Stacey Brown, RN, joins us in this episode of Peace Meal to reflect on the role of nursing in eating disorder care. She begins by acknowledging the lack of eating disorder education and training in nursing programs; it wasn’t until she began interacting with patients that she fully understood the impact of these illnesses on every body system. Stacey’s experiences have set her on a mission to speak to nurses at all levels about best practices when caring for patients with eating disorders, including developing strong emotional intelligence. She highlights the importance of every care team member and multidisciplinary collaboration to meet a patient’s full range of needs. The episode concludes with Stacey’s words of wisdom for the next generation of eating disorder nurses.
Katie Gantt, MHS, RD, LDN, RYT, is a registered dietitian who has been working in the field of eating disorders and disordered eating for over five years. Katie is passionate about helping moms have a healthy pregnancy and postpartum period by finding health without dieting and challenging disordered eating patterns. She is the owner of Kathryn Gantt Nutrition where she uses her clinical expertise and yoga training to help moms reconnect with their bodies and their relationship to food in a positive, trauma-informed style. Katie focuses on mindful and intuitive eating, Health At Every Size (HAES), and non-diet approaches when counseling clients and helping parents raise intuitive eaters.
Note: In this blog, we use identity-first language (e.g., “an autistic individual”) to reflect those who embrace autism as an identity category – a diverse way of perceiving and interacting with the world (Taboas et al., 2022; Bury et al., 2020). However, we recognize that this language may not be suitable for everyone in the community. Whenever possible, please ask individuals about the language appropriate for them.
Living with and treating an eating disorder may be complicated by the presence of a co-occurring condition, particularly when the condition shares characteristics with an eating disorder. One such condition that shares some psychopathology with a disordered eating mindset—and is frequently seen alongside an eating disorder diagnosis—is autism spectrum disorder.
There are a number of factors that increase the risk of disordered eating or an eating disorder in an autistic individual. By looking at the nature of both eating disorders and autism spectrum disorders, we can better understand their relationship and improve the detection, care, and treatment of both conditions.
We begin this episode of Peace Meal with guest Maddie Duzyk describing her lived experience with anorexia as it compares to her life in recovery. Reflecting on the everyday impact of her eating disorder, she explains how the illness made it difficult to distinguish between her own values and those of her disorder. Fortunately, treatment and recovery have allowed her to find herself again and reconnect with her interests and roles separate from the illness she once mistook for herself.
As an occupational therapist, Maddie now helps clients on their own recovery journey, including during the often difficult transition from higher levels of care to outpatient life. She shares with us her recent doctoral capstone, which explored the perceptions of social eating behaviors among adolescents with eating disorders, and provides suggestions for those supporting a person with an eating disorder during mealtimes. She ends the podcast by expressing her hope that one day clients and providers alike will recognize and employ occupational therapy as an additional resource in eating disorder recovery.
Our society continues to perpetuate the myth that eating disorders are an issue primarily affecting young, thin white women. While research on eating disorders in marginalized groups has improved, our society has a long way to go to truly understand the scope of eating disorders within underserved populations. For example, though rates of binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa in the Hispanic community are often the same or greater than in non-Hispanic white communities, they often go undetected due to stereotypes about eating disorders (Alegria et al., 2007).
Racism is embedded in the world at large and trickles down to national and state levels, institutions, policies, procedures, and systems of care. Its presence also heavily predicts both mental and physical health outcomes. By educating ourselves on the lived experiences of Hispanic and Latinx Americans and learning how racism operates within the systems that provide services, we can build our collective cultural humility and ultimately improve access to care and health outcomes for this community.
Read on to learn the prevalence of eating disorders in the Hispanic and Latinx population, the factors that influence the development of these illnesses, and the barriers to treatment for this community.
One of the tricky things about mental health problems is that the outside world only sees the tip of the iceberg. The observable behaviors and symptoms are apparent for all to see, but underneath the visible exterior is a complex set of thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and experiences. These are the mechanisms which truly power things like eating disorders and OCD, but for better or worse, they tend to go unnoticed. It makes sense, then, that someone might believe that treating these problems is as simple as telling someone to “just eat” or to “just stop eating.” After all, we have the ability to make choices about our behavior, so shouldn’t we be able to wrangle these symptoms into our control? When a therapist says to resist a compulsion or to follow a meal plan, aren’t they saying that it’s just a matter of pushing through the discomfort?
As you probably know, it’s not quite that simple. Sure, determination and willingness will come in handy, but we have to be careful not to reduce this process to something so simple. The oversimplified American mentality of “picking yourself up by your bootstraps” doesn’t always fit with the complexities of mental health. Tempting as it might be to double down on willpower, it’s actually not a particularly effective way to get things done. Willpower is a finite resource. We inevitably lose steam and end up depleted.
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