Tuesday, January 15, 2013


I'm giving a talk on eating disorder treatment in March, and I'd like to ask for your help.  Two questions I want to address are:

1)  What are the perceived benefits of seeing a therapist who specializes in eating disorders?

2)  Do you have any feelings (or preferences) regarding the shape/size of your eating disorder therapist?

If you have any responses, please feel free to post as comments or email me privately.  If I choose to use your response, I will, of course, remove any identifying information for the talk.



Anonymous said...

1) What are the perceived benefits of seeing a therapist who specializes in eating disorders?

I have seen therapists that do specialize in EDs, and ones that dont.
I am currently seeing a therapist that specializes, and its made the biggest difference to me. I guess the assumption (rightly or wrongly) is that the majority of those who specialize, have had personal experience themselves of having had an ED.
Even if they are lacking personal experience, they have a wealth of knowledge about all types of eating disorders, not just those widely known and accepted. They have (in my experience) a greater knowledge of EDNOS, BED, and the different types of ED behaviours (such as laxative abuse, diuretic useage and over exercise) that are not commonly seen.
There is no denying that non-specialized therapists can have a knowledge of these too, but i personally feel more comfortable with someone who specializes in EDs.

2) Do you have any feelings (or preferences) regarding the shape/size of your eating disorder therapist?
I think that in this case, the body shape/size of a therapist is very much a part of therapy itself. If the therapist is working with a client who had an ED, in trying to discover what the ED is actually about (at an emotional level) then if the therapist her/him self is noticeably overweight or underweight, it means that the client may not have a high level of confidence in the therapist or the process.

Ashley Jordan said...

Hi...I came across your blog and it really resinated with me…. I wanted to reach out because I am a singer/songwriter and have a new song and music video I would like to share.. called “Fading Away”. I wrote this song because I have a couple of friends who have battled with depression and eating disorders. I was trying to convey my personal agony in dealing with this…and also the helplessness felt by friends and family when they watch their loved one fade away. It was recently nominated for “Video of The Year” by Limelight Magazine (see info below) If there is any chance you could use this for your page or blog…that would be amazing. I want to help spread the word and hopefully encourage others to get help early on. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rx1tPIEXNAA

* if you like the video and my music please go to http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/limelightmagazinereaderspoll (Nominated for Video of The Year & Country Artist of The Year”)
….voting ends January 25th @ 11:45PM

I hope my video helps people to understand the depth and severity of eating disorders and the toll it can take on a family.

Bethany Haid said...

Benefit is that I don't have as much guilt/shame/embarrassment as with general practioner. Don't feel need to rationalize it trivialize. I am more honest. I also expect more sensitivity.

I think body type matters. I had a very thin therapist 5 years older than me for group work and I didn't want to be honest with her because I felt pressure to be as thin as her. I was embarrassed to tell her things honestly. I was22 at time. My first ED specialist was male, balding, looked like older uncle. I felt calm and like his body had mo impact on my self concept and didn't think twice about honesty.

Meliss said...

Perceived benefits of an eating disorder specialist: i don't know if i care about their specialty as much as i find it helpful if there's personal familiarity with an eating disorder. we develop or innately have such an..."absurd" way of thinking -- i don't know how easy it is to understand. people who are natural eaters have always thought i have 12 heads. that being said, as you note -- most women have some kind of eating disorder so....!

Re; shape and size of therapist - i used to not want a therapist who seemed too thin -- i'd figure they were still in the throes of disease, so how could they help me. i also didn't want a heavy therapist, because i'd wonder how comfortable their own relationship with food was, so how could they help me

however, that would probably be different now. i'm very attracted to heavier folks who seem comfortable with their bodies. seems healthy to me.

Meliss said...

great questions by the way. thank you

Regina said...

1.) The perceived benefits are that a specialist would have a more thorough knowledge of the complexities of the different types of eating disorders and would have a better knowledge of the types of interventions/modes of therapy that are effective. I have seen one therapist that specialized in eating disorders and three that did not--one who was a psychiatrist and the other two who were therapists. The specialist was more sensitive to the things I was dealing with and really understood the depth of what I was experiencing. The experiences I had with the other three were pretty disastrous. The psychiatrist merely said, "You should probably just go on Topamax. It curbs your appetite." One of the therapists, when hearing that I had been eating double quarter pounders from McDonald's, loudly told me "Stop it!" The third therapist overly simplified my issues by giving me common-sense advice, such as switching to frozen yogurt instead of ice cream.

2.) I would prefer someone of an average weight or slightly overweight. I would assume (possibly incorrectly) that an overly thin therapist had anorexia or another eating disorder. And I would assume that a morbidly obese therapist probably had a binge eating disorder. I'd feel most comfortable with a therapist of average weight or slightly overweight because he/she is more likely to have a healthy relationship with food. In my opinion, most people who are severely underweight or overweight probably have disordered eating. One typically isn't 60 pounds or 400 pounds because of genetics, fast or slow metabolic rate, or thyroid issues.

AlwaysJoy said...

1) What are the perceived benefits of seeing a therapist who specializes in eating disorders?
Let me start by saying I really like my therapist and I stick with him because I trust him and value his opinion and can hear and listen to him when he tells me to cut the crap. That said he knows nothing of eating disorders. I am his first anorexic patient and he thinks its great when I gain weight and that is the be all end all whereas my nutritionist is better at knowing my when I'm headed at a spiral (currently)

2) Do you have any feelings (or preferences) regarding the shape/size of your eating disorder therapist?
I think that a therapist that's smaller than me (if female) would freak me out and I'd totally take it as a challenge to be smaller (something I battle anyway)

drstaceyny said...

Thanks for all your insightful comments, here and offline!

Kara said...

I came upon your blog by the top 50 blogs for emotional eating.

In 2010 I decided to work with a cognitive behaviour therapist to overcome my decades long issue with eating and food.
I believe that I lucked out when I was assigned to a CBT specializing in eating disorders. I think it is crucial to be paired with an eating disorder therapist.

I know of someone who sought out CBT for anxiety with good results, but when she talked about eating, the therapist suggested weight watchers.

My therapist was/is thin, but I don't think it would have mattered.

The name of your blog is interesting; I remember declaring to my therapist that everyone in our society is walking around with an eating disorder!


Smiley Princess said...

1) I prefer an ED specialist for the reasons CornishClaire lists, namely for their pool of knowledge in tackling so many different/similar cases. I think I feel more comfortable with someone who HAS HAD an ED as they have a 'first hand' insight into the workings of my brain, which is always reassuring.

However, if you follow treatment unwillingly (which has been my case and many women's I'm sure), all therapists are exactly the same and 'just don't get you', so it's fairly pointless.

2) I don't think shape or size matters but as horrid as it may sound, if the therapist is bigger than me, I would be reassured if it was because she/he had gone through an ED her/himself and had recovered, as opposed to just happening to be bigger than me. As a teenager, I just felt that 'big' therapists who hadn't had an ED were hypocrits and it made me hate them.

No To Diets said...


I have just come across your website and this very interesting thread.

In my personal and professional opinion as someone who has had an eating disorder, is obese and as a mental health professional I have worked with people with severe eating disorders.

I feel that the size and shape of the therapist / practitioner is immaterial - in so much as the feelings and reactions it provokes in us should be discussed and addressed in therapy – these are feelings that are usually part of the illness itself and so rather than change therapists for example, work through these uncomfortable feelings that we might have towards a ‘thinner’ or ‘overweight’ therapist.

As an obese woman, I am often the biggest person at most occasions, socially and professionally.

My approach when working with people with anorexia for example who might have some feelings towards my size, is that OK well you might think that I have an eating disorder too, binge eating disorder for example, so how can I support you? My way of working is to demonstrate that a) you can be any weight and struggling with and eating disorder, so an 'average' size looking therapist could have an eating disorder and b) OK, well perhaps I do struggle with disordered eating and I hope that this helps me to have empathy and support others. Yes, I am still on a journey myself, but I think and hope you think that's OK and if it feels uncomfortable purely because of my size, then let’s talk about why it does.

These are just my thoughts and it’s a very interesting question – thanks for raising it – I've got a blog around similar anti dieting ‘stuff’ at www.notodiets.com. Thanks, Leanne

Gabby Abby said...

1) What are the perceived benefits of seeing a therapist who specializes in eating disorders? Specialists can talk to me about my compulsive eating and purging and starving cycles.

2) my feelings about shape/ size of therapist. She should be fit. i'm seeking help because my appearance is important to me. The only way for me to want to end this endless cycle is if someone can teach me to regulate a healthy (not overweight) size and shape the healthy way and not obsessing over what i consume