Eating Disorders in the News March 2018
Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder are recognized by psychologists and psychiatrists around the world and can result in severe co-morbidities and even death if left untreated. With the continued social stigma attached to eating disorders and in general, mental health disorders; often times it can be challenging to discern the truth from fiction. New innovations in treatment and new insights on eating disorders are continuously being published however the mainstream media often does not shed light on these important findings. Below are three published articles that had eating disorders professionals talking this week.
Weight Watchers just announced a rebranding plan to target $2 billion in sales by the year 2020. As part of this campaign, Weight Watchers will offer teens ages 13 to 17 free memberships this summer as part of its plan reach the company’s fiscal goals. This has a created a lot of controversy and dangers in relation to the eating disorder world. Eating disorder affect 30 million individuals and a large portion of individuals affected are teenagers and adolescents. This campaign is creating vulnerability among individuals who are struggling with their weight and body image and relate dieting to happiness. This campaign has potential to result in more teens engaging in disordered eating, as dieting is one of the largest underlying factors associated with eating disorders.
“’Dieting is a huge predictor in the development of an eating disorder,’” Salt Lake City-based dietitian Leah Kirschbaum said. According to Philadelphia Eating Disorder Examiner, 35 percent of occasional dieters progress into pathological dieting, and 25 percent advance into full-blown eating disorders”.
“’My personal eating disorder started with dieting,’ Tiffany Roe, a Clinical Mental Health Counselor who works with people with eating disorders, said. ‘That is consistent with almost every single one of my clients. It is a huge risk factor and something we need to take seriously.’”
“The American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines says that teenagers are particularly vulnerable and suggests that doctors refrain from discussing dieting and weight loss with minors.”
“’Half of teenage girls and one-third of teenage boys use dangerous weight control methods… in an attempt to meet unrealistic body ideals,’ The National Eating Disorders Association released in a statement. ‘We hope Weight Watchers acknowledges the risk and implements steps to screen for potential early signs of disordered eating.’”
The German pharmaceutical company Merck first developed MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine) in 1912, during its search for a drug to control blood clotting. It later turned into a popular party and rave drug. It is chemically similar to stimulants and hallucinogens, producing feelings of increased energy, pleasure, emotional warmth, and distorted sensory and time perception. MDMA is not being researched to help individuals recover from eating disorders and other mental health disorders such as anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“It’s currently in the final stage of FDA trials – meaning that soon, this ‘pharmaceutical grade, at limited doses, given within a very specified kind of psychotherapeutic environment’, could be a legal medicinal drug. And it’s not just being used to treat EDs, but a whole range of psychiatric conditions. ‘We have some good info suggesting that this could be one of the more important uses of MDMA,’ Rick Doblin, executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies”
Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa are centered on food, meaning that individuals either restrict food intake or engage in binging and purging behaviors in order to prevent gain weight and/or lose weight. Exercise addiction, although not considered a true eating disorder, is a large component of purging. Extensive exercise is often practiced as a way to burn off the calories consumed in a form of purging. Working out can become an obsession and can lead an individual down a slippery slope. Counting steps and calories burned can result in dangerous habits and paired with dieting can lead to an eating disorder.
“It’s not necessarily the quantity of exercise someone does that is the issue. Putting in long hours training for a marathon or doing two-a-day workout classes doesn’t automatically constitute an addiction, says Hausenblas. Instead, someone who is addicted to exercise will become anxious or depressed when they are unable to work out, she says. They will cancel social obligations, schedule their life around their workouts, or work out at inappropriate times and places if need be (like doing pull-ups in an airport bathroom). If they become injured, they are likely to “push through” the pain against doctor’s orders, because the thought of taking time off to heal is unbearable. Exercise addiction can be divided into types, according to research. A primary exercise addiction “occurs in the absence of an eating disorder”—so weight loss is not a major concern. Conversely, someone who suffers from secondary exercise addiction also has an eating disorder. (Related: Orthorexia Is the Eating Disorder You’ve Never Heard Of)”