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 →

You Sure You Want to Eat That? Perceived Consequences of Eating & Its Relation to Recovery

I recently had a total Aha! moment (or a why-didn’t-I-ever-think-of-it moment) when I had chanced upon a recently published article titled “Eating Expectancies in Relation to Eating Disorder Recovery” by Fitzsimmons-Craft and colleagues. The title caught my attention because I had never come across any research tying eating expectancies to eating disorders, though I was familiar with the concept from the health psychology and obesity literature. Eating, as a behaviour and as a mechanism, is incredibly complex, with many factors contributing to why and how we eat; eating expectancies are one such factor.

Expectancy theory, first proposed by Tolman (1932), suggests that expectancies, or assumptions about the consequences of various behaviours, develop as a result of one’s learning history (Smith et al., 2007). Such expectancies are thought to influence subsequent behavioural choices, with one acting to either increase the likelihood of reward … Continue reading →

Is Eating Disorder Prevention Possible?

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 →

Binge Eating: When Should We Call It An “Addiction”?

The recent New York City soda ban controversy has contributed to increased discussion about the “addictive” properties of sugar and its contribution to the obesity epidemic. While I do not deny that there is an overabundance of high-sugar/high-fat foods in the societal milieu, and that the rewarding properties of these foods encourages their overconsumption; I think it is a mischaracterization to refer to the typical overeating associated with the “obesity epidemic” as reflective of a widespread “sugar addiction” that millions have fallen prey to.

Stice, Figlewicz, Gosnell, Levine, and Pratt (2012) have recently released a review in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews entitled “The contribution of brain reward circuits to the obesity epidemic.” In the paper, the authors elegantly describe the overlap between food and drug rewards while also highlighting major differences.


Before discussing the parallels between food and drug rewards, we should first introduce some … Continue reading →