I spent the last weekend of October attending the Binge Eating Disorder Association Conference in San Francisco and it was awesome. I have attended several conferences over the past several years and each and every one fails to be inclusive. The discussion is always centred on the cisgender white straight middle to upper-middle class thin woman who suffers from anorexia. Every research presentation, every session, the same discussion just new material every conference.
Those involved in putting together BEDA this year decided to change the conversation and focus instead on diversity and including all the people that every other conference seems to leave out – and it was wonderful. Obviously I could not attend all of the sessions, so if you want more information check out the #BEDA2016 hashtag on Twitter.
It was clear from the opening session that this conference was going to be a completely different mood. This … Continue reading →
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 →
Identifying risk factors for eating disorder symptoms may help us develop more evidence-based prevention mentions. Personally not convinced that prevention is really possible with the types of individual-focused programs we have today, I would argue that identifying risk factors may at least help us determine which individuals should be screened in subsequent years. If they do develop eating disorders, they will hopefully be more likely to receive early intervention and treatment.
To identify predictors of eating disorder symptoms, Elizabeth Evans and colleagues (2016) conducted a longitudinal study that measured various putative risk factors at ages 7, 9, and 12 in a group of boys and girls. The authors also wanted to identify correlates of eating disorder symptoms at 12 years of age. They measured eating attitudes and dietary restraint, BMI, body dissatisfaction, and depressive symptoms.
- 516 participants; 262 girls and 254 boys
- all individuals were residents of Gateshead, located
… Continue reading →
Health class in school is an experience few of us would like to repeat, I’m sure. Though it’s been a good many years since I was subjected to the joys of health education, I continue to think about the types of lessons I had, particularly about eating disorders, and how lacking these were. I can only imagine that things have gotten progressively worse with the focus on the “obesity epidemic” that is so pervasive today.
In one of my favourite articles ever, Pinhas et al. (2013) outline some issues with healthy curricula related to “healthy eating” in schools in the wake of obesity rhetoric. These include:
- The simplistic “energy in, energy out” message can be highly problematic for some children, who may take this to mean they need to engage in restrictive behaviours
- Without addressing weight stigmatization in schools, messages about health hold little purchase, and tend to
… Continue reading →
Prevention programs for eating disorders abound, though many people I’ve talked to (mostly on Twitter, because that’s where I have a lot of discussions of this type) have expressed the sentiment that limited resources might be better spent on early intervention or treatment in general. Still, it isn’t hard to understand why we still optimistically aim for eating disorder prevention; of course we would rather stop eating disorders in their tracks, before they wreak havoc on the lives of people and their loved ones. I’ve written about my own take on the “is prevention possible” debate elsewhere, highlighting some of my concerns, as well as some more optimistic sentiments about truly systemic prevention efforts.
One of the things I am most concerned about is the fact that prevention tends to take place in the school context, delivered by teachers who may or may not know much about eating disorders … Continue reading →
There has been a veritable explosion of “anti-fat talk” movements in the body image and eating disorder prevention realms over the past few years. Indeed, campaigns like the Tri-Delta Sorority Fat Talk Free week have become relatively well known. Events like the “Southern Smash,” where participants literally smash scales are other iterations of this social phenomenon encouraging a more positive conversation around bodies.
I am, of course, a fan of the idea that we shouldn’t put our bodies down; I’m a huge proponent of the need to avoid putting our own and others’ bodies down. I think that initiatives like Fat Talk Free week are good practice as they help move conversations in more productive directions and help to redirect our focus from bodies as our only source of value.
One of my concerns about these initiatives is that in signing up to do a Fat Talk Free … Continue reading →
Last week I had the opportunity to attend and present at the Eating Disorders Association of Canada (EDAC-ATAC) Biennial Conference in Vancouver, BC. I was presenting part of my Masters thesis, which felt great. I always love talking to clinicians in the field, and I found that this was a very practical and applied-focused conference.
I sometimes feel like somewhat of an outsider at eating disorders conferences as I am “research only”- I do not have the credentials to counsel or treat individuals with eating disorders. However, I felt quite welcome at this conference. People were quite willing to engage with a relative newbie, in typical Canadian fashion.
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll have noticed that I was tweeting up a storm. You might also have noticed that I was one of the only people doing so. I learned that this association is relatively new, in its … Continue reading →
When it comes to prevention, I’ve noticed a strong interest in working toward large-scale prevention initiatives. I’ve written about prevention before, noting the potential for unintended effects, as well as schoolgirls’ reactions to and acceptance of prevention interventions (here). But what about the larger scale efforts to prevent body image concerns and eating disorders?
Countries from the US to Australia to Israel have taken strides to implement initiatives aimed at improving national body image (a lofty goal? Perhaps.); you might have heard about bans on thin runway models and airbrushing, among other efforts. We know that eating disorders are not solely caused by thin-ideal internalization or bad body image; in fact, body image might not even be that useful of a concept for everyone, as I wrote about here.
However, improving body satisfaction could be a useful end goal in and of itself. Why not … Continue reading →
National Eating Disorder Awareness Week came and went (in the US, anyway). Posters were shared, liked, and tweeted. Pretty (but often misguided) infographics made the rounds on the internet. Local ED groups visited schools and college campuses to educate students about eating disorders. To, you know, increase awareness.
The thing is, awareness is not always a good thing. For one, as Carrie over at ED Bites mentioned, there’s a whole lot of misinformation masquerading as fact. And two, awareness campaigns, even when the information in them is correct, may have unintended consequences, like, for example, increasing stigma or self-stigma.
Moreover, not all approaches to increasing awareness or decreasing stigma are equally effective, and the effectiveness of a particular approach may differ depending on the population studied.
So, what about the effectiveness of EDAW? In 2012, Kathleen Tillman and colleagues published a study looking at … Continue reading →
How did I ever find things to write about before social media? Recently, someone on Tumblr asked whether eating disorder prevention and awareness efforts do more harm than good. In other words, can attempting to prevent eating disorders actually contribute to their development? Good question, I thought. I’ve often wondered about this myself, especially in light of some emerging studies suggesting that “healthy eating” campaigns may actually contribute to unhealthy (restrictive) behaviours around food in school children. So off I went to scour the literature. I came up with a number of hits, but surprisingly few from the past few years. With this recent silence in mind, I will look specifically at a meta-analysis by Stice, Shaw & Marti published in 2007 that highlights some of the characteristics of effective prevention programs and comment on some of the potential pitfalls of prevention.
As a bit of a primer prevention … Continue reading →