Weight Stigma Awareness Week 2015

According to an on-line dictionary stigma is defined as “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person”.  Synonyms of stigma include shame, disgrace and dishonor.  Weight stigmatization is essentially shaming and blaming people about their body weight.

In efforts to promote awareness and ultimately prevention of weight bias in our culture, The Binge Eating Disorder Association sponsors a week long Weight Stigma Awareness Week annually in September.  This year’s theme, held September 21st through 25th, is “Bias and Bullying: Weight Stigma in Diverse Communities.”

Studies suggest that weight bias may actually INCREASE the likelihood of obesity, binge eating and staying obese.

Weight BiasWeight stigma is wide spread throughout our society including areas of employment, education and health/mental health care.  Studies indicate that weight stigma is on the rise in our society.  Weight stigma often is internalized by individuals which can lead to shame, hopelessness, isolation, etc.

A recent study published in Pediatric Obesity (July 2015) found that weight-based bullying is the most prevalent form of bullying in our youth.   This study found that more kids are being teased about their body weight than academic ability, physical/cognitive disables, sexual orientation, race & ethnicity or religion.  According to the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, the consequences of weight-based bullying increases our children’s risk for depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, poor body image, suicidal thoughts, poor academic performance and avoidance of health promoting behaviors.Continue reading

May 6th is International #NoDietDay

#NoDietDayOf course if I had it my way…EVERYDAY would be #NoDietDay!!

Here are just a few stats on dieting:

1.  95% of diets fail (weight is regained). ***Note:  Diets fail–NOT people***

2.  20-25% of dieters progress to disordered eating or clinical eating disorders.

3.  Studies show that dieting among female adolescents is a shared risk factor for purging, binge eating and overweight.

4.  Food restriction increases risk for overeating and binge eating.

5.  Studies suggest that dieting is a predictor of future weight GAIN.

6.  Making people feel bad about their weight is a strong predictor of obesity.

7.  It has been speculated that weight cycling (gaining and losing of weight) leads to chronic inflammation which is linked to cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes.



The Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Related Disorders

The Science Daily Study: “Simply being called ‘fat’ makes young girls more likely to become obese: Trying to be thin is like trying to be tall”.

The Science Daily Study: “Dieting does not work, researchers say”.

Study: Influence of obesity, physical inactivity, weight cycling on chronic inflammation (2010).

Study: Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: Diets are not the answer (2007).

Study: Examination of shared risk and protective factors for overweight and disordered eating among adolescents (2010).


Bullying Can Trigger Disordered Eating

We alBullying and Eating Disordersl know that bullying is harmful to our children.  And researchers and eating disorder professionals are now just starting to understand that bullying can contribute to disordered eating.  If a pre-teen or teen has an eating disorder they could be using their eating disorder behaviors to cope with being bullied.  To read more about how disordered eating/eating disorders are believed to be “helpful” in coping with life stresses please visit here.

**Eating disorders are described as maladaptive coping skills-behaviors that are harmful overtime.

Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2015

Today, FebruaryEating Disorders 22nd, kicks off Eating Disorder Awareness Week.  Sponsored by The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), awareness week runs February 22nd-28th and the goals are to impart the seriousness of eating disorders, to improve public understanding of eating disorders and increase early detection and intervention in order to increase rates of recovery for eating eating disorders.

This year’s theme for is “I had no idea”.  There are often misconceptions about eating disorders in communities, families and even in the medical profession.  This year’s theme, “I had no idea”, does a great job of tackling some of the misconceptions around eating disorders.



An ED Professional’s Opinion on FDA’s Requiring Calories

Food LabelingI feel so so very torn about the FDA’s new requirement of putting calorie counts on menus of restaurants, movie theaters, amusement parks, etc…..I do not recommend people tracking their calories to regulate their weight or for health reasons as it gets us away from eating intuitively.

Calorie counting promotes dieting behavior (which we know doesn’t work for long term weight regulation).  Dieting is a known risk factor for developing an eating disorder (ED).  And calorie counting may exacerbate eating disorder symptoms in someone who is in recovery from an ED.

And to my knowledge, the jury is still out if putting calories on menus is helpful in improving overall health.

On the other hand, I do think we need to improve the quality of our food in this country in order to promote the health of our nation and our environment.  I wonder if requiring food establishments to be transparent about calories, if it would force the food companies to improve overall food quality???

I am the first one to admit I don’t have the answer to our dilemma, but I do feel like Life Time Fitness may be onto something here…  In their magazine, Experience Life, in their recipe section they do not include nutrition information (calories, carbohydrate grams, etc.) . Unlike other popular “health magazines”.

Not only does Experience Life magazine exclude nutrition information of their recipes, they go the extra mile and provide a health promotion message instead.  Here is their explanation as it appears in their recipe section of the magazine:

“Why No Numbers?

Readers sometimes ask why we don’t publish calories, carb and fat counts with our recipes.  We believe that if you’re eating primarily whole, healthy foods (array of sustainably raised vegetables, fruits, nuts, seed, legumes, meats, fish, egg, whole-kernel grains, and healthy fats and oils), you really don’t need to stress about the numbers (which are often inaccurate or misleading anyway).  We prefer to focus more on food quality and trust our bodies to tell us what we need.”

Sounds good to me.  Folks what do you think????

Eating Disorder Prevention: Lessons learned at NEDA

NEDA Conference

Last week I attended the National Eating Disorder Association’s (NEDA) annual conference in San Antonio.  I have attended many professional conferences on eating disorders, but NEDA’s was unique.   Attendees and presenters included professionals who treat clients with eating disorders, eating disorder prevention specialists and those who have been affected by eating disorders (individuals that are at different points in their recovery & family and friends of loved ones with an eating disorder).

I attended several different sessions ranging from binge eating disorder, media & eating disorders, eating disorders in midlife to name a few.  I wanted to share the with you two important points about eating disorder prevention that I learned:

1.  Resources (money, people) are the largest barrier to implementing eating disorder prevention programs.  There are genetic risk factors that contribute to the development of eating disorders (being female is one example).   And there are modifiable risk factors such as body dissatisfaction and dieting.

Eating disorder prevention programs obviously target the modifiable risk factors in order to prevent some eating disorders.  An example of an evidence based eating disorder prevention program includes: The Body Project  which aims to reduce the drive for thinness in adolescent and college age females.

Want to become more involved in the prevention of eating disorders?  Check out these resources: National Eating Disorder Association  and Eating Disorders Coalition .

2.  Obesity and eating disorder prevention programs could be combined to help reduce eating disorders and help improve health.  While there are plenty of obesity prevention programs in schools and in other public and private health arenas, eating disorder prevention is rarely included.  As I reflect on my own community here in Austin, I am not aware of obesity prevention program that also include an eating disorder prevention component.

Could the “war on obesity*” cause unintentional harm–exacerbate eating problems (including weight regulation) and eating disorders in some people?   Most likely yes.  Let’s take a look at caloric restriction (dieting) which is commonly promoted to help reduce obesity.  Dieting is linked with an increase risk of eating disorders in youth (Haines et al 2010, 2007; Field et al 2003).  Dieting has been linked with an increase in binge eating and can increase the risk of weight gain.  Furthermore, there is little to no evidence that dieting works to regulate weight over ones lifespan in the obese population.

In the spirit of “do no harm”-obesity and eating disorder prevention programs should be developed and executed together.  Prevention programs that promote good nutrition while allowing for a variety of foods, family meals, fun physical activity, promotion of size acceptance, positive body image, etc.  mostly like help with weight regulation and help prevent some eating disorders. Prevention programs should discourage dieting and weight shaming.

 *There are so many things that make me uncomfortable with the “war on obesity”.  I would need to write a whole other blog post to list all the injustices and wrong information associated with the “war on obesity”.  I use the term here “war on obesity” in this post because, unfortunately, it is familiar language in our culture.  To read more info about myths associated with obesity and the ” war on obesity” please check out Health at Every Size.  To learn more about weight stigma click here.