Articles of Interest

Various articles (scientific and non-scientific) that explore related to mental health and eating disorders, body positivity and weight stigma, self care, and more

 
 
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recovery as a journey of the heart

One of, if not the most, well-written articles I have read exploring the concept of recovery.

Deegan was diagnosed with schizophrenia in her adolescence and went on to become a mental health and disability rights activist.

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The Weight-Inclusive versus Weight-Normative Approach to Health: Evaluating the Evidence for Prioritizing Well-Being over Weight Loss

This article is an excellent exploration of weight stigma in health care and the outcomes of such stigma.

"Using an ethical lens, this review evaluates two methods of working within patient care and public health: the weight-normative approach (emphasis on weight and weight loss when defining health and well-being) and the weight-inclusive approach (emphasis on viewing health and well-being as multifaceted while directing efforts toward improving health access and reducing weight stigma)."

 
Artwork by Gary Neil

Artwork by Gary Neil

the big fat truth

A news feature from the journal Nature that explores some of the misconceptions around obesity and health that run rampant in our society.

The author, Virginia Hughes, explores several articles that offer evidence that obesity is not what it seems, or at the very least, much more complex than various news headlines would have us believe.

We all know the drill here: not only is obesity mocked, ridiculted and treated as if it is the visible sign of the sloth, laziness, and gluttony of people who don't bother to "take care of themselves".  This open stigma against fat people actually often results in further weight gain and increased shame.  The results are twofold: obese people hide in their homes, ashamed to be seen, and thus feel too ashamed to get exercise, whether it is jogging, walking, or working out at the gym.  We also know that obesity is on the rise and that the health problems fat and obese people often experience places their lives in danger and will result in far higher costs for health care.

The first thing I always do when there is a disconnect between the hype and the reality is "follow the money", and it turns out that fat and obesity are huge revenue generators to the pharmaceutical, medical industry (think, bariatric surgery), diet, nutrition and fitness industries, fashion and entertainment industries, and the health sector, where money is usually more available for prevention rather than management.

"Cynics may point out that the reason for this is rather simple — irrespective of whether your industry is part of the problem or part of the solution, obesity can be good for business.

On the causal side, whether you are selling products or services that ultimately increase calorie intake or help decrease energy expenditure, countless large and small businesses directly profit from an increasingly obese and sedentary population that needs more calories and even more labour-saving gadgets.

On the solution side, we have a multi-billion dollar industry that promises weight loss, be it through the latest fad diets, supplements or “super foods.” For those hoping to simply burn off excess calories, an entire “sports-industrial complex” offers its products and services, from fashionable wrist-band activity monitors to the latest in customized personal training in Pilates, yoga, Zumba or any other fitness craze that optimistically promises to help you shed pounds from problem zones forever. The insatiable voyeuristic appeal of weight-loss “success stories” continues to sell magazines and TV shows, as well.

In the health sector, the obesity epidemic promises almost limitless opportunity for growth. Whether you are selling the latest in diabetes medications, hip prosthetics or cancer treatments, any real solution to obesity will only cut into your business. What we lack in treatments for obesity we make up for in treatments for obesity related health problems.

Even the health promotion arena is not immune — the obesity epidemic creates and secures countless jobs at public health organizations. And obesity researchers (I add myself to this lot) are secretly grateful for the epidemic, too – after all, why would anyone fund our pet projects if not for the promise of solutions that they offer?"

A team led by Katherine Flegal, an epidemiologist at the National Center for Health Statistics in Hyattsville, Maryland, reported that people deemed 'overweight' by international standards were 6% less likely to die than were those of 'normal' weight over the same time period.

The report on which this astonishing proposition was based was a meta-analysis, ultimately encompassing 2.88 million people.The report lends credibility to those who see fat and obesity as a "paradox" rather than simply a looming health crisis.

Articles like this that present a different perspective are an important reminder to think critically about news, headlines, and research (including this article). It's important to consider how studies are conducted and where funding comes from.

 
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What This Woman Noticed At A Bookstore Says So Much About Society's Obsession With Weight

An article by Refinery29 that explores eating disorders and society's obsession with weight loss.

Let's be honest: we live in a fat-phobic world, a place where the dieting industry is worth $60 billion in the U.S. alone and is really the only industry that profits on failure (because most people who lose weight, gain it back, and then get into a yo-yo cycle.)  Additionally, we have fashion, which promotes unhealthy body expectations, partly so the clothes look the same on a model as they do on a hanger. Digest that for a moment and think then just how important being skinny is.  Lots of people are on the path to skinny nirvana through dieting, exercise, bariatric surgery, and so forth, but the focus on weight loss is especially hard for people with eating disorders.  Obese people are often characterized as "lazy" and of poor moral fibre. Media portrayals often demonize and dehumanize fat people by showing photos only of their bodies, with heads and legs cut off, as if somehow one's abdomen is their only defining feature.

Since eating disorders come in all weights and shapes, fat people can experience a increased stigma, that of being fat and that of being mentally ill. The same applies to underweight people. And then there are the people of "normal" size, whose mental illness may go largely unnoticed because there is an expectation of what an eating disorder looks like.  Here's the thing: any one of the people I have listed can struggle with an eating disorder.  A fat person can struggle with excessive and life-threatening food restriction.  A skinny person can suffer from bingeing and purging.  A normal weight person may suffer in silence with binge eating.  

Let's start challenging the fatphobia in our culture. Let's start treating all bodies as good bodies. Let's start helping all people with eating disorders get treatment and support.  Let's challenge stigma, with 1 in 4 Canadians likely to struggle with a mental illness at some point in their lives. Let's treat all persons with respect and ensure they have access to the assistance they need.

 
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Unknown artist

Here’s How Fatphobia Is Being Marketed to You – And Why So Many of Us Buy Into It

An Everyday Feminism article that explores how profitable fatphobia is.

“...nearly half (47.4%) of overweight people and 29% of obese people were, from a metabolic standpoint, quite healthy.” On the flip side, more than 30% of individuals with “normal” weights were metabolically unhealthy."

Fat is not the problem; stigma, misleading "facts," and diets are.

 
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what I hear when you say I'm doing well in recovery

This piece from The Mighty looks at the mixed feelings that come with recovery from an eating disorder and hearing those words "you're doing well."

"There is nothing harder for me to hear in recovery than hearing I am doing well. It doesn’t make sense, I know. Wouldn’t I want to be told I’m succeeding and making progress in recovery? The truth is, it feels awful because recovering from an eating disorder isn’t a victorious process. It is agonizingly painful and terrifying."

Our loved ones often want to support us in recovery, and as part of that may comment that we look great, or look better.  In theory, we should be pleased about that, right?  Unfortunately, for people of all sizes and with all behaviours, hearing words like that often translate in our heads to, "you're fat" whether or not our journey has involved any weight change.  There is often something about eating disorders that requires validation, "proof" that we really are sick and deserve treatment and support. When we hear that we look good, or look better, we often feel invalidated by these comments and our default is "I need to lose weight." Body comments are common in our society and usually our loved ones mean no harm, but working to remove body comments from your lexicon to anyone, not just people with eating disorders, avoids the risk of inadvertently triggering someone and also avoids feeding into our increasingly body-centric society.  

 
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5 things you shouldn't say to someone with an eating disorder

It can be hard to know what to say to your loved one, friend, colleague, etc. who is suffering. This article provides a little bit of guidance.

Of course, it's always important to check-in with the individual person because everyone's different.

 
Artwork by Gemma Correll

Artwork by Gemma Correll

101 self care tips

Because eating disorders are often too much about shame and guilt, self-hatred, and low self-esteem, it is really important to learn skills like self-care, both in terms of learning to be mindful, but also to provide counter-point to the harmful messages and emotions that come with being eating disordered.

This article by The Mighty lists 101 self-care tips you can explore when it all feels like too much.

 
Artwork by Cecily Brown

Artwork by Cecily Brown

grand unified theory of female pain

Leslie Jamison is the author of the Empathy Exams, a book that looks at the concept of empathy and pain. Beginning with her experience as a medical actor who was paid to act out symptoms for medical students to diagnose, Leslie Jamison’s visceral and revealing essays ask essential questions about our basic understanding of others: How should we care about each other? How can we feel another’s pain, especially when pain can be assumed, distorted, or performed? Is empathy a tool by which to test or even grade each other? 

The Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain is the final essay in the book. It is a long, but excellent read.

 
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unbearable weight: feminism, western culture, & the body

In this essay, Susan Bordo, a well-known feminist author, "analyzes a whole range of issues connected to the body—weight and weight loss, exercise, media images, movies, advertising, anorexia and bulimia, and much more—in a way that makes sense of our current social landscape" (Kathy Pollit, Nation).

I would warn that this article could potentially be a bit triggering. It explores sex and gender in a sometimes graphic way. The conversation of sexual assault comes up.

The essay is also dated and written from a particular perspective. Thus, eating disorders are discussed and considered in a very sociological way and largely look at women's experiences. Still, it is an excellent exploration of gender and the body.

 
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anorexia nervosa: psychopathology as the crystallization of culture

Another essay by Susan Bordo that considers anorexia nervosa and the components of Western culture that contribute to it. Again, this is a dated article that focuses quite heavily on the sociological and gendered aspects of eating disorders. 

 
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eating disorders and the insula - the fault is not in her parents but in her insula

A hypothesis put forward by several researchers looking at impaired insular function in patients with anorexia nervosa.

The insula is an area of the brain that has various functions including: interoceptive awareness, homeostasis, motor control, multimodal sensory processing and sensory binding, and emotional regulation.

 

 

 
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Unconsenting Media

Not an article, but a search engine with a large database of movies and television series that contain images, references, and implications of sexualized violence. It's an excellent way to look at what shows might be triggering or upsetting as a potential viewer. 

 
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applying neurobiology to the treatment of adults with anorexia nervosa

"This paper describes a new neurobiological anorexia nervosa model that shifts focus from solely external influences, such as social and family, to include internal influences that integrate genetic and neurobiological contributions, across the age span. The model serves as a theoretical structure for a new, five-day treatment, outlined in this paper, targeting anorexia nervosa temperament, which integrates neurobiological dimensions into evidence-based treatment interventions. The treatment is in two phases. Phase I is a five day, 40 hour treatment for anorexia nervosa adults. Phase II is the follow-up and is currently being developed."