little improvement seen in people struggling with restrictive eating symptoms. And, as might be expected, the most improvement was seen in people with the fewest and least severe eating disorder symptoms as well as those without any other types co-occurring issues.
One of the major limitations of this research is that all of the studies compared internet-based treatment options to people who were on a waiting list for treatment (not currently receiving treatment) rather comparing them than to traditional face-to-face therapy. The authors did note that there is currently a study being done to compare internet-based treatment with face-to-face cognitive behavioral therapy so hopefully more information on these types of treatments will be forthcoming in the future.
In short, while internet-based treatment may be helpful for a select few people who have few symptoms and are extremely self-motivated, it's probably not for everyone (or even most people). It may also be important for treatment providers to work the kinks out of any current internet-based programs to see how they can be made more helpful.
Do you have any experience with internet-based therapy, either as a primary form of treatment or as an adjunct to traditional therapies?
Aardoom, J.J., Dingemans, A.E., Spinhoven, P., &Van Furth, E.F. (2013). Treating eating disorders over the internet: A systematic review and future research directions. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 46(6). 539-552.
Researchers, clinicians, and sufferers are often interested in finding out what leads to eating disorders, what causes them, and how we can predict them (if at all). A recent research study done in Norway and published by the Journal of Eating Disorders sought to do just that.
Researchers used results from a 15-year-long longitudinal community study to investigate risk factors from early childhood (before age 5) for adolescent eating problems. The study began with 921 mothers completing questionnaires regarding their 1 ˝ year old child. 784 mothers completed questionnaires at age 2 ˝ and 737 at age 4 ˝. When the children were 16 years old, 373 mothers also completed a questionnaire about eating problems called the Eating Attitudes Test.
The study looked at several possible risk factors from early childhood including picky eating in early childhood, sleep problems, internalizing problems, shyness, and emotionality. Interestingly, the only risk factor that was associated with the development of eating problems in adolescence was early childhood sleep problems.
Although this does not mean that sleep problems cause eating disorders, it may mean that there is some type of psychological or biological problem that results in both sleep problems in early childhood and eating problems in adolescence. However, given that this is the only study to show a such a correlation, the results must be duplicated before anyone begins to worry about a sleepless two-year-old developing an eating disorder at age 16.
Interestingly, picky eating in early childhood was not correlated with the development of eating disorders late in life (much to the relief of toddler parents everywhere).
If you have a child with an eating disorder, did they suffer from sleep problems as a toddler? Do you think this study's findings have enough merit to be followed up on?
Hafstad, G.S., von Soest, T., Torgersen, L. (2013). Early childhood precursors for eating problems in adolescence: A 15-year longitudinal community study. Journal of Eating Disorders, 1(35).
Researchers in Minnesota recently published an article in JAMA Pediatrics detailing their findings regarding parental conversations about weight and healthful eating with adolescents, and found that "parent conversations focused on weight/size are associated with increased risk for adolescent disordered eating behaviors, whereas conversations focused on healthful eating are protective against disordered eating behaviors."
The study utilized a large survey, which included an ethnically diverse population of 2348 adolescents and 3528 parents from 20 different middle and high schools in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.
Specific results showed that among non-overweight adolescents, conversations with mothers about healthful eating (as opposed to weight) were associated with a significantly lower prevalence of dieting. In addition, the instances of binge eating were less in families in which mothers didn't engage in any conversations about weight or eating. Among these same adolescents, if fathers spoke about weight, there was a significantly higher prevalence of dieting.
The results for overweight adolescents were similar, although there were no significant correlations between parental conversations and binge eating. All of these results underscore the importance of parental influence and conversations, even during the turbulent years of adolescence.
This information is both interesting and important for parents today. There are a range of problems facing children and adolescents in regards to weight and eating including an increased number of eating disorders and issues with obesity. It can be difficult to know how and if you should approach the topic and how address it in your child's life. This research clearly shows that if you choose to bring up food and weight at all, the focus should be on healthful and balanced eating rather than worrying about weight and/or size.
Did/do your own parents talk about weight? It might be your weight, their weight or other people's weight. How does it affect your own views of yourself and food?
Berge, J., MacLehose, R., Loth, K.A., Eisenberg, M., Bucianeri, M.M., Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2013). Parent conversations about healthful eating and weight. JAMA Pediatrics. Published Online June 24, 2013.
- The Case Against Dieting
- Biological & Familial Influence on Disordered Eating
- What Parents Need to Know About Thinspos
- Parenting An Athlete
A new study, from the University of Oxford and published in the journal Flavour, indicates that the size, weight, and color of our cutlery can change how we perceive the taste, density and expensiveness of our food.
Dr Vanessa Harrar and Professor Charles Spence, who performed this study, explain, "How we experience food is a multisensory experience involving taste, feel of the food in our mouths, aroma, and the feasting of our eyes. Even before we put food into our mouths our brains have made a judgment about it, which affects our overall experience."
In the initial experiment, tasters were asked to taste yogurt in five different spoons: two plastic teaspoons (one heavy, one light), two tablespoons (one heavy, one light), and one "fancy" spoon. Interestingly, results from the "fancy" spoon were not significant. However, tasters rated yogurt eaten from the heavy spoon as least dense, least expensive and least liked. However, it was rated the sweetest. The size of the spoon also affected how sweet the yogurt was perceived, with smaller spoons influencing the taste to be sweeter.
In the second experiment, tasters were asked to taste yogurt on five different colored spoons (red, blue, green, black, and white). There were two samples of yogurt as well, a typical 'white' yogurt and the same yogurt colored with red food coloring. Interestingly, tasters rated white yogurt in the blue colored spoons as saltiest, although the authors hypothesize that this is because salty foods are often sold in blue packaging, in the UK. Black and white spoons had opposite effects on the saltiness ratings of the white and colored yogurts as well.
In the third experiment tasters were asked to sample two types of cheese from a white plastic fork, a knife, a spoon and a toothpick. The perceived saltiness of the cheese was affected by the utensil used, with cheese eaten from knives being rated as the saltiest.
Although this study doesn't look at the interaction between utensils and eating disorder behaviors, this information is interesting, given the knowledge that many people with anorexia nervosa are known to use specific utensils when eating, sometimes insisting on using smaller, child-sized utensils anytime that they eat. It may also bring about future research on whether specific colors, sizes or weights of utensils are better (psychologically speaking) for someone who needs to eat more, or eat less.
Have you noticed that your own eating perceptions or habits changes based on what utensils you are using? Do you have preferences for specific weights or colors?
Harrar, V., & Spence, C. (2013). The taste of cutlery: how the taste of food is affected by the weight, size, shape, and colour of the cutlery used to eat it. Flavour, 2(21). doi:10.1186/2044-7248-2-21
photo courtesy of Elizabeth Willing
Professor Alexandra Corning and her team in the Department of Psychology at The University of Notre Dame recently presented their research findings at the Midwest Psychological Association on the likability of women who engage in fat talk.
Fat talk is a type self-disparaging speech about weight, food, and/or dieting. It is often characterized by conversations about what one should or shouldn't be eating, how much someone should or shouldn't be exercising and how they feel about their current size, shape, and/or weight. Research has shown that this type of talk has negative consequences including placing people at a higher risk for the development and/or maintenance of eating disorders.
This study utilized 139 undergraduate participants who were of 'normal' or 'average' size. The participants were shown photographs and quoted statements by women who were noticeably thin and noticeably overweight. Some of the statements were clearly fat talk, while others contained body affirmations.
The study found that people found the women (both thin and overweight) making positive statements about their bodies to be more likeable than those who were engaging in fat talk.
This research backs up what I have heard from clients who discuss the negative effects of being around people who are negative about their bodies and the positive and supportive relationships they are able to build with people who are body-affirming.
How do you talk about your body? Even if you don't have an eating disorder, the way you talk may affect those around you and your relationships. Do you need to work on excluding fat talk from your life?
You may have heard or read about Abercrombie & Fitch's CEO Mike Jeffries and his comments regarding larger women and his store's target audience this week.
It has been known for sometime that A&F does not offer women's clothing in sizes XL or larger, while they do offer XL and XXL for men. However, Mike Jeffries has recently been quoted by Robin Lewis, the author of The New Rules of Retail, as saying A&F is purposefully excluding larger women - that the store only wants the 'cool kids,' or the young, beautiful and thin people to shop at his store.
This isn't really new news though. In a 2006 interview with Salon, Jeffries admitted that the store is openly exclusionary in their marketing.
I've heard a few people brush this off as simple marketing tactics that all companies use. Whether you're selling food, clothing or cars, you want to portray the image that the people who buy your product are successful, beautiful, and happy. I get that. But, A&F has crossed a line. They are not only marketing themselves to portray an image (which on another topic is overly sexualized), but are purposefully excluding people from purchasing their products based solely on size.
It's important to take this seriously, as the research has shown that weight stigma in our society is increasingly problematic and harmful. The Yale Rudd Center released a report detailing these consequences including that people who are subjected to weight bias are at a higher risk of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, poor body image, and suicidal thoughts and actions. Unfortunately, it doesn't stop there. This type of stigma also increases the likelihood of binge eating and obesity.
Perpetuating society's over-valuation of thinness also puts people at an increased risk of unhealthy weight control behaviors which can place people at a higher risk of developing an eating disorder.
Please consider speaking out against weight bias and stigma when you see it or hear it. It's also important to be mindful about where you spend your money and what types of messages you are supporting.
Last week, I posted about the new video from Dove detailing their 'social experiment' with having women describe themselves to a forensic artist and then being described by a stranger. Initially, I really liked the video and the message that Dove was attempting to get across - essentially that in general women see themselves more critically than others do. I still think there are a lot of positive things about this video and it's message and have heard from several therapists that it has made great fodder for both individual and group sessions.
However, I've also been hearing some really valid points criticizing the video. In general, those criticisms have to do with the way beauty is portrayed in the video - i.e. the word 'thin' is used as a positive term while the word 'round' is used in a negative way. There is also an issue with what the video doesn't show. The vast majority of the women are Caucasian with very little representation from other ethnicities. There are also no women depicted who are overweight.
Did you notice this portrayal of beauty when you watched the video? Does having it pointed out make a difference as to how you feel about the video? I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. Please feel free to comment below, or send me an e-mail at email@example.com.
Body image is the way we, as individuals, see ourselves or the way we believe that we look to others. Interestingly, the newest addition to the Dove Real Beauty campaign is underscoring the idea that we are our harshest critics. And, that we actually see ourselves less accurately (and as less beautiful) than total strangers.
In a small, social experiment, FBI-trained forensic artist Gil Zamora sketches women based solely on their own descriptions of themselves. Then, the women meet with a stranger who again describes the original woman to Zamora. The drawings are strikingly different and the women become obviously emotional when they see how differently they view themselves vs. how others view them.
It is a wonderful video and I'd recommend it to anyone, especially women who may be struggling with accepting themselves as they are.
You can view the video and see the sketches side-by-side from Dove here.
Do you think that your own perception of yourself is accurate? In what ways do you think you are overly critical of your looks?