Who are we missing? Eating Disorders & Minority Mental Health


Minority Mental Health Awareness Month was designated in 2008 to bring awareness to the unique struggles that underrepresented groups face in regard to mental illness in the United States.


Eating disorders can negatively affect almost every aspect of a person’s day-to-day life. They can also be associated with dangerous medical consequences. Recovery is possible though, and these negative effects can be minimized with early intervention and quality treatment. But treatment can’t happen if the people with eating disorders who need the help aren’t identified or supported in seeking that help.

Why do so many people with eating disorders go undetected?

There are many reasons why red flags and warning signs of an eating disorder (ED) might be overlooked.  A major factor being that our current culture normalizes dangerous weight-loss behaviors and promotes body dissatisfaction across the board. As a result, it can be hard to detect clinically significant behaviors in anyone when “everyone” seems to be caught up in a toxic diet culture. But there are other reasons that continue to have repercussions specifically for people in minority groups.

Researchers believe that only 1/3 of the people that meet criteria for an eating disorder ever actually receive treatment.1 

Most of what we know to be true about EDs (or any illness) is based on the existing  research on that topic. Much of the early research about eating disorders was done within populations of people who had already been diagnosed and had accessed treatment. Historically, the majority of people who sought and received eating disorder treatment were wealthy and white.2  Most were also relatively young and female. More and more research was done within this mostly homogeneous treatment-seeking population, and it reinforced misperceptions about who is impacted by eating disorders.

More recently, researchers are doing a better job of capturing representative samples, and advocates worldwide are doing tremendous amounts of work to educate communities   about diversity in eating disorders. Research on the prevalence of eating disorders in diverse communities has revealed a reality in stark contrast to the old stereotypes. For example:

  • Prevalence rates of bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, and binge eating disorder are equal across ethnicities and socioeconomic levels 2,3
  • Prevalence of bulimia nervosa is significantly higher in Latinos and African Americans in comparison to non-Latino whites and Asians.2
  • Girls from a low-socioeconomic status (SES) household displayed a 32% increase in bulimic symptoms compared to girls in middle class households, and a 40% increase relative to girls in high income households.1

It’s clear that people from a variety of backgrounds and across racial and ethnic categories are impacted by serious eating disorders. And yet, we also know that equal and consistent access to treatment remains a problem for marginalized communities. Consider the following:

  • White, Non-Latino, high-SES girls are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with an ED.1
  • Even though African American girls are more likely to exhibit bulimic behavior, only 0.7% of African American, low SES girls have been formerly diagnosed with an ED.1
  • College students of color are less likely to be diagnosed with an ED compared to white students.3
  • Lower SES students are less likely to receive treatment than students from more affluent backgrounds.3

These findings indicate that the popular perceptions of who is affected by EDs, specifically bulimia nervosa, are only accurate in terms of who is identified and diagnosed, not who is actually impacted. It also tells us that health and mental health providers are not immune from the stereotypes and may be less likely to recognize symptoms or warning signs in their minority patients. As a result, they may then be less likely to provide resources and make appropriate referrals.

Updated research, more thorough training for medical and mental health professionals and diverse outreach is needed across the board so that early intervention can be provided for all who are suffering from these life-threatening illnesses.

What can be done? 

You can help by getting involved in advocacy efforts to advance research and clinical practices for all people impacted by eating disorders. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) and Eating Disorder Coalition (EDC) are two great places to start. If you work in education or health-focused organizations, you can take action to ensure that you and your colleagues receive regular training to enhance cultural competence within your field.

Individually, we should all evaluate whether we perpetuate myths about eating disorders by only sharing images or reading stories told through the lens of young, thin white women. Going forward, be sure to amplify the voices of people of color, men with eating disorders, LGBTQ communities and people in higher weight bodies who have historically not been included in eating disorder narratives. Even just boosting diverse posts and articles on social media can go a long way in helping to change the public perception of EDs and make it a little easier for those who need treatment to receive it, or at least recognize themselves in the coversation.

Tweeting about eating disorders, recovery, body acceptance or non-diet news? Check out: @MelissaDToler / @NalgonaPride / @FoodPsychPod ‏/ @dumplingskin ‏ / @thirdwheelED ‏ / @ASDAH ‏ / @DianneBondyYoga / @StigmaConf ‏ / @jameelajamil ‏ / @RadicalBodyLove / @NEDAstaff / @TFFED

If you think that you (or someone you know) may be struggling with an ED ask for help today. The sooner you connect to resources the sooner you can begin to feel better.  The Center for Eating Disorders is committed to being a safe, welcoming organization for people of all ages, races, ethnicities and genders. Call 410-938-5252 today.


Contributions by:
Avery Madison, Former CED Research Assistant
Avery graduated from Franklin & Marshall College where she earned her Bachelors of Arts in psychology with a minor in Spanish.  In addition to her RA role at The Center, she worked at a counseling center in Lancaster, PA providing one-on-one support for children and adolescents with emotional and behavioral difficulties.  Previously, she has worked as a medical advocate for the YWCA where she provided support to victims/survivors of sexual trauma.  Her past school research projects include examining the relationship between facial mimicry and empathy and between cell phone access and anxiety.


References:

  1. Ham, J., Iorio, D., & Sovinsky, M. (2012). Race, social class, and bulimia nervosa.Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group Working Papers16.
  2. Marques, L., Alegria, M., Becker, A. E., Chen, C. N., Fang, A., Chosak, A., & Diniz, J. B. (2011). Comparative prevalence, correlates of impairment, and service utilization for eating disorders across US ethnic groups: Implications for reducing ethnic disparities in health care access for eating disorders. International Journal of Eating Disorders44(5), 412-420.
  3. Sonneville, K. R., & Lipson, S. K. (2018). Disparities in eating disorder diagnosis and treatment according to weight status, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic background, and sex among college students. International Journal of Eating Disorders.

When College Students Come Home for the Summer: Addressing Eating Concerns

 

You sent them off to college in the fall, full of pride, excitement… and probably some worry. Your worries might have been about academics, healthy relationships, finances and maybe even drugs and alcohol. The list of things we worry about as parents can feel endless.

While college can be an incredibly positive experience for many young adults, it is undoubtedly stressful and exhausting to undergo such a major life transition. The stressors of the college environment make it ripe for the development of many health and mental health problems, and eating disorders are no exception.

Now that the academic school year has come to a close, many college students have flown back to the nest for a summer reprieve. Whether your student was a freshman, a senior, or anywhere in between, this is an important time for parents to check-in about how their child has grown and matured, how they’ve been coping with the stress of school and to support any ongoing needs they may have before the next semester or stage of life begins.

Being back under the same roof again, eating meals together, means this also tends to be a time when many parents notice the signs of their college student’s struggle with an eating disorder. Some of the red flags that parents first report include:

  • Changes in eating and/or exercise habits: They may strictly adhere to new rules about what they can and cannot eat. They might also exercise excessively, even if it gets in the way of other important obligations or even when it’s dangerous to do so (ex: running despite a knee injury or driving to the gym in hazardous weather conditions).
  • Increased concerns about shape/weight: Frequent comments about their own body size (ex: “I’m too fat”) and that of others (ex: “She’s in such good shape!”) might suggest your child has a heightened focus on shape/weight. This may also be indicated by behaviors such as frequently weighing themselves or choosing to wear loose clothing to hide changes in their body shape.
  • Preoccupations with food and eating: Frequent dieting is one of the strongest predictors of the development of an eating disorder. Other key indicators include practices related to dieting such as tracking intake with an app, counting calories, cutting out entire food groups (e.g., veganism, the keto diet) and other restrictive practices that often result in increased anxiety or obsessionality about food; some people may frequently cook/bake food for other people that they themselves refuse to eat.
  • Secrecy and isolation: Eating disorders thrive in secrecy. You may notice your child choosing to eat dinner alone in their room instead of with the family or making other plans or excuses to avoid family mealtimes altogether. You may also find food, detox or diet product packaging hidden in the house. In line with this, they may withdraw from old friends and no longer engage in activities they used to enjoy.
  • Concentration difficulties: People affected by eating disorders are typically not receiving adequate levels of nutrition to function at their best. This nutritional deficit not only affects the body but also the brain, making it incredibly difficult to stay focused for even a short period of time (ex: frequently “zoning out” during conversation, slowed reaction time, poor recall).
  • Mood and energy changes: The way we eat and the amount of nutrients we consume impacts the brain’s ability to process and respond appropriately to emotionally triggering events—this means that even minor disturbances, like spilling coffee on a new shirt, can be incredibly distressing for someone who’s not getting consistent or adequate nutrition. Your child might seem “down” or lack energy, or they may seem “on edge” or especially anxious—either could be evidence of a co-occurring mental health concern or a result of an eating disorder.

For more on how the stress of the college environment can play a role in the development of eating disorders, click this image to read “Eating Disorders & The Transition to College.”

What to Say & How to Say It
When you’ve been looking forward to your’ child’s return from school all year, it can be jarring to notice any of these red flags. It’s tough to tackle eating and mental health issues with children at any age, but it’s further complicated with college-age children as they emerge into adulthood and a new type of independence. So, how do parents approach such personal topics with young adult children, while still respecting them as an autonomous individual? It’s always best to consult a professional regarding your family’s specific situation but here are a few general recommendations:

  • Respect your child’s privacy: Breaching the subject at a family gathering or public place is not the best idea. Your child is much more likely to be open and responsive if you voice your concern in a private, one-on-one setting, as this allows them a safe space to discuss such a personal issue.
  • Practice open, nonjudgmental communication: Eating disorders are highly stigmatized, and many who suffer may be reluctant to disclose their struggles with food and body image. Some may vehemently deny their problematic behaviors, while others may lack awareness that there even is a problem. The best way to combat stigma is through open discussion about eating disorders. Ask your child how they feel about their eating habits or body image, listen openly to their response, and withhold any judgmental or invalidating remarks. Make them feel heard by using their own words to reflect their statements and expressing validation of their pain (ex: “I am so sorry that you have been feeling […], it sounds like dealing with […] has been really tough.”).
  • Avoid blame: Steer clear of accusatory “you” statements (ex: “You need to eat more!”) that place unnecessary blame on your child and may trigger a defensive reaction from them. Instead, opt for “I” statements that allow your child to hear your concerns without feeling the need to defend themselves (ex: “I am concerned about the safety of this new diet product,” or, “I noticed you’ve had very little energy lately which is unusual for you.”)
  • Come prepared: When discussing triggering topics, it’s easy to let our emotions get the better of us and turn the conversation into a hostile argument. It may be helpful to think of what you want to say beforehand. Still, don’t be surprised if you’re met with some resistance or denial. Educate yourself about eating disorders– the risk factors, the physical and emotional consequences, and treatment options.

Next Steps?
Once you’ve communicated your concern, what can you do to ensure your child gets the proper care they need? Refer to our brief online assessment, which can be completed by your child themselves, or by you based on your observations of their behavior. This brief assessment provides valuable information about potentially problematic eating behaviors along with resources and suggestions for how to proceed.

We also offer FREE weekly support groups for individuals at any stage in eating disorder recovery, as well as their parents, friends, and loved ones. These groups are open to anyone – meaning your child does not need to be a patient at CED to attend, and parents are welcome to attend with or without their child.

If you are still concerned, the best option is to speak to a licensed professional who can provide a formal diagnosis and recommend treatment options depending on your child’s unique needs. Here at The Center for Eating Disorders, we have licensed mental health professionals available to consult with you over the phone and diverse programming throughout all levels of care. If you’re concerned about your child, please call us at (410)-938-5252 to to discuss next steps.

For more on how the stress of the college environment can play a role in the development of eating disorders, see Eating Disorders & The Transition to College.


Written by: 
PHOTO Jacquelyn PattonJacquelyn Patton, Research Assistant
Jacquelyn is a graduate student currently pursuing her Masters in Clinical Psychology at Towson University, with the intent to earn her degree in May 2020. She received her Bachelors of Science in Psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2017. As an undergraduate, Jacquelyn served as a research assistant for the Center for Addiction, Personality, and Emotions Research where she conducted a study examining the impact of racism and racial/ethnic identity formation on health-risk behaviors, including disparate patterns of substance use. She joined the research team at CED as a volunteer research assistant in 2018 and worked on researching the utility and efficacy of telemedicine in the treatment of eating disorders.

Reference List

Anorexia and Bulimia Care. (n.d.). Parents. Retrieved from http://www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk/family-and-friends/parents

National Eating Disorder Association. (2018, February 22). Warning Signs and Symptoms. Retrieved from http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/warning-signs-and-symptoms

National Eating Disorder Association. (2015). NEDA TOOLKIT for Parents. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/sites/default/files/Toolkits/ParentToolkit.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eating Disorders & The Transition to College


In many ways, it is not a surprise that the transition to college can be so challenging. Moving from a home with your family into campus housing, often hundreds of miles away, with roommates you’ve never met can be quite a shock. It’s rarely easy for anyone. For many young adults however, the stress and unique social and environmental factors associated with this transition can contribute to the development, or exacerbation, of an eating disorder. Consider the following statistics:

  • In a survey of 185 female students on a college campus, 58% felt pressure to be a certain weight, and of the 83% that dieted for weight loss, 44% were already at a normal weight.1
  • 9% of 20-year-old males reported struggling with a clinical eating disorder.2
  • Of nearly 3,000 students on a university campus, 3.6% of the males experienced eating disorder symptoms.3
  • The rate of eating disorders among college students at one college increased from 7.9% to 25% for males and 23.4% to 32.6% for females over a 13 year period.4

College is supposed to be fun, educational and provide plenty of opportunities to be inspired by future career possibilities. So what makes this transitional time such a hotbed for eating disorders? The Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association (MEDA) offers several reasons why college students could be at increased risk for eating disorders. These include:

  • New peer groups or difficulty forming new friendships
  • Newfound self-reliance; no longer living under parental rules
  • Cafeterias and dining halls with an unlimited amount of food; making food choices independently may be difficult particularly when paired with conflicting messages about dites, nutrition and calories 
  • Fear of the “Freshmen 15”
  • Dorm-living
  • The desire to fit in; an intense pressure to be “perfect”
  • Academic and financial stress
  • Difficulty managing transitions

While many colleges offer support and resources for students who are struggling with the transition or mental health problems in general, students do need to seek them out. This isn’t as easy as it sounds considering a recent study on eating disorder prevalence in college students found that most were not aware that they had an eating disorder or, if they were, they were not willing to seek treatment.According to the research, the five most common reasons why college students may feel uncomfortable or refuse to seek treatment include:

  • Lack of perceived need and urgency
  • Perceived stigma surrounding diagnosis and treatment
  • Limited availability of services
  • Denial of illness
  • Lack of motivation for recovery inherent in ED

It’s important to know that you’re not alone and that help is available on and off-campus. It’s also important to know that eating disorders are serious illnesses that, if untreated, can progress rapidly and may become life-threatening.

Where can I go for help?

If you are a college student struggling with disordered eating, an unhealthy relationship with exercise, or negative body image, there are steps you can take to cultivate a more balanced and fulfilling time on campus.

  1. Identify treatment resources and support groups on or near you. Here is a great list of potential organizations, people and resources that might be able to help on most campuses.
  2. Incorporate basic self-care into your schedule.
  3. Get the facts about weight and diets; dispel the myth of the Freshmen 15
  4. Take some simple steps to strengthen your support system and break out of the loneliness or isolation you may be feeling.

Whether in college or any other stage of life, it’s crucial to ask for help and to learn that asking for help is a strength, not a weakness. Remember that you can’t tell how someone is handling the transition to college just by looking at them or their social media feeds. Many of the students around you may also be struggling in silence with similar feelings and symptoms.

For more information about eating disorders, body image and treatment options, visit eatingdisorder.org.

If you are a campus-based health provider and would like more information about eating disorders or trainings, please contact Jennifer Moran, Psy.D., College Liaison at The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt.


Seechuk_julie_2018.jpg

Written by: Julie Seechuk, BASW, Community Outreach Intern
Julie is currently pursuing her Masters in Social Work at Salisbury University online with an intent to graduate in May of 2020. Julie received her Bachelor’s Degree from Salisbury University in 2015 with a double major in Psychology and Social Work. In addition to pursuing her Masters and interning at The Center for Eating Disorders, Julie also works part-time as a Community Relations Coordinator for a Pediatric Oncology Nonprofit called The Cool Kids Campaign. As a community outreach intern, Julie assists with resource development, event coordination, social media and website maintenance, community outreach to schools, and The Center’s free weekly support group.


References

  1. Multi-service Eating Disorders Association. (2018). Eating Disorders College Students. Retrieved from: https://www.medainc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/MEDA-College-Guide.pdf
  2. Allen, K., Byme, S., Oddy, W., & Crosby, R. (2013) “DSM-IV-TR and DSM5 eating disorders in adolescents: prevalence, stability, and psychosocial correlates in a population-based sample of male and female adolescents.” Journal of Abnormal Psychology.
  3. Eisenberg, D., Nicklett, E. J., Roeder, K., & Kirz, N. E. (2011). Eating disorder symptoms among college students: prevalence, persistence, correlates, and treatment-seeking. Journal of American college health: J of ACH, 59(8), 700-7.
  4. White, S, Reynolds–Malear, J., Cordero, E., “Disordered Eating and the Use of Unhealthy weight control methods in college students: 1995, 2002 and 2008” Eating Disorders–Journal of treatment and prevention.

Eating disorders in film: Important reminders during awards season #popcultureED

 


Over 13 percent of teen girls suffer from an eating disorder by the age of 20. It’s not just girls either: disordered eating is almost as common in males as females and can extend long into adulthood. When we get right down to it, eating disorders are serious and people living with them have a higher risk of dying compared to same-aged peers. Still, disordered eating is often joked about and normalized in pop culture. This ‘awards season’, we’re nominating moments from popular movies of the past that show just how common distorted ideas about bodies, diet and food are in our culture. We still love some of these classic comedies, but let’s be careful to challenge unhealthy behaviors as we watch.

GIPHY Video Audience Giving a STanding Ovation

Unfortunately, some movie scenes can be quite triggering for folks with eating disorders and those in recovery. It’s not uncommon to see detailed ED thoughts and behaviors in films that that are never challenged or paired with appropriate education. So, we’ve taken a few movie examples below and added important reminders and fact-checking opportunities.

It’s possible to enjoy films while also thinking critically about their messaging. You might also want to actively decide whether to watch or not to watch before engaging with specific films that you know will normalize or showcase disordered eating.

First up on our #popcultureED tour is…


“THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA”

This movie, starring 2019 SAG awards winner Emily Blunt, reminds us that no goal is ever worth starving for. Emily Blunt’s character frequently makes comments about her restrictive eating and undeniable pursuit of a thinner body.

Nourishing your body consistently is a better way to keep yourself healthy enough to reach your career goals and be present to enjoy them. If you’re struggling to overcome thoughts that equate thinness with success, you’re not alone. Take a step and ask for help before things get worse. Whether you’re a fashion designer, a father, a teacher, or an artist, you deserve to be free of food and weight obsession.

 


“ROMY AND MICHELLE’S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION”

Romy and Mishelle share all sorts of diet obsessed banter in this movie, including this extremely dangerous quip. Reality Check: Candy is delicious, but it doesn’t provide nearly enough energy on its own for everything your amazing body does each day. All foods can fit in a healthy pattern of eating but one type of food on its own – whether candy or kale – can never meet all your nutritional needs. Incorporating a variety of fun and nourishing foods is best.

 


“MEAN GIRLS”

Did you know that some of the most common side effects of dieting are mood changes, depression and irritability. That could be one reason why Regina was always so negative and, quite frankly, pretty nasty to the people around her. Luckily, this movie does teach us that trying to be “perfect” can take its toll.

Did you know that perfectionism is a risk factor for the development of eating disorders?  Perfectionism can also cause you to miss out on opportunities to learn from mistakes and may ultimately get in the way of living a balanced, rewarding life.

 


“A CINDERELLA STORY”

Our bodies need different nutrients to fuel them. Cutting out entire food groups or sources of energy can cause major problems for your body (and really limit your options when eating out). One of the side effects often noted by people with eating disorders is that they begin to isolate from friends and family since they no longer feel comfortable eating around other people or they literally can’t find anything on the menu that fulfills the “rules”.

Social isolation can lead to all sorts of other diffculties and can worsen depression and anxiety. If you’ve noticed that you or a friend are retreating from meals or other previously enjoyed activities it might be time to seek support.

 


“ZOOLANDER”

Derek and Hansel are misinformed when it comes to losing weight. The fact is, purging is not an effective way to lose weight or prevent weight gain. In fact, over time, purging behaviors are associated with weight gain (and a whole host of serious medical consequences). On top pf being misinformed, the characters explode in laughter when Matilda opens up to them about her own history with bulimia.

This is obviously a comedy but it’s still important to remind ourselves while watching that purging is NEVER funny and purging is never a safe behavior. Don’t be like Derek and Hansel. If a friend shares with you that she or he is struggling, take it seriosly. If you need resources to help a friend, check out the Let’s Check In Discussion Guide.

 


“CLUELESS”

Cher and her friends engage in awful lot of weight shaming, diet talk and appearance bashing throughout this movie. (It’s actually hard to find a single scene without it).

Critical body talk and weight shaming – even when self-directed – has a lot of negative consequences. When you criticize your own body, it impacts you and the people around you negatively, making everyone more distracted by and less accepting of their own appearance.

Our thoughts affect our feelings and behaviors so it’s important to learn how to curb negative self-talk and practice saying kind things to yourself. Remember, your vibe attracts your tribe. Work on body acceptance and you’ll be more likely to attract friends who are body positive too.

 


“BRING IT ON” 

Sports have the power to promote self-esteem but not with a coach like Sparky Polastri who flat out disparages bodies and encourages restrictive eating disorders among his athletes.  Any coach who puts an emphasis on weight is bad news for the whole squad.

Not eating enough to fuel your workout can reduce strength, speed, and stamina and lead to increased risk of injury from things like stress fractures, fainting and muscle cramps – not what you want when you’re on top or bottom of the pyramid!

Sparky’s advice is way off; athletes burn a lot of energy through their training, so they actually need to eat more than non-athletes to properly fuel their bodies. Never be afraid to get a second opinion if a coach is steering you wrong.

 


“PITCH PERFECT”

Food shaming is ALL AROUND US in the movies and in real life so we get pretty used to hearing stuff like this. Something you think is a harmless joke about what someone is eating might actually have major repercussions for them.

We never know how the people around us feel about food or their bodies, so it’s best not to make offhand comments about what they should or shouldn’t be eating. Also, burgers are great and can be enjoyable and nourishing at any age!

 


“LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE”

Did anyone else’s heart break a little when Richard told Olive that ice cream would make her fat? In real life, instilling a fear of fatness does not keep kids (or adults for that matter) from gaining weight, but it can contribute to negative body image and disordered eating, including bingeing on foods that are deemed by adults to be forbidden or off-limits.

A better message for kids? All bodies are good bodies and it’s OK to enjoy a variety of different foods. You might also want to check out these other 8 tips for raising body positive kids (who are also competent eaters).

 


The Oscars

As you watch the Oscars and other awards shows this season, let’s cheer on the great acting and fun story lines while also keeping in mind how popular films – even comedies and parodies – can influence our own thoughts and expectations regarding food, weight and eating.

Join the conversation with us on social media using #popcultureED.

If you’ve had an eating disorder in the past or are in the early stages of recovery, sometimes it helps to have a specific support plan for watching potentially triggering or body shaming movies. Read more about that here: How to stay recovery-focused when interacting with triggering media

Don’t forget, eating disorders are serious and risky if untreated. The first step is awareness; If you suspect that you or someone you know has an eating disorder, visit  eatingdisorder.org or call 410-938-5252 for a free phone assessment.

NEDA Congressional Briefing on Eating Disorders

CED Co-Director, Dr. Steven Crawford, among panelists to speak on Capitol Hill

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) in conjunction with the Congressional Mental Health Caucus hosted a Congressional Briefing on Capitol Hill on October 2, 2018. This briefing was held to educate representatives and legislative aides about eating disorders in overlooked populations. Panelists at the briefing included Chevese Turner (moderator), Mike Marjama, Claire Mysko, Janell Mensinger, PhD, and Steven Crawford, M.D.

Dr.Crawford, co-director at The Center fo Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt, began by discussing the different eating disorders and the risks and causes associated with them. He explained the differences in each disorder and the ways someone can help if they notice symptoms of an eating disorder in someone they care about. These include, seeking more information on the subject, locating resources, not focusing on weight, and encouraging the person to seek specialized treatment.

Dr. Janell Mensinger, an Associate Research Professor at Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University, presented on eating disorders and population weight. Her presentation focused on people in higher weight bodies and she explained how weight-related harassment is over four times more common than bullying. She stressed that we, as a society, need to shift focus from weight to health and provided research that shows eating disorders and extreme dieting are increasing among people in higher weight bodies.

The next panelist Claire Mysko, CEO of NEDA, spoke about a prevention program called the Body Project. The Body Project is a group-based intervention that helps decrease eating disorder symptoms and body dissatisfaction in high school girls. There are currently 388 trained facilitators for this program across the United States. Mysko also mentioned how NEDA is working on a similar program for young men.

The final panelist was former Seattle Mariners Catcher Mike Marjama who now serves as a NEDA Ambassador. Marjama presented his personal struggle with body dissatisfaction and an intense desire to change his body, which led to extreme behaviors around food and exercise, an eating disorder diagnosis and eventually hospitalization. His treatment and recovery however, led him to a baseball career and renewed appreciation for mindfulness and balance. After retiring he decided to speak openly about his disorder and his story has since been featured on Good Morning America. As an Ambassador for NEDA his goal is to help boys and men see through outdated stereotypes about eating disorders so they can get the help they need.

Eating disorders are one of the most dangerous mental health issues and should not be taken lightly. Unfortunately, they are too often overlooked in people with higher weight bodies, in athletes of all calibers and in traditionally marginalized populations. Our hope is that the information shared in the Oct 2nd hearing will assist legislators in creating policies that not only support prevention and treatment for eating disorders but improve overall public health.

Additional Advocacy Resources:

  • Get involved, learn about state-specific legislative actions and become a NEDA advocate.
  • Read summaries of current legislative actions, read about current initiatives and get involved with advocacy days on Capitol Hill with the Eating Disorder Coalition.
  • You can find out more about The Center for Eating Disorders’ recent advocacy work here.

Written by: Julie Seechuk, Social Work Intern 

Hidden Risks for the LGBTQ+ Community, and How You Can Help

 


Every June, Pride month provides an opportunity to share awareness, knowledge and recognition of important issues facing the LGBTQ+ community. It’s a time to celebrate progress while recommitting to challenges that lie ahead. One such challenge among the LGBTQ+ community too often stays hidden: eating disorders.

While eating disorders may happen to anyone, current research suggests that those in the LGBTQ+ community may be at higher risk,1  beginning as early as age twelve.2  In a study of over 35,000 students, gay males were 28 percent more likely to report poor body image, 25 percent more likey to engage in binge eating, and 9 percent more likely to diet frequently compared to heterosexual males.3  What’s important to highlight is how outside influences can act as a trigger for these unhealthy and dangerous behaviors in marginalized populations. For example, daily discrimination among lesbians is associated with increased binge eating.

Let’s take a closer look at stressors that may be unique to the LGBTQ+ community, including those listed by NEDA (The National Eating Disorders Association)and others identified by our patients and therapists.


Unique Stressors Faced by LGBT+ Individuals

  • Fear of rejection after coming out to one’s friends, family, classmates, co-workers and the public
  • Bullying, violence or threats at school, work or online, in some cases resulting in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation
  • Hardship or stress related to identification with a gender that is different than the one assigned at birth
  • Internalized stigma where one begins to believe, internalize and/or act upon negative messages about oneself
  • Homelessness or unsafe homes occur among the LGBTQ+ population, with 42 percent of homeless youth identifying as such6
  • Unrealistic Body ideals within LGBTQ+ peers/community
  • Double minority status wherein one person experiences oppression as a member of more than one minority group (i.e. related to orientation, gender, religion, race or otherwise).


The Transgender Community

Specifically among transgender youth, a 2017 study reported that as many as one in four youths report engaging in at least one disordered eating behavior, with 35 to 45 percent engaging in binge eating or fasting. Experiences of discrimination, harassment, and violence – or enacted stigma – were often linked to greater levels of eating disorder behaviors among trans youth.7

This same study also indicated that there are some protective factors that help buffer enacted stigma from influencing eating habits in trans youth. Social support from family, friends and peers was associated with a lower percentage of trans youth engaging in binge eating. In other words, when family and school connectedness are present in the youth’s life the likelihood of binge eating decreases. In particular, the presence of family support drove the lowest probability of disordered eating.


Showing Support to the LGBTQ+ Community – 8 Ways to Help

Everyone can do their part to help lower risk factors associated with eating disorders in the LGBTQ+ community. The common thread is championing less violence and discrimination and more support and acceptance. Here are eight way you can help:

  1. Know the signs and symptoms of disordered eating and be able to recognize them in a friend, family or peer. Watch this video for an example of how everyday conversations can be a chance to check in and offer support.
  2. Be a listening ear to your LGBTQ+ friends, family and peers and be someone who they can talk to when they are upset or distressed
  3. Respect identity by using preferred gender pronouns (i.e., he/she/they), name, and other terms – when in doubt, use neutral words (i.e., they, partner) or ask about preference
  4. Ask early and specifically about the presence of eating disorder symptoms if you are a health or mental health provider working with LGBTQ+ youth. Early intervention  leads to more positive recovery outcomes but many people don’t disclose disordered eating behaviors unless explicitly asked about them.
  5. Start an LGBTQ+ club at your school or workplace to demonstrate your support and to help spread awareness
  6. Volunteer for LGBTQ+ hotlines, such as the GLBT National Help Center or The Trevor Project
  7. Educate yourself on the relationship between stigma, discrimination and eating disorders and help spread the word about common myths and facts
  8. Remember the power of family connectedness as a protective factor. Create a welcoming home for your family members of all genders and orientations.

If you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community and you think that you may have disordered eating, or just want a judgement-free space to talk, call any of the following hotlines or visit https://www.eatingdisorder.org/letscheckin to take a free online self-assessment and get connected with treatment.


LGBTQ+ and Related Hotline Numbers

  • National Eating Disorder Hotline 1-800-931-2237
  • LGBT National Youth Talkline 1-800-246-PRIDE (7743)
  • LGBT National Hotline 1-888-843-4564
  • Sage LGBT Elder Hotline 1-888-234-SAGE (7243)
  • The Trevor Project (24/7) 1-866-488-7386
  • TrevorText (M-F 3pm-10pm) Text “Tevor” to 1-202-304-1200
  • The National Runaway Safeline 1-800-RUNAWAY (800-786-2929)
  • The True Colors Fund (homelessness) 1-212-461-4401

For more information about eating disorders and treatment options in Baltimore, visit eatingdisorder.org or call (410) 938-5252 for a free phone assessment.


Blog contributions by Catherine Pappano, CED Research Assistant 

You may also be interested in reading:

 


References

  1. Watson, R. J., Adjei, J., Saewyc, E., Homma, Y., & Goodenow, C. (2017). Trends and disparities in disordered eating among heterosexual and sexual minority adolescents. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 50(1), 22-31.

  2. NEDA: Eating disorders in LGBTQ+ populations. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/general-information/lgbtq. Accessed June 22, 2018

  3. French, S.A., Story, M., Remafedi, G., Resick, M.D., & Blum, R.W. (1996). Sexual orientation and prevalence of body dissatisfaction and eating disordered behaviors: A populationbased study of adolescents. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 19(2), 119-126.

  4. Mason, T.B., Lewis, R.J., & Heron, K.E. (2017). Daily discrimination and binge eating among lesbians: a pilot study. Psychology & Sexuality, 8(1-2), 96-103.

  5. NEDA: Eating disorders in LGBT (gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender) populations. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/sites/default/files/ResourceHandouts/LGBTQ.pdfAccessed October 31st, 2017.

  6. NEDA: Eating disorders in LGBT (gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender) populations. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/sites/default/files/ResourceHandouts/LGBTQ.pdfAccessed October 31st, 2017.

  7. Watson, R. J., Veale, J. F., & Saewyc, E. M. (2017). Disordered eating behaviors among transgender youth: probability profiles from risk and protective factors. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 50,515-522.

Transition and Recovery with Ryan Sallans: A Reflection on TU’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week Event


What does it mean to live authentically? 

Honoring your truth.

In other words, understanding, accepting, and nurturing your various, intersecting identities, to live your best life. This was a major theme throughout a special event held in February at Towson University (TU) to help recognize National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.At the event, speaker Ryan Sallans shared his personal experience of gender identity development and eating disorder recovery with the TU community. Organized by TU’s Counseling Center, the event was well-attended and brought together various university and local organizations, including The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt, TU’s Center for Student Diversity and The TU Body Image Peer Educators (BIPE). Sallans is a well-known public speaker, author, and health educator, and has been featured on Larry King Live, NPR, The Advocate, and many other news and popular media outlets.

 

Documenting Self-Discovery through Transition and Recovery

Throughout his talk, Sallans highlighted the delicate balance between taking care of oneself and navigating important relationships that often change throughout transition. Of course, each individual’s experience is different and Sallans did well to emphasize his is only one story among many.

Despite transgender and gender non-binary identities being discussed more openly than ever, there remains a stark deficit in information regarding the intersection of body image, gender identity development, and eating disorders. Studies have suggested the prevalence of eating disorders is higher among transgender individuals when compared to the general population (Reisner et al., 2016; Watson, Veale, & Saewyc, 2016). This health disparity is likely influenced by the pervasive effects of transphobia in our society, which sets the stage for inequality and discrimination at home and beyond, creating unique risk factors for the trans community (Bockting, Miner, Swinburne-Romine, Hamilton, & Coleman, 2013; Watson et al., 2016).

Pair this with the fact that no one is immune to the influence of the multi-billion dollar beauty industry consistently sending a message that, in order to be happy, we must look a certain way. Each one of us, regardless of gender, is sold (to some extent) on the idea that by controlling our bodies, we can achieve happiness, wealth, and popularity. Those working in the eating disorder field have historically referred to this as the internalization of the “thin ideal” or the acceptance of unrealistic or narrow beauty standards (Thompson & Stice, 2001). Transgender individuals are not immune from this culturally normative body dissatisfaction.  But people with eating disorders who identify outside of the restrictive gender binary may also experience amplified body dissatisfaction because their gender identity and their sex assigned at birth do not match (Algars, Alanko, Santtila, & Sandnabba, 2012; Strandjord, Ng, & Rome, 2015).

Furthermore, adjusting to a changing body and gender expression (for those who opt for cosmetic, hormonal, and other gender-affirming interventions), as well as the public commentary this process often evokes, presents its own unique challenges that impact body image and self-esteem (Couturier, Pindiprolu, Findlay, & Johnson, 2014).

 

How does one survive, and thrive, when faced with such challenges?

Sallans encouraged everyone in the room that night to stay hopeful and connected, which for him means sharing life stories to better understand those that are different. His comments suggested tremendous patience and empathy for his loved ones’ process of arriving at a place of acceptance with his transition, while also emphasizing the need to disconnect at times to protect oneself. Sallans identified a number of strategies and resources he has found useful, starting with a non-judgmental awareness of his needs, his boundaries, and his triggers. He explored the role of psychotherapy, as well as self-guided research on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues, in helping him to turn towards his inner truth and wisdom.

Consistent with national guidelines on psychotherapy with LGBTQ individuals, Sallans benefited tremendously from collaborating with an affirmative therapist; someone he was able to confide in during times of confusion and fear surrounding gender identity, at a time when very few were even considering gender outside of the binary. The trust and respect he built with his therapist created a safe space to discuss gender issues and eating disorders, which provided the platform for recovery and ultimately allowed for closer and more authentic connections with family and friends. Outside of therapy, Sallans said he found it incredibly useful to communicate about his emotions and take time out for himself. He acknowledged the need to unplug from negative relationships (and social media) and engage in routine self-care, which for him often includes going for walks and being in nature.

Self-care, use of coping skills for managing negative emotions, positive sense of identity and community, and feeling like you can count on those closest to you are universal factors associated with resiliency (Rutter, 2012). These factors are even more relevant for those who identify outside of the gender binary (Hill & Gunderson, 2015; Watson et al., 2016). If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder and questioning gender identity, see the resource links below to gather information, find community, and get professional support.

 

For information regarding affirming and evidence-based treatment options and programs at The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt, please contact us at (410) 938-5252 or email us at eatingdisorderinfo@sheppardpratt.org.

 

Additional Resources:
https://www.ryansallans.com (Ryan Sallans’ Official Website)
www.genderspectrum.org
www.glaad.org
www.pflag.org
www.thetrevorproject.org
https://www.chasebrexton.org/our-services/lgbt-health-resource-center


Written By: Andrea Castelhano, PsyD, Outpatient Therapist – Dr. Castelhano is a licensed clinical psychologist in the outpatient department at The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt. She earned her doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the American School for Professional Psychology at Argosy University, DC where she received training in cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness-based approaches to psychotherapy. She also received specialized training in eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and co-occurring self-harm and suicidality. Additionally, she has provided affirmative therapy to individuals in the LGBTQ+ community throughout her training and professional career. Affirmative therapy is a therapeutic approach that respects individuals of all sexual orientations and genders, recognizes the impact of intersectionality on identity development and life experience, and addresses issues including discrimination and heterosexism as they relate to the individual’s broader treatment goals. Dr. Castelhano joined The Center for Eating Disorders in 2018 and brings her experience from a variety of clinical rotations, including a year-long practicum at Children’s National Medical Center Outpatient Eating Disorders Clinic,  APA-accredited clinical internship at Laureate Psychiatric Clinic and Hospital, and post-doctoral fellowship with the University of Tulsa Counseling and Psychological Services Center. She provides individual, family, and couples therapy, as well as psychological testing services. She is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.


References

Algars, M., Alanko, K., Santtila, P., & Sandnabba, N.K. (2012). Disordered eating and gender identity disorder: A qualitative study. Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention, 20, 300-311.

Bockting, W.O., Miner, M.H., Swinburne-Romine, R.E., Hamilton, A., & Coleman, E. (2013). Stigma, mental health, and resilience in an online sample of the US transgender population. American Journal of Public Health, 103, 943-951.

Couturier, J., Pindiprolu, B., Findlay, S., & Johnson, N. (2014). Anorexia nervosa and gender dysphoria in two adolescents. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 48, 151-155.

Hill, C. A., & Gunderson, C. J. (2015). Resilience of lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals in relation to social environment, personal characteristics, and emotion regulation strategies. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 2, 232-252.

Reisner, S.L., Poteat, T., Keatley, J., Cabral, M., Mothopeng, T., Dunham, … Baral, S.D. (2016). Global health burden and needs of transgender populations: A review. The Lancet, 388, 412-436.

Rutter, M. (2012). Annual research review: Resilience – clinical implications. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 54, 474-487.

Strandjord, S.E., Ng, H., Rome, E.S. (2015). Effects of treating gender dysphoria and anorexia nervosa in a transgender adolescent: Lessons learned. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 48, 942-945.

Thompson, J.K. & Stice, E. (2001). Thin-ideal internalization: Mounting evidence for a new risk factor for body-image disturbance and eating pathology. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 10, 181-183.

Watson, R.J., Veale, J.F., & Saewyc, E.M. (2016). Disordered eating behaviors among transgender youth: Probability profiles from risk and protective factors. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 50, 515-522.

Body Comparison: An Olympic Sport?


When cheering on the elite athletes at the Rio Olympics and in other high-profile sporting events, it can be easy to lose perspective and you may find yourself comparing your physical body to those at the peak of their sport careers. Lost in these comparisons, we too often become self-critical and forget the long journeys, support communities, financial resources, sacrifices and sheer hard work that comes with being an Olympic athlete.

Olympic bodiesEngaging in body comparison not only hurts you but serves to fuel the overall toxic culture of body shaming. After all, even Olympic athletes are subject to mean-spirited remarks about their appearance. In the most recent summer games, Ethiopian swimmer Nobel Kiros Habte faced some harsh comments for not matching the “look” of his peers, as did Mexican gymnast Alexa Moreno. Many others have faced similar backlash through the years.
Just as athletes are not immune from body shaming, it’s important to remember the “perfect” athletic body does not equate to perfect health. Making snap judgments about someone’s fitness or health based on their appearance is misleading – it’s rarely possible to tell, for example, if someone has an eating disorder just by looking at them. Athletes are not immune to eating disorders or struggles with body image. American cyclist and two-time national champion Mara Abbott has been open about her experience with anorexia. In a candid column for a cycling blog, she reflected on how it affected her performance: “Personally, having taking a hiatus from sport in 2012 due to an eating disorder, I can attest that my thinnest was definitely not my strongest. I really mean that. Please read that sentence more than once.”

As we gather around the television with our friends and families to celebrate athletic achievement, we can support the competitors, ourselves and each other by focusing less on physical appearance and more on the hard work and powerful accomplishments of these world-class athletes.  After all, Olympic bodies can be powerful, graceful, tough and resilient but they are also diverse.  From gymnastics to archery, swimming to shot put, let’s allow our athletes to be inspirations, not because of or in spite of their looks but for the attitude and spirit they project in aiming for their goals.  Let’s enjoy watching all sporting events – whether it’s a World Cup game or a pee wee soccer league – from a place of body appreciation and as part of a body positive summer.

*     *     *

You might also be interested in reading:

Faking It: Sunless Tanning and the Risks You May Not Have Considered

Faking It_ SunlessTanning_SORENSENSkin cancer is among the most common forms of cancer in the United States. In fact, over the past three decades, there have been more cases of skin cancer than all other forms of cancers combined.1  Furthermore, a 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association-Dermatology estimated that more than 400,000 cases of skin cancer each year in the United States may be the result of indoor tanning, with approximately 6,000 of these cases being melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.2

Most people are aware of these risks. Warnings of cancer and other related health problems are broadcast widely, and reminders to slather on sunscreen can be heard from all corners of our pools and beaches. At the same time though, the pressure to acquire the media’s ideal body is strong, and this culturally defined ideal frequently includes obtaining a “luxurious summer glow” or becoming a “bronzed beauty”. For some, the perceived benefits of tanning via sun exposure, or tanning bed, seemingly outweigh those severe health risks and they continue tanning despite the danger. In research on UV exposure, some excessive tanning behavior has even been described as an addiction. Many other people, including 1 in 10 adolescents, opt for what is promoted as the safer option – sunless tanning.

Body image avoidanceSunless tanning products (creams, foams, sprays, stains, etc.) are heavily promoted as a viable option for someone looking to achieve a summer glow without assuming the health risks of tanning beds or sun exposure. But is it completely without risk? If we know UV exposure is unhealthy, then why are we spending time and money trying to fake it? It’s a million dollar question with a million dollar answer, or more accurately, a $763 million answer; that’s how much the fast-growing sunless tanning industry was worth in 2014.

Like the bikini body, the elusive summer glow represents an unfair and unrealistic expectation that can contribute to an individuals’ experience of body dissatisfaction. Additionally, trying to change skin color with the use of sunless tanning products can be viewed as a form of body image avoidance. An inability to achieve the tan ideal, or the time and mental resources spent focused on one’s perceived inadequacies, simply magnify negative feelings towards the body.  Thus, sunless tanner may help dodge the bullet, so to speak, by avoiding UV rays, but it is not completely harmless. Body dissatisfaction, body image avoidance, and low self-esteem are some of the most well documented risk factors in the development and presentation of eating disorders.  Furthermore, studies have found links between general tanning behaviors and unhealthy weight control practices. Consider the following associations:

  • Steroid use and unhealthy weight loss strategies were 4x and 2.5x more likely, respectively, among high school males who used indoor tanning, compared to their non-tanning counterparts.3
  • Boys who tan were more likely to be trying to lose or gain weight than non-tanners.4
  • Female students who engaged in indoor tanning were also more likely to engage in unhealthy weight control practices.5
  • A belief that a tan improves appearance is one of the strongest predictors of UV exposure behaviors.6

We know that body dissatisfaction can drive both tanning and unhealthy weight control behaviors. These correlations underscore the point that, despite a lower skin cancer risk, promoting sunless tanning may still be problematic, especially in individuals who struggle or have struggled with body image. Promoting or validating the quest for a tan body has the potential to reinforce negative body image thoughts and perpetuate appearance related obsessions.

It is important to keep in mind that any beauty ideal is carefully crafted and enforced by #bodypositivesummer_TANNINGan industry that profits from the body dissatisfaction it’s “standards” create. Tanning is no different. In fact, it’s important to point out that the tan ideal is just one way that westernized beauty ideals promote insecurity or dissatisfaction across the spectrum of skin colors. The media’s pressure on Caucasian women to be tan occurs concurrently with tactics like whitewashing and digitally lightening the skin (and hair) of women of color in prominent advertisements. Writers at Beauty Redefined unpack the cultural implications of those practices in the post: Beauty Whitewashed: How white ideals exclude women of color.

By creating the narrowest possible margin for beauty, the media essentially convinces everyone their skin is either too light, too dark or some other shade of inadequate. As a result, people who internalize the cultural definitions of beauty feel ‘required’ to purchase some sort of product or service to achieve the ideal, or risk being invisible. As Director Elena Rossini reveals in her masterful documentary The Illusionists, the very same company that promotes tanning products in the U.S., profits off of skin-whitening creams in India.

Media influencing what we perceive as beauty is not exactly a new conversation, but sometimes these ideals become so much a cultural norm that we cease to question them. Just think how often the phrase “you look so tan!” is thrown around as a compliment or “I’m so pale” is delivered as a self-criticism.  Great diversity of skills, skin colors, body shapes and sizes is a natural and healthy part of life. Any group who tries to change that, especially for profit, should be met with critical speculation. Just as we attempt to challenge the thin ideal, we should seek to debunk tanning myths and push back against unrealistic or unhealthy expectations. One way to do that is by helping to build families and peer groups that prioritize body positivity and body acceptance.

As individuals, we can push back by refusing to buy-in to a heavily marketed tanning industry that includes outdoor tanning, indoor tanning or pre-packaged tanning. Perhaps the money, time, and mental resources devoted to the quest for a perfect summer glow could be better used elsewhere?

Find out just how much money you could save by expanding the infographic on the right.  Then head on over to Twitter or Instagram to tell us what you would do with your savings and how you intend to finish out your #bodypositivesummer free from the grip of body dissatisfaction.

 

About the Author:
t_sorenson_headshotTaylor Sorensen is a rising senior at Trinity College in Hartford, CT where she is majoring in Neuroscience.  At Trinity, Taylor is involved in research focusing on the neuronal underpinnings of Autism Spectrum Disorder.  She joined The Center for Eating Disorders as a summer intern in both the Research and Community Outreach Departments.


 

References:
  1. Stern, RS. Prevalence of a history of skin cancer in 2007: results of an incidence-based model. Arch Dermatol 2010; 146(3):279-282.
  2.  Wehner, MR. International prevalence of indoor tanning: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Dermatol. 2014 Apr;150(4):390-400. doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.6896.
  3. Miyamoto J, Berkowitz Z, Jones SE, Saraiya M. Indoor tanning device use among male high school students in the United States. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2012;50:308–310. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2011.08.007. [PubMed]
  4. Demko CA, Borawski EA, Debanne SM, Cooper KD, Stange KC. Use of indoor tanning facilities by white adolescents in the United States. Archives of Pediatriac and Adolescent Medicine. 2003;157:854–860. doi:10.1001/archpedi.157.9.854. [PubMed]
  5. Guy, GP. Et al. Indoor Tanning Among High School Students in the United states, 2009 and 2011. JAMA Dermatol. 2014 May; 150(5):501-511.
  6. Pagoto, SL, Hillhouse, J.Not All Tanners Are Created Equal: Implications of Tanning Subtypes for Skin Cancer Prevention. Arch Dermatol. 2008 Nov; 144(11): 1505–1508.

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From Collegiate Athlete to Pregnant Mom, ERIN MANDRAS talks summer body image pressures {Guest Post}

 


mandrassoccer2 Erin Mandras Erin Chooses body positivity

 

 

 


I went to pick a magazine off the rack the other day at the store, and, just like most people, I am automatically drawn to the headlines highlighted in big, bold capital letters on the front covers.

“Flat Abs, Lean Legs, Firm Butt.”
“Drop XX lbs. Fast.”
“Flat Belly Now!”
“Drop A Jeans Size In XX Days.”
“Sexy Abs Fast.”

You get the point. It is only natural for me, or anyone, to assume that these characteristics are being promoted because they depict beauty, and that sexy is defined as thin, lean, flat, and firm. As we are right in the thick of summer season, and attaining a “bikini body” is at the forefront of peoples’ minds, I picked up one of the magazines and skimmed through it. Thankfully, those magazine headlines don’t effect me in the same way they once did.

I suffered from an eating disorder at the age of twenty. My desire to appear attractive, and be physically fit fully dominated my ability to focus on being healthy. My initial attempt at losing “a few pounds” turned into an obsession with food restriction and excessive exercise. And, it all began in the summertime when I knew I would be in a swimsuit with my friends, and my body was more exposed than in the winter season. Little did I know that my drive to be thin and sexy would lead me down a deep, dark path of depression and anxiety.

I am an athlete. I have always been active and competitive in sports, particularly soccer. Short in height, I needed to have strength in my upper and lower body to be successful. At the time of my eating disorder, however, I lacked size, power, and personality–all attributes that had contributed to my successes on the field. I quickly realized these qualities I once possessed had dissipated and what I thought was making me better, sexier and more confident was actually making me weaker and more insecure.

Fast forward thirteen years.

I am now 23-weeks pregnant with my third child, and summer has begun once again. My body is larger than it has ever been in my whole life.  But so is my heart. I have two little Erin Mandras hits the beach with her kidsboys, who love to go swimming at our neighborhood pool. It is in this environment that I am forced to make a decision: embrace my features and my body, and enjoy myself and my children; or turn back to my eating disorder and disengage from life and from my family.

Love, family, and happiness now far outweigh a desire to be a certain body type. And, for me, who is not happy, joyful, or lively when I am dieting or focusing on dissatisfaction with my body, I choose to live life.

Life is too short to focus solely on my appearance or socially constructed beauty ideals. I much prefer to enjoy myself, exercise healthily, and concentrate on being the best person, mom, wife, daughter, and friend I can be. That is far sexier than any number on the scale or what I look like in a bikini.

 

Erin Mandras is a blogger and inspirational speaker at Kick The Scale.  She’s also a youth soccer coach in the Baltimore, MD area, and cares for her two young kids (Levi, 4 1/2 and Austin, 2 1/2). Prior to these roles, Erin was a college soccer coach at Michigan State University, Towson University, and Loyola University Maryland, and a former women’s soccer player at Michigan State University. She was born and raised in West Bloomfield, MI, is now married to her wonderful husband, Jon Mandras, and resides in Baltimore.   


Wondering how can you start to build a body positive summer for yourself and the people you care about?

Put the magazines down.  Better yet, don’t even pick them up. Create your own headlines.

Local Woman chooses body positivity!What do you want your summer headline to be?

Share with us on Twitter using the hashtag #bodypositivesummer and find out more about the campaign here.

 

 

 

 

 

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