Understanding Eating Disorders Educational Series (Part 6)
A Recap on The Subtopics Surrounding One’s Relationship with Food
I have covered a wide range of subtopics surrounding one’s relationship with food over the course of this series. I started with a synopsis of diet culture. This was to provide a basis for understanding the current, underlying psychology of our society’s beliefs around food, as these affect eating behaviors.
Concerningly, diet culture’s harmful memes have etched their way into healthcare and wellness protocols. As I previously stated in my post on orthorexia and “bigorexia,” what used to be considered restrictive, carefully monitored diets are becoming normalized. In fact, a few of them are even being included into “healthy” treatment plans in some integrative medicine circles.
As a result of these attitudes, eating disorders and disordered eating are on the rise.
If one doesn’t recognize these dangerous trends and/or deceptive messaging, forming a healthy relationship to food, health, or one’s body will be very difficult, if not impossible.
With these insights brought to light, I next reviewed:
- the caveats to “food addiction”
- concepts similar to all eating disorders
- specific categories of disordered eating
- more common eating disorders (ED)
I demonstrated in each section how the underlying diet culture principles could be fueling all these issues.
I know getting attention to this topic is a bit of an undertaking.
It’s hard to be heard when there are enticing voices that lure the public with false promises of yet another diet or a sexy weight loss “solution”… backed with the billions of dollars invested in marketing.
Yet to me, eating disorders are imperative to understand.
It’s a literal matter of life and death.
So, thanks for sticking with me.
It means you care, and that’s a big deal.
Now, we are at the conclusion of this series.
In this post, I will wrap up the topic of eating disorders. I will start with a brief description of the remaining types of them. This will be a very short and sweet overview.
Next, I will present what I feel is a more balanced, holistic solution to recovery from eating disorders.
It is my belief that we cannot fix them using the same mindset that got us to their disordered patterns (food plans).
(Ever hear of the definition of insanity? It’s doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.)
Let’s get started.
A Glance at the Other Types of Eating Disorders
The lack of my expansion on the following ED categories is not because they are less severe or important. It is simply because I have already provided an extensive base of knowledge of what to look for in any eating disorder. With this understanding, one can now conceptualize the remainder that are not as “mainstream.”
So, here are the additional category summaries from NEDA.
ARFID, previously referred to as “selective eating disorder,” involves limitations in the amount and/or types of food consumed but does not involve any distress about body shape or size, or fears of fatness. Read more.
Pica is an eating disorder that involves eating items that are not typically thought of as food and that do not contain significant nutritional value, such as hair, dirt, and paint chips. Read more.
Rumination disorder involves the regular regurgitation of food that occurs for at least one month. Regurgitated food may be re-chewed, re-swallowed, or spit out. Read more.
Unspecified feeding or eating disorder (UFED) applies to presentations where symptoms characteristic of a feeding and eating disorder that cause clinically significant distress or impairment predominate but do not meet the full criteria for any of the disorders in the feeding and eating disorders diagnostic class. Read more.
A Wrap Up on the Types of Eating Disorders
- Anorexia Nervosa (AN)
- Bulimia Nervosa (BN)
- Binge Eating Disorder (BED)
- Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder (OSFED)
- Rumination Disorder
- Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
- Unspecified Feeding or Eating Disorder (UFED)
- Muscle Dysmorphia
- Orthorexia Nervosa (ON) proposed criteria
It is my hope that providing this information will shed some light on when someone has crossed the line between a concern for their health to a true disorder.
Now that we recognize eating disorders, how do we treat them?
An Integrative, Holistic Recovery Approach to Eating Disorders
Unfortunately, according to a survey by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), less than half of those with anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder seek out help. Furthermore, dropout rates can be high for any ED treatment.
Yet, recovery is possible. Currently, there are many psychological treatments and therapies available that have had success. Several studies have shown that family-based therapies, that offer support, can also have positive outcomes.
While patients did say that the reduction of physical eating disorder symptoms was an important factor, they also included criteria such as:
- Healthier relationships
- Personal growth
- Personal autonomy
This means that addressing all aspects of wellness and one’s relationship with themselves and others is important for ED recovery.
Acknowledging that a dietary plan alone cannot be successful without considering all the underlying risk factors of ED is critical. This would include assessing the complex interactions of brain health, genetic, biological, and social factors. (These are highlighted here.)
A team of practitioners, including naturopathic and functional doctors, who are knowledgeable on this subject and not contributing to disordered eating or healthism is likely needed for this to be effective.
Support Groups for Eating Disorders
I also feel support groups could be especially helpful for ED recovery. These can offer a buffer to the negative memes in one’s head and provide a network of people who are also committed to escaping diet culture’s prison. Isolation is a big issue with ED.
I did some research and found an anonymous support group for eating disorders. Unlike other “addiction” approaches to food, Eating Disorder Anonymous (EDA), offers a balanced, compassionate approach. It also includes a spiritual, purposeful outline for living. Having a purpose has been shown to have positive mental and physical health outcomes.
The EDA website states the following regarding their philosophy (bold emphasis mine):
Eating Disorders Anonymous (EDA) is a fellowship of individuals who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problems and help others to recover from their eating disorders.
People can and do fully recover from having an eating disorder.
In EDA, we help one another identify and claim milestones of recovery.
The only requirement for membership is a desire to recover from an eating disorder. There are no dues or fees for EDA membership. We are self-supporting through our own contributions.
EDA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution. EDA does not wish to engage in any controversy. We neither endorse nor oppose any causes.
Our primary purpose is to recover from our eating disorders and to carry this message of recovery to others with eating disorders.
In EDA, we try to focus on the solution, not the problem. Solutions have to do with recognizing life choices and making them responsibly. Diets and weight management techniques do not solve our thinking problems. EDA endorses sound nutrition and discourages any form of rigidity around food.
Balance – not abstinence – is our goal.
In EDA, recovery means living without obsessing on food, weight and body image. In our eating disorders, we sometimes felt like helpless victims. Recovery means gaining or regaining the power to see our options, to make careful choices in our lives. Recovery means rebuilding trust with ourselves, a gradual process that requires much motivation and support. As we learn and practice careful self-honesty, self-care and self-expression, we gain authenticity, perspective, peace and empowerment.
Carrying the message of recovery means helping others find peace and balance.
You can learn more about this program here.
Hmm… I wonder if health and wellness influencers focused on helping others find peace and balance with food, as the last line reads, we’d be where we are in our culture with ED.
Conclusion on Eating Disorders & Eating Disorder Recovery
I have done my best to be comprehensive in providing a summary of the characteristics and types of eating disorders and disordered eating. I do acknowledge that there is still much more to learn regarding underlying root causes, risk factors, contributors, and treatment for eating disorders.
I also want to state that I’m not endorsing any specific treatment or group therapy. It should be individualized. There is not one right way for anyone, but a comprehensive approach is likely best.
I do feel that taking a non-diet, health at every size approach, could be part of the solution. This would allow people to honor their mind-bodies and nurture them in a balanced way, without being a slave to the scale, diet, and/or exercise.
What do you think?
Please share your comments below and share this information to all who need to hear it.
Eating Disorder Resources:
- National Association of Eating Disorders (NAED): Resources
- ANAD (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders)
- Eating Disorders Anonymous
- Resources on How to Be Healthy Without Obsessing About Weight
If you struggle with mental health or an eating disorder, please reach out for professional support.
You may also wish to consider implementing holistic resources and partnering with a naturopathic doctor.
For example, I offer mind-body support for general mood issues using a functional medicine and wellness-oriented approach. I also practice using a non-diet, HAES approach to nutrition.
Click here to learn more about my approach to whole-person, mind-body care.
Free resources and more education are also available to you here.
Please stay tuned for an upcoming opportunity that can support you in holistic mind-body-heart-soul healing. (Join my newsletter below to learn more.)
Disclaimer: This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)
This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.
Thanks Pixabay and Canva.