Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Practicing Self-Compassion with Jenni Schaefer

Thanks to Jenni Schaefer, who recently featured an excerpt from my book on her blog!

Jenni recently celebrated the tenth anniversary of Life Without Ed, so be sure to check out her book's new edition and to congratulate her when you stop by her site.

Like the excerpt? Read more! You can find Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation's Fixation with Food and Weight on Amazon (as a paperback and Kindle) and at BarnesandNoble.com

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

How to Parent Healthy Body Image and Why it Matters

Check out my recent article on parenting and body image on recovery.org.

You can find Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation's Fixation with Food and Weight on Amazon (as a paperback and Kindle) and at BarnesandNoble.com


Wednesday, October 01, 2014

How Much Do We Know About Purging Disorder?

I'm posting this on behalf of K. Jean Forney, a graduate student who studies eating disorders at Florida State University. She's researching purging disorder and looking for support for her project.

The Diverse Presentations of Eating Disorders

K. Jean Forney, M.S.

Typically, when people hear “eating disorder,” they think of anorexia nervosa, the eating disorder characterized by low weight. People sometimes think of bulimia nervosa, which is characterized by binge eating (eating a large amount of food while feeling out of control) and compensatory behaviors, like self-induced vomiting or intense exercise. Awareness is growing about binge eating disorder, the eating disorder characterized by recurrent binge eating without any sort of compensatory behavior.

It turns out a significant portion of people with eating disorders don’t meet criteria for these disorders, but still have clinically significant eating disorders. These clinically significant eating disorders cause distress, impairment, and medical complications. These individuals typically fall into the “eating disorder not otherwise specified” or “Other specified feeding or eating disorder” group. This is problematic, because that group is pretty heterogeneous. Some of those people engage in binge eating, some people eat most of their food at night, others only exercise excessively but aren’t underweight or binge eating. Because it’s heterogeneous, it’s hard to generalize any research findings on this “other specified” group. Things that are true of someone who excessively exercises without binge eating probably aren’t true of people who eat most of their food at night. Without naming and separating these conditions, it’s hard to study and develop treatments, because they are too diverse.

Another member of this “other specified” group is purging disorder. Purging disorder is characterized by purging behaviors, such as self-induced vomiting or laxative abuse, in people who do not experience binge-eating episodes. Estimates range from .5% to about 5% of women experience purging disorder in their lifetime, and there are few estimates available for men. The research available right now suggests that individuals with purging disorder have a higher mortality rate than the general population. It’s a serious condition to have.

Problematically, because purging disorder isn’t a “full” diagnosis like anorexia nervosa or binge eating disorder, no one has studied treatments for it. We are starting to collect evidence about how purging disorder is different from other disorders, but we need to know more about the prognosis and course of the illness, and factors that influence prognosis, in order to better develop treatments.

That’s why I am raising funds to study the long-term outcome of purging disorder and to compare it to the outcome of bulimia nervosa. I will identify what factors (attitudes about shape and weight, feeling out of control while eating, and hormones related to eating) predict outcome, providing clues as to where we can intervene. Please consider taking a moment to share my project and consider donating.

https://experiment.com/projects/long-term-outcome-of-women-with-purging-disorder


You can find Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation's Fixation with Food and Weight on Amazon (as a paperback and Kindle) and at BarnesandNoble.com





Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Innateness of Movement


I've been spending a lot of time with kids and babies these days, and one thing I've noticed is that little people love to move. Babies and toddlers like to wiggle and jump. Grade-school kids love to tumble and climb. They dance and scoot and swim and ride bikes. Left unattended, kids will naturally choose movement over stagnation on many occasions throughout the day. In fact, they'll voluntarily run down the sidewalk if you let them. But most adults won't.

Many adults don't like to move. We view exercise (even the word sounds challenging) as a chore. We set up contingencies around movement that render it a chore.

Can you return to your innate love of movement? To the baby who jumped from the door frame for 30 minutes because he could, to the little girl who bopped in her bedroom to her favorite songs because why wouldn't she dance, to the boy who chased his buddies down during a hearty game of tag?

If movement isn't this natural, this inspiring to you, then find another way. Moving our bodies should be invigorating, not depleting, and can uniquely connect us to the earth and our most innervated selves. Make fitness fun.


You can find Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation's Fixation with Food and Weight on Amazon (as a paperback and Kindle) and at BarnesandNoble.com


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Bad Research

In May, The New York Times posted an article about a research study that found that it's possible to lose 11 pounds in four days. I'm disappointed in The Times for featuring this study, and if you're a budding researcher or at all interested in debunking weight-loss myths, follow along with me as to why.

First, the study consisted of 15 participants, an embarrassingly low sample size. Let's just say we can overlook that fact for a second. The article reports that the participants were "healthy but overweight Swedish men." Ask yourself: "Am I a healthy but overweight Swedish man?" If not, the sample doesn't represent you.

You'll also notice that the sample doesn't represent women, Swedish men of different health- and weight- statuses, non-Swedish men - you get the picture. It's a homogenous sample, and that's not the goal of good research.

Next, let's take a look at the experimental condition (note: there was just one condition and not a control group, further decreasing research validity). During the study, participants ate about 360 calories a day and exercised for almost nine hours. Like The Biggest Loser on steroids. . . When we think of research, we like to choose conditions that can be replicated in the real world, to increase the study's internal validity. How likely is it that most people could drop down to such a caloric deficit and exercise for so many hours in their "real lives?" If not, then the results we see could somehow be an artifact of the experimental conditions.

Finally, let's talk about the conditions themselves. To repeat, these men consumed approximately 360 calories a day and exercised for almost nine hours. This sounds more disordered than some of the most serious eating disorders I've encountered. Will these men go on to develop a disordered relationship with food or exercise? Who knows? But, I'm not sure where we draw the line with ethical research and what type of research review board approved this study's intervention. I could argue that infecting research participants with some sort of food poisoning could also result in such rapid and significant weight-loss, but that would obviously be unhealthy. But would it be any more unhealthy than what these researchers prescribed?

And if we're to generalize from this research and start prescribing a few days of extreme caloric restriction and over-exercise to treat those who are overweight, do we want to run the risk of some patients going on to develop disordered eating? Did the researchers look at the participants' attitudes toward food and weight as a result of the intervention? I'm reminded of the Minnesota Starvation Experiment. What happens after a year? Is weight loss really the ultimate goal?


You can find Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation's Fixation with Food and Weight on Amazon (as a paperback and Kindle) and at BarnesandNoble.com


Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Body Commodity

When did your body become anything other than a carrier for you?

When did your body become something to. . .

-think about

-judge

-criticize

-dissect

-change

-punish

-abuse

When did your body become some thing?

You can find Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation's Fixation with Food and Weight on Amazon (as a paperback and Kindle) and at BarnesandNoble.com


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Critical Analysis of "All About the Bass"


You might be wondering how Meghan Trainor's "All About the Bass" fares on the body image front. Let's take a critical look. 

Trainor's catchy, end-of-summer anthem promotes body acceptance in a number of ways. Early on, she sings: "Yeah it's pretty clear, I ain't no size two/But I can shake it, shake it like I'm supposed to do." While she might not embody America's thin ideal, Trainor still moves and appreciates her body. She reiterates this point, noting that "You know I won't be no stick-figure, silicone Barbie doll,/So, if that's what's you're into/Then go ahead and move along." Here, Trainor defies the internalization of unrealistic, reductive beauty standards and instead rejects those who demand her compliance with such rigid norms.

Trainor goes on to decry the widespread practice of photo retouching, stating: "I see the magazines working that Photoshop/We know that sh*t ain't real/Come on now, make it stop."

Finally, Trainor riffs, "Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top," encouraging women to accept and respect their bodies in their entireties. 

Despite these self-esteem boosts, Trainor falters some in the body-acceptance quest. When she croons, "'Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase," she objectifies her body, its value determined by the strength of the male gaze it invites. The singer likely learned this message from her mother, who taught her that appeal (read: worth) can be measured vis-a-vis her shape: "Yeah, my momma she told me don't worry about your size/She says, boys they like a little more booty to hold at night." That we exchange shape for size as commodities in our relational transactions doesn't make them any less materialized.

Trainor notes she has "All the right junk in all the right places." 
One may ask, what are "all the right places"? Yet, because of our culture's widely-accepted beauty standards, we'd likely see a lot of agreement here. The designation of "right" versus "wrong" places for "junk" (arguably pejorative, even though it's the "right" junk) creates an unrealistic expectation for many women. It may be okay to shirk the thin ideal, but you'd better do so in a legitimate way.


Lastly, when Trainor sings, "I'm bringing booty back/Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches," she unnecessarily snubs thin women and creates an "us" versus "them" mentality, a dichotomy that won't go far in promoting wide-reaching body positivity.

So, yes, while championing a curvier frame, unedited photos, and body acceptance, Trainor also promotes a woman's body as object, glorifies a certain body type/shape, and marginalizes skinny women, discouraging body acceptance across the spectrum. The tune is more weight- and size-inclusive than other mainstream representations of women, and the video refreshingly includes men and women of color, but the message advocates for a certain shape, unnecessarily sidelining women whose bodies don't conform. 



You can find Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation's Fixation with Food and Weight on Amazon (as a paperback and Kindle) and at BarnesandNoble.com.