Did you know that 40-50 percent of developing an eating disorder is genetic, and 50-60 percent is psychosocial?
Anxiety, depression, cultural issues, family dynamics, personality traits, and trauma or loss are factors that cause eating disorders.
And, today, as technology evolves at a fast pace, media coverage such as commercials, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook, has contributed toward and are prime sources that cause people to strive to fit-in. You ask fit-in where? Fit in an unrealistic world—-a society that suggest you must look, feel, and be perfect. That can very well be the reason why many people are dealing with major depression, which affects their family, schools, jobs, sleeping, eating habits, and social development.
Are you suffering from an eating disorder, afraid to seek help, or think there is no hope? There is help! Whether it’s Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge eating, and for men “Bigorexia, and/or manorexia,” Jennifer Lombard of Eating Recovery Center can help you get on the road of recovery. Check out the interview with Jennifer below.
Q: What are warning signs that a person suffers eating disorders?
A: Depression or isolation, withdrawal from family and friends, and avoiding social activities, obsession over appearance, size or food, helping with the preparation of holiday meals but not eating them, excessive exercise, even outdoors in poor winter weather conditions, and disappearance after meals
Q: Why do Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram and YouTube host pro-eating disorder, “thinspiration”?
A: These types of web sites have been referred to as “pro-ana” or “pro-mia” web sites (as in pro anorexia and pro bulimia). There is no question that parents should be monitoring for a child’s access to these types of sites, as they can provide tools for how to develop and sustain eating disorder behaviors. From a recovery standpoint, these types of sites make me sad. I see them as a way for individuals who are struggling to try and connect, albeit in a life-threatening way. Having an eating disorder can be incredibly isolating, and this may be in, in some way, an attempt to have a social connection through the illness.
Q: Is a person’s family history an indication of whether one is at risk for eating disorders?
A: 40-50 percent of the risk of developing an eating disorder is genetic, and 50-60 percent is psychosocial. Eating disorders are caused by a combination of several factors: genetics, such as anxiety or depression; cultural issues, such as a pressure to achieve an unrealistic body image or high expectations to excel academically or in a sport; family dynamics, which could include conflict or enmeshment; personality traits, such as conflict-avoidance, perfectionism and sensitivity to criticism; and trauma or loss.
Q: Who do eating disorders affect most, girls, boys, or both? Why has there been a rise of eating disorders in teenage boys?
A: Of the estimated 30 million people in the United States with eating disorders, about 10 million of them are men, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.
Q: Can you explain manorexia, “male anorexia,” and how it affects men?
A: Male anorexia, also referred to as “Bigorexia” refers to the thousands of men who are so obsessed with “bulking up” and “building” up their bodies that they begin to go to such extremes such as over-exercising, dieting excessively, taking an excess of supplements and laxatives, and using steroids.
The male body in the media has an impact on how males, especially developing males, perceive their own bodies. We have seeing images of males become increasingly hairless, with no chest or arm hair, displaying six-pack abs, bulging biceps and no fat on their bodies. There is also a common image of the rock-star thin male whose clothes hang off his body from his shoulders, perhaps capturing an image of eternal adolescence. While we have always seen images of males in sports, there is now more emphasis on exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle with the male being depicted as an example of what your body could look like from doing this sport than the satisfaction from the sport itself. Males are being exposed to the same extreme ideals of body perfection as females.
Q: You indicate that one-half of 4th grader girls are on a diet, what motivates dieting at that stage of development?
A: Our culture does play a part in contributing to the development of eating disorders. While negative images and commentary about weight appearance do not directly cause an eating disorder, they certainly don’t help. For those who are prone to develop disordered eating, chronic dieting, obsessive exercise, body hatred and other self-harm behaviors, our culture certainly perpetuates an unrealistic ideal. Children as young as eight years old have indicated in studies that they are “afraid to be fat” and have tried dieting. And while we emphasize balance when it comes to food, the language we use does not support this concept. We talk about “good” and “bad” foods, “junk” and “healthy” – in other words, extremes that often confuse children and teach them to not trust their own internal hunger and satiety cues.
What I suggest parents do is to teach that there is food for fuel and food for fun, and too much of one over the other is imbalanced. As a parent, it’s important to guide the balance, but to never vilify certain foods. The moment you do that, you automatically set a child up to ruminate or obsess about it. Imagine if I said to not think of the color blue all day. The moment I suggest that, you’d probably find yourself thinking about it off and on throughout the day. The same is true for food.
Q: How does anorexia Nervosa and mental illness relate?
A: Eating disorders are actually among the deadliest mental illnesses, carrying complexities unmatched by almost any other disease. Between 5-20 percent of individuals struggling with anorexia will die from the disorder.
Q: You talk about “Orthorexia”, the new eating disorder term used to describe going to extreme measures to eat healthfully, could you provide further details about this eating disorder?
A: The term has been used to describe the latest trend in disordered eating: going to such extreme measures to eat healthfully and cut things out of one’s diet that it actually becomes an obsession which can lead to malnutrition or even death. Orthorexia was named in 1996 but has yet to be accepted as a formal diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the bible of psychiatric illnesses. Some therapists see it as an eating disorder, others as a manifestation of OCD. Some doctors think a separate diagnosis is unnecessary. There’s no estimate on how common it might be.
With the growing trends in diet and nutrition – from gluten-free to paleo to raw to vegan to lacto-ovo – the danger of preoccupation with a defined diet which bleeds over into eating disorder territory is a very real issue today. People with orthorexic tendencies often hide behind their “dietary restrictions” as a socially acceptable excuse to restrict their eating, which on the surface often looks like a sincere commitment to “healthy eating.”
Q: Four out of 10 Americans either have suffered from or have known someone who has suffered from an eating disorder. And, between 5-20 percent of those suffering from the disorder will die, this is quite a number, what does your organization do to bring awareness regarding these numbers?
A: Having recovered from anorexia 17 years ago, I know first-hand that treatment options were incredibly limited. There were very few treatment centers at that time of my own personal struggle, and insurance often did not cover the cost of treatment. Fortunately, much of this has changed. We were motivated to create a program that not only provides research-based, effective treatment from a medical, nutritional and psychological standpoint, but that most importantly has the needs of the patient always in mind. Providing compassionate care is one of the most important components of our program. In addition, I lecture extensively on the topics of eating disorders and body image issues to adolescents, families and professionals in the Sacramento area and beyond.
Jennifer Lombardi, MFT, serves as Executive Director for Eating Recovery Center of California. During her tenure with the treatment center, she has served in numerous roles including Chief Admissions Officer, Primary Therapist and Director of Marketing and Outreach. Prior to her work in the field of eating disorders, Jennifer worked for nearly ten years in the field of public relations and received extensive training in working with at-risk youth. She has extensive experience in crisis communications and media relations, and has served on numerous boards and committees for both private and public agencies. Jennifer attended California State University Sacramento, where she received her undergraduate degree in Government/Journalism and her Master’s degree in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling. Recovered herself from anorexia for more than 20 years, Jennifer lectures extensively on the topics of eating disorders and body image issues to adolescents, families and professionals.