It is time to raise awareness again around this subject.
I have witnessed some health and fitness professionals recently making less than compassionate responses to some posts on social media. I believe it stems from ignorance of the subject. Which is actually great because it means there is something to learn to make their practice better.
Until I was trained in eating disorders I was also ignorant of what could potentially harm a person and it's been a real eye opener. I'd highly recommend anybody who works in any health related services, including doctors and psychologists, psychotherapists, nutritionists, personal trainers and all kinds of coaches etc to get trained in eating disorders to make sure we do no harm. It can help us spot a problem and it can help us know who to refer out to or team up with when you encounter an issue.
I'd like everyone to understand that there is a spectrum which exists which ranges from intuitive eating all the way to severe eating disorder. Along the way we have all kinds of eating patterns and we cannot say how an individual will react to even the slightest comment, situation or praise for behaviour which may form part of what may be disordered eating for them.
Triggers which set off the spiral of an eating disorder could be from something you may find completely benign such as counting calories, weighing food, using a phrase like "cheat day", or congratulating a person on weight loss. These are not just problems which health professionals need to be aware of, everyone needs to understand this.
What is really useful to know is that there are predisposing factors which will account for a persons descent into an eating disorder. There is no single "cause" of an eating disorder but rather, eating disorders are the end point of interacting mental or experiential processes.
Precipitating factors which can pave the way to an eating disorder can also be the maintaining factors and these include but are not limited to cultural factors, genes, neurobiological factors, developmental considerations, family scripts, personality, trauma and loss, nutritional status.
Please note that included in trauma is the constant stigma, and blame around body weight and shape which is prevalent in our society -- our "diet culture". We need to be very careful when we start making assumptions around who is to "blame" for what is happening or happened to somebody struggling with any type of eating problems or issue around their weight or shape.
Comments on a persons weight, shape or how they eat are just generally not welcome in any instance. We need to start seeing people for who they are and stop judging. Let's start appreciating people for how they make us feel or what they are doing for our communities rather than what they look like or how they eat.
Research shows us clearly that food restriction usually precedes most eating disorders. Dieting does not 'cause' eating disorders since vast numbers of people diet and only a few develop eating disorders. However, dieting is a “necessary condition” from which an eating disorder emerges. You can never know all of these things about a person but it's good to remember that we all come with our own unique personal struggles and challenges for autonomy, control, coping, self-acceptance and self-management.
For any professionals reading this, the use of motivational interviewing is recommended highly and a move away from "telling" people what to do or doing things like "setting their calories" or telling them "cut out carbs" or "go keto" or "do more cardio". As professionals we must be aware we are not here to prescribe unless qualified to do so, but instead we need to be curious, compassionate and caring.
And if you are not a professional in the health world but a normal every day person reading this then please take more time to get to know people by being curious about their experiences and behaviours rather than judging them based on your own personal beliefs. Being open, honest, curious and caring is never wrong.
I hope this helps with some understanding about the complex world of eating disorders and disordered eating.
I have a list of books which I will be adding to which can help anybody struggling with any kind of eating issues or body issues and you can find that by clicking here.
If you are concerned about your own eating or a friend or family member then please reach out or contact NCFED to book an assessment with a qualified eating disorder therapist by clicking here.
You can also seek support from charities like BEAT. Click here to visit BEAT