Eating Disorder Recovery In a Non-Normative Body

Do you think it is easier for someone to recover from an ED when they have a more normative or stereotypically desirable body? Versus, say, an obese person who will never stop hearing extremely triggering stuff about their body type everywhere they turn? . . .

This post was originally written in response to the above question that was posed to Tetyana on the SEDs Tumblr (you can see the full question and Tetyana’s response here).

This is an interesting and timely question, and one that drives much of my research: I’m interested in knowing which bodies are easily accepted as “recovered,” and how body privilege (i.e., unasked for benefits associated with having a body that is perceived as “normal” in sociocultural context, to oversimplify) might play into the experience of recovery.

Tied into the question, I’ve been wondering, lately: Can one only hold themselves up as a beacon … Continue reading →

Unpacking Recovery Part 2: The Multiple Facets of Recovery

One of the most common definitions of eating disorder recovery I have seen comes from a 2010 study by Bardone-Cone et al. Before I begin exploring this study I thought I might direct readers to some more resources on recovery: Carrie Arnold over at ED Bites wrote a few posts about recovery on her blog, and the first in the series can be found here. In this post, Carrie looks at the 3 dimensions of recovery that surface in Bardone-Cone’s article, so I thought I might also explore a study Bardone-Cone et al. published in the same year, which specifically touches on self-concept in eating disorder recovery, for variety’s sake.


One of the most appealing things about Bardone-Cone and colleagues’ definition of recovery is that it looks at more than just the physical aspects of recovery. The researchers conceptualize recovery instead as … Continue reading →

Not Just for Kids: Disordered Eating and Body Dissatisfaction in Midlife

When I tell people I research eating disorders I generally get one of three reactions:

  1. They ask me how I got into this research
  2. They tell me a story about themselves or a friend/family member suffering from an eating disorder
  3. They share some knowledge they’ve gleaned at some point about what it looks like to have an eating disorder (often, “aren’t eating disorders most common in teenagers?”)

Those are without question the most common responses I get, ignoring the really horrible outliers. The last item reminds me that there are still extremely pervasive myths about what “having an eating disorder” looks like. Perhaps in an earnest effort to counter such myths, I am always scouring the literature for studies revealing the particularities of eating disorders amongst diverse individuals.

One such group, and one that has been getting more “press” of late is women in midlife. To scan the more recent … Continue reading →

Eating Disorders and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Eating disorder patients commonly complain of gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms including bloating, abdominal pain, and constipation. This is, of course, not surprising. After all, disordered eating behaviours such as self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, and restriction are bound to have negative effects on the digestive system.

But just how common are GI complaints and functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs) like irritable bowel syndrome among ED patients? And is there more to the relationship than simply ED behaviours causing GI disturbances? Luckily, a growing number of research studies are beginning to shed some light on these questions.

In a study published in 2010, Catherine Boyd and colleagues examined the prevalence of FGIDs among ED patients admitted to a hospital Eating Disorders Unit. They found that out of the respondents (73 in total), 97% had at least one FGID (as evaluated using the Rome II questionnaire). More specifically, on admission, 73% of the … Continue reading →

Perspectives of Siblings of Adolescents with Eating Disorders

The experiences of siblings of individuals with eating disorders has received relatively little space in the academic literature to date. Several studies have revealed the disruptions in family life that can occur when a child has an eating disorder (for example, see Hillege, Beale & McMaster, 2005 and Perkins et al., 2004). On the other hand, some studies have shown that siblings of patients with chronic illnesses have both positive (personal growth, responsibility, increased empathy) as well as negative (worry, fear, resentment) experiences.

However, few studies have explored experiences of male siblings, older siblings, or siblings of adolescents with eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS). Consequently, to help fill this gap, Areemit, Katzman, Pinhas & Kaufman (2010) conducted a mixed-methods study looking at experiences and quality of life among siblings of adolescents with eating disorders.

Twenty siblings were recruited from The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. … Continue reading →

Patient Perspectives on Anorexia, Treatment, and Therapeutic Alliance

Dear Science of Eating Disorders readers, please welcome Andrea, our newest contributor! Below is her introduction and first post.

Hello SEDs readers, my name is Andrea and I’m excited to be contributing to the blog. I have an undergraduate degree in sociology and I am currently a Masters student studying family relations and human development. My research is looking at the experiences of young women in recovery from eating disorders, and uses qualitative methods including narrative interviews and digital stories to explore stories of eating disorders and recovery. I am particularly interested in stories that fall outside of the “norm,” as I feel that we sometimes hear a limited, scripted story of what it means to be someone who has had and recovered from an eating disorder.

I myself am recovered from ED-NOS, and I am happy to be making meaning from my experiences by exploring eating disorders in an Continue reading →

Eating Disorders in the Elderly

The first published case of a late-onset eating disorder (at the age of 40) was in 1930 by John M. Berkman. In 1936, John A. Ryle published a case study of an eating disorder in a 59-year-old woman. Just how common are eating disorders in late middle-age or elderly individuals?

One study of 475 community dwelling elderly women aged 60–70 years found that 3.8% met diagnostic criteria for eating disorders. A study of elderly Canadian women reported that symptoms of disordered eating were present in 2.6% of women aged 50–64 years, and in 1.8% of women aged 65 years or older (Gadalla, 2008). In an investigation of eating disorders in elderly outpatient males, a minority (11–19%) who were undernourished were found to have abnormal eating attitudes and body image, including inappropriate self-control around food (60%), unsuitable eating attitudes (26%), and distorted body image (3–52%) (Miller et al., 1991).

There … Continue reading →

Can Puberty Affect the Development of Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders typically begin in adolescence. One common explanation for this is that during adolescence females are increasingly exposed to the media, thin models, and dieting. While this is probably true to some extent, it doesn’t explain why the rates of eating disorders are quite low despite the high levels of exposure to thin models in the media. Out of 100 girls, only a handful develop eating disorders, yet all of them are exposed to the same magazines and TV shows.

This means there must be some other factors that differ between this group of girls. One hypothesis is that hormonal changes during puberty may modulate the genetic risk factors for eating disorders. These changes may “turn on” genes that predispose individuals to eating disorders. Previous research has shown that genetic factors modulate disordered eating (eating disorders have a high heritability), but how? What are the mechanisms of this … Continue reading →

Yoga in the Treatment of Eating Disorders: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Exercise can be great for your body and for your mental health. It is well accepted that exercise can decrease anxiety, increase concentration, and generally improve mood. But too much exercise can be harmful, especially during recovery from a restrictive eating disorder. So is there a way to reap the benefits of exercise without the risks? And if yes, can this exercise actually help in the recovery process?

One form of exercise that has gained a lot of popularity is yoga. Initial studies on the use of yoga in treatment of anxiety and depression seem promising (though I haven’t checked them out in detail myself) (Mishra et al., 2001; Sahasi et al., 1989; Pilkington et al., 2005; Mitchell et al., 2007). So, can it be used as an adjunct with regular eating disorder treatment? Can it decrease eating disorder symptoms?

In this randomized controlled study (RCT – randomized controlled Continue reading →

How Do Anorexia Nervosa Patients Define Recovery and Engage in Treatment? The Need for Individualized Treatment

One difficulty in measuring rates of recovery for patients with anorexia nervosa (AN) is coming up with a cohesive definition of “recovery” that most of us can agree on. Similarly, it is hard to identify whether a particular treatment course is working when the patient and the clinician have different goals in mind. A 2010 study by Alison Darcy and colleagues (article is freely available here) – in an attempt to understand the patients’ goals – aims to explore how patients define recovery and engage in treatment. This study differs from a lot of the literature on treatments and recovery in that all the data comes from individuals with a lifetime history of AN. The population sampled includes 20 women with a mean age of just slightly over 29 (range from 19-52). This is a small sample size, which can make it difficult to generalize responses, and the information … Continue reading →