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Dietitian Talk: Eating Disorders


Hi Mountaineers! I hope everyone had a great Eating Disorder Awareness week and was able to find some helpful resources for friends, family or for yourself (if needed). This blog post is kicking off a series of discussions around the different eating disorder subtypes to bring awareness to the diversity that exists.

Read Full Article: Orthorexia

Body Neutrality

While this blog series is dedicated to topics related to eating disorders and disordered eating, we might not always think about body image or body dissatisfaction as having a large impact on eating disorder risk. However, body image disturbance or body image dissatisfaction is one of the most common clinical features in all eating disorder subtypes.

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Protective Factors against Eating Disorder Risk

Risk factors associated with eating disorders (ED) are complex and layered, involving biological, social and environmental factors. Body dissatisfaction, the internalization of the thin-ideal, dieting, and poor self-concept are examples of risk factors associated with EDs (Stice, 2016). However, simply acknowledging risk factors doesn’t reduce the onset of ED occurrence (Stice, 2016). While knowledge is power (as the old adage goes), it is important to not only identify these various risk factors, but to also consider protective factors to better identify effective strategies related to ED prevention and interventions.

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Eating Disorders and Co-occurring Mental Health Conditions

Eating Disorders are complex mental health conditions that rarely exist on their own. An eating disorder will often co-exist with one or more mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety and OCD (Bhatia, 2018). This can be referred to as comorbidity or co-occurring disorder. Co-occurring disorder refers to an individual presenting with two or more mental health diagnoses at the same time. Diagnosis of this co-occurring condition could start around the same time as an eating disorder, could precede it, or could even emerge after the eating disorder has begun (Bhatia, 2018). Regardless of the order, it is important to understand and address the relationship between these comorbidities to achieve an accurate diagnosis and provide effective care (Rittenhouse, 2021).

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Eating Disorder Risk Factors

The prevalence of disordered eating in America has been steadily increasing over the last few decades. Current research estimates that as many as 1 in 7 men and 1 and 5 women will be diagnosed with an eating disorder by the age of 40 (Ward et al., 2019). This number has nearly doubled since 2006 (Galmiche et al., 2019). Furthermore, current research has shown that recent global phenomena such as the COVID-19 pandemic has also further exacerbated both the development of eating disorders and the worsening of previously diagnosed eating-related disorders. This is largely due to factors such as disruption in regular routines, increased financial insecurity, or overconsumption of eating disorder-promoting media (Rodgers et al., 2020).

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The Media's Impact on Eating Disorders and Weight Bias

When you imagine an individual being diagnosed with an eating disorder, what does that individual typically look like? How old are they? What is their sexual orientation? How does the media portray eating disorders? If you thought of a very thin, young, cisgender, white woman, you aren’t alone! News and media coverage disproportionately present eating disorders as simplified, yet dramatized, conditions that only impact young, white, thin women, leaving out realistic information regarding the stereotypes and stigma associated with eating disorders, the barriers to treatment and the realities of recovery (O’Hara & Clegg Smith, 2007). While this may not seem like a big concern, this misrepresentation has a significant impact on the diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders, who decides to seek treatment, who has access to treatment, as well as consequences related to weight bias and stigma. Curious to know more about the media’s impact on eating disorders and weight bias? Let’s break this down some more.

Read Full Article: The Media's Impact on Eating Disorders and Weight Bias