Eating Disorders Articles

Interview with Margarita Tartakovsky

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Interview with Margarita TartakovskyRecently I had the chance to ask Margarita Tartakovsky, an associate editor at Psych Central, a few questions about eating behavior.  She blogs regularly about eating and self-image issues on her blog Weightless.

Q. Why doesn’t the current model of treating obesity — only telling people what and how much to eat — work for most people?

A. Great question, because the current model definitely doesn’t work. I can’t remember who said it, but there’s a saying that if you want to gain weight, go on a diet. Diets have a failure rate of about 95 percent. People may lose weight initially but then they usually gain it back and then some.

So this model doesn’t work for many reasons. For one thing, genetics plays a prominent role in our weight. This is why you can have two people who eat the same foods in the same quantities look very different. One may be thin; the other may be considered “overweight.” Our bodies are more complicated than the “calories in, calories out” equation assumes.

Integrative Medicine to Treat Eating Disorders

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Integrative Medicine to Treat Eating Disorders Integrative medicine can be defined as “a healing-oriented discipline that takes into account the whole person — body, mind and spirit — including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship and makes use of both conventional and alternative therapies.”

Complementary and alternative therapies used in integrative medicine can include acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal medicine, dietary supplements and others that give the clinician a wide array of treatments for difficult conditions. This is particularly true in the integrative medicine approach to eating disorders.

Eating disorders have been documented in adolescents and adults for many years. More recently, there is evidence that these disorders can also affect young children.

The cornerstones of an integrative medicine model for eating disorders includes some components that are found in every approach to the treatment of eating disorders, but may be used in a unique manner. Others are more specific to the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies. The most important difference in this model when compared to other treatment strategies is the philosophical underpinning of integrative medicine — that is, the belief in the self-healing nature of body, mind and spirit.

Trying to Eat Better? Ask Yourself This Question

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Trying to Eat Better? Ask Yourself This QuestionAre you a moderator or an abstainer?

In honor of many people’s New Year’s resolutions — “Eat more healthfully,” “Cut out sweets,” “Lose weight,” and the like — I’m re-posting this quiz, to help you determine whether you’re a moderator or an abstainer. When I figured out that I’m an “abstainer,” it helped me tremendously in terms of eating better.

Often, we know we’d have more long-term happiness if we gave up something that gives us a rush of satisfaction in the short-term. That morning doughnut, that late-night ice cream.

A piece of advice I often see is, “Be moderate. Don’t have dessert every night, but if you try to deny yourself altogether, you’ll fall off the wagon. Allow yourself to have the occasional treat, it will help you stick to your plan.”

I’ve come to believe that this is good advice for some people: the moderators. They do better when they try to make moderate changes, when they avoid absolutes and bright lines.

How Food Likes and Dislikes Affect Our Eating Behaviors

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

How Food Likes and Dislikes Affect Our Eating BehaviorsFood likes and dislikes are often thought to play a huge role in eating behaviors.  The pleasure we derive from food may be one of the most — if not the most — important factors contributing to food intake (Eertmans, et al., 2001; Rozin & Zellner, 1985; Rozin, 1990). 

Interviews with customers in supermarkets and restaurants have shown that people consider the sensory properties of food as an important value influencing their choice of food purchased (Furst, et al., 1996).  If food is not perceived as appealing in terms of appearance, smell, taste, and texture it probably will not be eaten (Hetherington & Rolls, 1996). 

Although food preferences are by no means the only influences on eating behavior, likes and dislikes are very important factors. This article will briefly discuss the influence food preferences have on eating behavior.  

How Portion Size and Paying Attention Affect Your Eating Behavior

Monday, November 28th, 2011

How Portion Size and Paying Attention Affect Your Eating BehaviorIt has been suggested that we are often unaware of external factors that influence eating behavior (Wansink, 2006; Vartaninan et al., 2008).  There is a substantial body of research that shows external factors have a robust influence on eating behavior (Epstein et al., 2009; Remick et al., 2009; Rozin et al., 2003). 

These external factors include things such as portion size, labeling, variety of food we eat, and how much attention we pay when we’re eating (or whether we’re distracted by socializing, for instance). Even the plate size can affect how we eat.

Now, some researchers have suggested that external factors may play a larger role in eating behavior than internal factors, such as hunger, satiety, flavor, macro-nutrient content, and so on (Wansink et al., 2007; Levitsky, 2005; Wansink, et al., 2005). 

What’s behind these external or environmental factors and their role in how we eat?

Little Research Supports Residential Treatment of Eating Disorders

Friday, October 14th, 2011

Little Research Supports Residential Treatment of Eating DisordersThere’s a lucrative cottage industry in the U.S. for the residential treatment of almost anything you can imagine. Everything from “Internet addiction” and drug and alcohol problems, to eating and mood disorders. If you can treat it in an outpatient setting, the thinking goes, why not treat it in a “residential” setting for 30 or more days where you control every aspect of the patient’s life?

The “residential” treatment approach has long been available for eating disorders, since the treatment of these disorders tends to be long and complicated. Andrew Pollack writing for the New York Times notes how these kinds of programs have now become the focus of insurance companies looking to cut back on treatment options.

It’s no surprise, really. With the rollout of mental health parity — requiring that insurance companies can no longer discriminate against people with mental disorders for their treatment options — those companies are looking for other places they can cut costs. Residential treatment for eating disorders appears to be one obvious area.

So is residential treatment a legitimate modality for helping people with eating disorders? Should insurance companies cover the costs of such care?

What Is Your Obesity Protecting You From?

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

What Is Your Obesity Protecting You From?This guest article from YourTango was written by Mary Jo Rapini.

The recent statistics from the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) has reported that about one-third (33.8%) of U.S. adults are obese. That number rises every day, and keeping up with it is more difficult than keeping up with your stocks. I work with the finest bariatric surgeons in the U.S. They are dedicated to helping their patients lose weight in an effort to thwart diseases, and minimize current disease progression. I also run several 12-step food addiction groups in the city of Houston and online in many cities.

I talk to morbidly obese patients everyday. I teach them, counsel them, eat with them, and spend endless hours reading their journals. These patients have a story to tell, but we aren’t listening and we continue asking the wrong questions.

A Day in the Life of a Mental Hospital Patient

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Mental Hospital Patient6:05 am: You lie awake in your tiny bed, underneath the salmon covers, your neck sore from sleeping on one pillow (you asked for another but you’ll need a doctor’s order to have more than one.) Your sleep medicine has worn off and you are now once again a prisoner to your insomnia.

All there is to do now is listen to your roommate snore and mutter to herself in her sleep and the sounds of the nurses talking and phones ringing at the nurses station. You remember a Seroquel-induced nightmare you had previously in the night in which you were trapped in a house that was filling with water, drowning and gasping for air. You make a mental note to mention the dream to your doctor later on.

7:00 am: Morning checks. A tech bangs on your door just as you have started to drift off into a sweet sleep again and informs you that you must be up for breakfast in thirty minutes. You incoherently moan something that resembles an “OK,” roll over and close your eyes again.

Is Anyone Normal Today?

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Is Anyone Normal Today?Take a minute and answer this question: Is anyone really normal today?

I mean, even those who claim they are normal may, in fact, be the most neurotic among us, swimming with a nice pair of scuba fins down the river of Denial. Having my psychiatric file published online and in print for public viewing, I get to hear my share of dirty secrets—weird obsessions, family dysfunction, or disguised addiction—that are kept concealed from everyone but a self-professed neurotic and maybe a shrink.

“Why are there so many disorders today?” Those seven words, or a variation of them, surface a few times a week. And my take on this query is so complex that, to avoid sounding like my grad school professors making an erudite case that fails to communicate anything to average folks like me, I often shrug my shoulders and move on to a conversation about dessert. Now that I can talk about all day.

Here’s the abridged edition of my guess as to why we mark up more pages of the DSM-IV today than, say, a century ago (even though the DSM-IV had yet to be born).

6 Bipolar Rules for Eating

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

6 Bipolar Rules for EatingThe following post is by Hilary Smith, author of “Welcome to the Jungle: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Bipolar But Were Too Freaked Out to Ask” (Conari Press, 2010) as well as a cool blog to go with it, Welcome to the Jungle.

We’ve all heard about “mood foods” that can promote wellness for people with bipolar and depression–fish oil for brain health, oatmeal for stable blood sugar, chocolate for, well, chocolateness. But it’s also important to think about how we eat. How we eat can have just as big an impact on our mood as what we eat, yet it often gets neglected in conversations about bipolar and food. Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy mood through mindful eating practices.

When Mental Illness Stigma Turns Inward

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

When Mental Illness Stigma Turns InwardIt’s said that people with mental illness face a double-edged sword.

Not only do they have to contend with serious, disruptive symptoms, they still have to deal with rampant stigma. Sadly, mental illness is still largely shrouded in stereotypes and misunderstanding.

Stigma also can lead to discrimination. Yes, even in this enlightened day and age, it doesn’t appear as though prejudice and discrimination against individuals with mental illness are decreasing. (This study shows in some cases, it might even be increasing.)

We see stigma everywhere. Every time violence is automatically connected to mental illness in an article or news report, we see it.*

We see it in movies and other forms of media. We see it at work where stereotypes might be perpetuated, where employees are afraid to “come out” with their diagnosis.

Eating Disorders Awareness Week: How Parents Can Help

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, which is sponsored by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).

Like I said in my post on Weightless, I believe that awareness means spreading accurate information about eating disorders.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that parents cause eating disorders. They don’t!

In fact, many complex factors are involved in predisposing a person to an eating disorder. According to eating disorder specialist Sarah Ravin, Ph.D:

“…the development of an eating disorder is influenced very heavily by genetics, neurobiology, individual personality traits, and co-morbid disorders. Environment clearly plays a role in the development of eating disorders, but environment alone is not sufficient to cause them.”

(Check out her blog post for more.)

But while parents don’t cause eating disorders, they can make a difference in their child’s life by creating a safe, diet-free and nurturing environment.

As Kenneth L. Weiner, M.D., co-founder and CEO of the Eating Recovery Center, said recently:

“Because eating disorders are genetic, an individual who has a family history is much more likely to be sensitive to others’ words and actions surrounding food and body image. It’s important for families to talk about these deadly diseases and avoid behaviors and actions that could act as eating disorder triggers.”

Below Dr. Weiner and other eating disorder specialists from the Eating Recovery Center share some of the ways you can help your child. (I think these tips are relevant for all kids):

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