Asking the Impossible? Eating Disorder Recovery in Context

This past week was Eating Disorder Awareness Week in Canada, which is really like any other week in my world. A week of reminding people that eating disorders don’t only impact young, white, thin, cis, hetero girls, and that when treatment doesn’t work, people aren’t failing – treatment is failing them. A week of calling for systemic changes to support a world where more people’s bodies are made welcome. A week of reminding people that all the research into biochemistry and genetics in the world will not convince people that they need to make space to hear people’s suffering, regardless of its origin (necessary caveat – I’m not saying it shouldn’t be done, I’m just saying we need to mobilize research knowledge or it just remains research knowledge and the status quo marches on).

Given that there’s actually a specific ‘reason’ to get on my soap box, I’m emerging … Continue reading →

Dietary Restraint: Restriction by Another Name?

Please excuse me while I nerd out all over your computer screen. I recently turned a corner on my appreciation of the value of quantitative social science, having taken a structural equation modelling class last winter, and today I’m going to share a little of that with you. While I’m still a qualitative researcher through and through, this course taught me that there is great value in understanding how scales are constructed and what that means about how we can interpret results from survey-takers.

What, you might ask, does any of this have to do with eating disorders? Plenty. A while back, Shiran wrote a post about the issues with the Eating Disorders Examination Questionnaire. Her post didn’t focus on the scale psychometrics – that is, how well the scale measures what it is supposed to measure and how consistent it is – but still reveals how questionnaires … Continue reading →

Who’s Failing Whom? Treatment Retention for Eating Disorders

I find the idea of treatment retention for eating disorders to be quite interesting. Mostly, I find it intriguing to dissect the way that authors write about treatment retention – that is, how they tend to look at factors within people that make them more or less able to complete treatment, rather than things about the treatment that serve or don’t serve people’s needs. I’ve been reading a lot more about adolescent eating disorder treatment these days, given that I’m doing a practicum at an adolescent treatment centre that does things a bit differently. Resultantly, I’ve become more interested than ever in how we can better meet people’s different treatment needs and provide a more comprehensive treatment continuum.

The stark reality of treatment is that people don’t always finish it. That statement sounds fairly banal, but it’s a loaded one. Too often, I see this framed as people failing Continue reading →

Strategizing for Change: Eating Disorders Association of Canada 2016 Conference

Have I mentioned that I go to too many conferences? This week I attended the Eating Disorders Association of Canada (EDAC) conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba. If you follow me on Twitter, this post might be a bit repetitive, as I seem to think that live-tweeting conferences is my single handed responsibility (that and convincing everyone and their dog to join Twitter). However, I wanted to take the opportunity to provide a bit more context around some of my Tweets and give my overall impressions about the conference and next steps that we might take to move from discussion to action around eating disorders in Canada.

Before getting into the conference, it is worth commenting on the pre-conference session hosted by the National Initiative for Eating Disorders (NIED). In case you don’t know, NIED is a not for profit group founded by Wendy Preskow and Lynne Koss and comprised of professionals … Continue reading →

Psychoeducation for Eating Disorders: Motivational or Distressing?

It’s no secret that I am not a fan of primarily psychoeducational interventions for people with eating disorders (EDs). It irks me that the overall theory in implementing this kind of intervention seems to be: if they only knew what they were doing to their bodies, people with EDs would take better care of themselves. Of course I take issue with this idea – if knowing that EDs were harmful to one’s health was enough to make the changes needed to not have an ED anymore, far fewer people would be struggling.

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, a psychoeducational program is one that focuses on educating people about a mental illness, including what qualifies as pathology, what the behaviours look like, what the harms are, and what possible interventions exist. To be fair, there are not that many examples of purely psychoeducational interventions for … Continue reading →

What’s Working? Comparing Partial Hospitalization and Residential Treatment for Eating Disorders

I can’t help but think I often write more about the issues surrounding the general lack of treatment options for eating disorders that I sometimes neglect to comment on what is available. A part of this is that I would refer to myself as somewhat of a treatment modality atheist – I have the luxury of being someone who does eating disorder research but is not involved in directly treating those with eating disorders, and so I don’t need to specialize in one type of treatment. My bottom line tends to be that no one-size-fits-all, and that the type of treatment that works for someone will depend on so many factors (like their gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, body size, ability, even their politics to a certain extent) that I wouldn’t want to proclaim one type of treatment as king.

In spite of this treatment modality atheism (or perhaps because of … Continue reading →

Where’s the Change? Service User Views on Eating Disorder Services

I write a lot about systems-level change for eating disorders, and about how the services that we have available for eating disorders are severely lacking. What I tend to struggle with – though it’s something I’m working on – is how to actually MAKE the changes I’m advocating for. I always fear the tendency to get caught up in saying “this is how things should be,” when I know that eating disorders are so complex and multifaceted and that one size does not fit all when it comes to support. I also fear my experience and my story becoming “the” story about eating disorders and recovery; just because something worked for me does not mean it will work for others.

Surprisingly, despite a general discontent in the ED field with the service continuum, there are few studies that explore what kinds of changes might be made to eating disorder services … Continue reading →

Beyond the Muscular Ideal: Talking About Eating Disorders and Masculinity

There’s a growing acknowledgment that women/feminine-presenting people are not the only people who get eating disorders. Increasingly, headlines proclaim that “men get eating disorders too!” and note that the stereotype that eating disorders are a “girl thing” is tired and problematic. This is great – anything that breaks down the well-entrenched notion that only young, rich, skinny, white, cis- and hetero girls are the only ones to get eating disorders is a welcome move in my opinion.

However, are we just reinscribing gender norms and the focus on body image and body ideals in the way we talk about eating disorders in boys and men? I just finished reading an article by Wright, Halse & Levy (2015) asking just this question. The article provides a compelling argument for re-visioning how we talk about eating disorders amongst boys and men.

Discourses

Wright, Halse & Levy explore discourses around eating disorders … Continue reading →

Behind the Journal Article: Thinking Critically about Research Evidence and Eating Disorders

There’s been a fair bit of talk lately (ok, always) about evidence in eating disorders. In addition to the evidence for certain types of treatment, there’s talk about evidence for causes of eating disorders, evidence for whether recovery is possible, and more. The framing I generally see advanced is that we need to be using evidence-based practice only; presumably, this evidence comes from scientific research. I don’t disagree, but in this post I’ll be writing about how science is never wholly objective and is situated in social context.

Let the record show that I love science. I love all kinds of science: biological science, genetic science, neuroscience, social science, you name it, I think learning and research and scientific methods are interesting. I can’t do all kinds of science; as Tetyana says, this blog itself has moved away from “science” as she originally intended it as I continue to dominate … Continue reading →

Thinking Critically to Move Forward: Reflections on the International Conference on Eating Disorders 2016

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed that I was at the International Conference on Eating Disorders (ICED), the major yearly conference put on by the Academy for Eating Disorders, over the past few days. As I write this post, I am sitting in the San Francisco Airport trying to synthesize my experiences into what may or may not turn into an epic blog post.

Despite my extreme extroversion on the Internet, I actually live in a funny place where I’m continually balancing my innate criticality and training as critical health psychology graduate student with the desire for folks to like me. I see this playing out at conferences like ICED, where people’s opinions of me and my fitness to do this work matter. I am unable to sit in a session and not voice my perspectives on Twitter, but I’m also continually filtering … Continue reading →