Monthly Archives - June 2018

Scale and tape (RCC)

Body Weight and the Diet Cycle

According to research from Harvard Medical School, eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating, afflict more than 30 million Americans, while millions more experience disordered eating and weight control behaviors. This statistic is even more sobering when one considers the fact that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder in the United States. Numbers like these have real consequences on people’s health and overall quality of life. Often people are trapped in a vicious cycle of weight gain and severe dieting. In many instances, dieting does not produce permanent weight loss. Instead, it creates an unhealthy diet cycle where a person’s body weight quickly cycles up and down. What is needed is a holistic understanding of health that does not stigmatize body weight. People should focus on healthy behaviors and physical well-being instead of body weight.

The central idea behind the act of dieting tends to create problems. Extreme diets can actually damage people’s metabolism as well as their mental perception of food and eating. This means that individuals can end up in a worse place versus when they started the diet. The diet cycle can start here, with people’s weight gain and loss having a yo-yo appearance. The rise and fall of body weight creates the appearance that people are actually at war with their food (and weight). What is more beneficial for people is an active and healthy lifestyle, as well as an acceptance of their physical appearance and body weight.

When people are informed that they are overweight, there are unintended consequences. This information can reduce people’s satisfaction with their body and create other negative emotions and behavior. This is due to the fact that modern society tends to reinforce the message that “thin” is beautiful and good. People who struggle with their weight tend to also have lower self-esteem. The stigma of being overweight can help to set up a cycle for additional weight gain or the development of eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia. Individuals at all body weights often respond to stress and anxiety by eating. This emotional-induced eating will likely only encourage more weight gain. An increase in body weight can create a feeling of lower self-esteem and anxiety in a person. People quickly become trapped in an unhealthy feed back loop of weight gain and dieting.

More has to be done in order to make it safe to be a larger-bodied person. Most eating disorders are often accompanied by trauma, but body shaming and fat loathing only make these diseases worse. Actions from the fashion and food industry, as well as pop culture, almost seem to encourage eating disorders. However, attempts have been made to address the issues surrounding perceptions of physical imperfections, body weight and fat shaming. A few examples from fashion and marketing are from lingerie retailer Aerie and the increasing popularity of plus-size models. Since 2014, the ad campaigns of lingerie retailer Aerie (American Eagle) reportedly uses non-airbrushed photos of women of various body shapes and colors. Successful Fashion designer Chris Siriano has stated that there have “always been customers of different sizes since day one.” Currently, one half of Siriano’s fashion collection is made in extended sizes. These are positive steps in the right direction, but body weight fears and stigma surrounding fat is still a common occurrence.

For additional questions about the connection between body image, body weight and the diet cycle, contact the staff at River Centre Clinic. Their programs provide a full range of treatment options for children and adults with a primary diagnosis of an eating disorder. For immediate and confidential feedback, take River Centre Clinic’s EAT-26 (Eating Attitudes Test) assessment.

Follow us on Twitter:  @River_Centre

Body Weight, Diet Cycle

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Pride Flag image - LGBTQ-River Centre Clinic

LGBTQ+ and Advice to Eating Disorder Treatment Providers

Guest contributor:  Lee R.

When asked to write this blog post, I turned immediately to my good friend Google to look up some statistics and check out the latest research. What I found, or what I did not find, was revealing, albeit not entirely surprising to me. Google Scholar turned up 1,360 results for the search “LGBT eating disorder” in the last 10 years, whereas simply “eating disorder” racked up over 59,000 hits for the same time period.

It is not clear whether or not the LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, etc.) community is underrepresented in eating disorder research, but it certainly is not prominent, appearing in only 2.3% of the research references. But that should not be interpreted as meaning that the disease does not impact the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

The Trevor Project and NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) came together in 2018 to research the prevalence of eating disorders in LGBTQ+ youth1 and the results were staggering. About 54% of the sample had been diagnosed with an eating disorder, and an additional 21% suspected they had an eating disorder due to disordered eating habits. In another study2, it was found that nearly 16% of transgender college students had been diagnosed with an eating disorder in the past year, as opposed to approximately 2.5% of their straight, cisgender counterparts.

Though the research on LGBTQ+ eating disorders is scarce, what does exist speaks volumes. Eating disorders run rampant through this community, yet it is rarely spoken about in the LGBTQ+ community itself, and even less frequently in the mainstream eating disorder treatment community. Where there is currently silence, there needs to grow a discussion on how LGBTQ+ eating disorders develop and progress, how they present, and the best treatment modalities to help sufferers receive the best care possible.

That is not to say that mainstream providers cannot appropriately serve the LGBTQ+ community. However, if providers were educated specifically on how eating disorders impact the LGBTQ+ community, there may be an even greater success rate for recovery. As a start, here are 5 things I, and a few others in the community, wish treatment providers were more aware of:

  1. Gender dysphoria exists and can make it difficult for a person to live in their own body. Gender dysphoria is the feeling of distress that occurs when someone’s gender does not match the one they were assigned at birth. It can often focus on specific parts of the body that society reads as one sex or another. It can result in restriction of food, compensatory behaviors, or binge eating. Providers need to be aware of gender dysphoria, because of the added complications to recovery. Poor body image or body dysmorphia is not the only physical hurdles in those who experience gender dysphoria. Additionally, gender dysphoria is not necessarily due to poor body image, though one may trigger the other.
  2. Internalized homophobia is also a thing that exists. Internalized homophobia refers to the prejudices that members of the LGBTQ+ community turn inward after seeing and hearing the prejudices in society. This can lead to negative views and even shame of their own sexuality. This shame and negativity can then lead to further flawed thinking and disordered eating habits.
  3. Language is important. Using my pronouns is not just a suggestion. While I’ll probably present it as a timid request and tell you “it’s fine” when you mess them up, my pronouns are actually very important to me. They help me feel more at peace with who I am, especially in such a tumultuous time as the beginning stages of eating disorder recovery. By using the correct pronouns for me, you not only convey that you respect who I am, you also help me build trust and rapport. Additionally, using gender-neutral language is imperative. People of all genders can have eating disorders, using female-centric language is outdated. Help everyone feel at home by neutralizing your language.
  4. Do not assume we are just confused. I identify as a queer non-binary person. I am not confused about who I love or what gender I am; I am completely confident in both aspects. And it is quite possible your clients will be too. When they do come out to you, know that this means they trust you. Do not insist that it’s “a phase” or that it’s due to their eating disorder. In fact, it’s likely the other way around: eating disorders often develop and progress due to minority stress, internalized homophobia, and gender dysphoria. If your client is in the beginning stages of exploring their gender and/or sexuality, do not diminish their journey by crediting the eating disorder.
  5. Having culturally sensitive resources available to us is so important. Whether it’s an LGBTQ+ process group, a therapist who is a member of the LGBTQ+ community, or even something as simple as gender-inclusive bathrooms, having resources readily available to us helps us feel included and heard. Knowing that a treatment team is culturally competent can be a great relief for LGBTQ+ people who may otherwise have felt like they needed to keep their identity a secret.

This list is by no means extensive; it really is just a beginning. Every client is unique, and the best way to get to know what they want you to know is to open an honest conversation with them.

I have found in my experience that the staff at the River Centre Clinic is willing to have those honest conversations with their patients. When I first arrived at RCC in 2014, I was unsure if I wanted to come out as genderqueer. I began by talking about it with several of the other patients who then encouraged me to tell the staff. Once I did come out to everyone, the support I received from the staff and my peers did not waver. The staff was willing to learn more about my identity and use the pronouns I chose. Even when I returned in 2016, they remembered my identity and treated me with the same respect and compassion with which they treated everyone else. I believe that the acceptance I received was a vital component in making my recovery as strong as it is today.

Follow us on Twitter:  @River_Centre

 

1 – National Eating Disorder Association. (2018). Eating Disorders Among LGBTQ Youth [Press release]. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/sites/default/files/nedaw18/NEDA -Trevor Project 2018 Survey – Full Results.pdf

2 – Diemer, E. W., Grant, J. D., Munn-Chernoff, M. A., Patterson, D., & Duncan, A. E. (2015). Gender identity, sexual orientation, and eating-related pathology in a national sample of college students. Journal of Adolescent Health, 57(2), 144-149.

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Muscle Dysmorphia, Eating Disorders & Males

The term eating disorder is commonly associated with younger women, even though research has shown that eating disorder symptoms and behaviors also occur in women over 50. However, this stereotype that eating disorders only appear in females is a misconception. Studies have shown that eating disorders do not discriminate, with males also suffering from this potentially lethal disease. Some studies have shown that males account for an estimated 5 to 15 percent of patients with anorexia or bulimia. Symptoms of binge-eating disorder are displayed in 35 percent of males. In males, especially boys and young men, these illnesses create a distorted sense of body image. For males, this distortion is often in the form of muscle dysmorphia, a type of disorder characterized by an extreme concern with becoming more muscular.

For boys and young men with muscle dysmorphia and related disorders, they want to lose weight or gain weight in order to “bulk up.” Young men who believe they are physically too small may actually start using anabolic steroids or other dangerous substances in an attempt to increase their body’s muscle mass. Eating disorders and muscle dysmorphia are listed separately in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. However, the occurrence of these disorders is often seen as a collection of related behaviors. Both are the direct result of over-evaluating an idealized body type, which fuels either a drive for leanness, muscle mass or both. These eating disorders and body image distortions can give rise to disordered eating behaviors in boys, young males or even older men. Yet, in pop culture and society at large, muscular bodies are encouraged for boys. In American sports, being lean and muscular is seen as a beneficial attribute for nearly all sports. In fact, in certain athletic activities such as wrestling and gymnastics, severe weight and eating control is almost encouraged. So how do parents and loved one identify what is healthy versus unhealthy eating in boys and young men?

One question to ask is whether the person with the potential eating disorder is prone to anxiety, depression and perfectionistic tendencies. Other warning signs include people who have been bullied, felt too skinny or have struggled with their weight. These are all contributing factors for boys to develop some type of eating disorder. People should also consider their family’s personal history when considering whether or not a loved one is struggling with some form of muscle dysmorphia or related eating disorder. Risks are increased if there is a family history of eating disorder behaviors or anxiety issues. What are the family norms surrounding food and body image? Adults in a family are often the role models for their children. If discussions of weight and body shaming are frequent topics, kids will notice. From a mental health standpoint, the goal is to have a healthy sense of self and body. Excessive behaviors are usually a sign of a deeper issue. With this in mind, here are four warning signs to watch for in boys and young males:

  • Engaging in extreme dieting.
  • Quickly losing or gaining body weight.
  • Obsessing over dieting.
  • Binge eating and vomiting.

The presence of these behaviors could indicate that an eating disorder is developing. If this is the case, it is better for an individual to receive treatment as soon as possible. Earlier treatment has a better likelihood of success since these disordered behaviors will have less time to become entrenched habits. The concern is not only for the boy’s emotional health, but also for his physical health. Good physical fitness is great, but obsessive behaviors and perfectionism are not. If all signs point to a problematic body image and the existence of an eating disorder, it is beneficial to see a mental health professional who specializes in treating these conditions. Sadly, this topic is rarely talked about among young males. There is still a stigma surrounding publicly discussing mental illness. An additional stigma exists due to the fact that eating disorders are still seen as a women’s issue.

For additional questions about eating disorders in boys and young men, contact the staff at River Centre Clinic. Their programs provide a full range of treatment options for children and adults with a primary diagnosis of an eating disorder. For immediate and confidential feedback, take River Centre Clinic’s EAT-26 (Eating Attitudes Test) assessment. It is a widely cited standardized self-report screening measure that can help determine whether an individual has an eating disorder that requires professional treatment.

Follow us on Twitter:  @River_Centre

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