“Our bodies are beautiful in every shape, size, and color. We cannot allow ourselves or others to begin a cycle of self-hatred over the bodies that are our lifelong homes.”

Healing Bodies, Healthy Babies is designed to be a resource for clinicians and healthcare professionals, patients, and family and loved ones to help navigate the complex issue of pregnancy and eating disorders.

Watch our latest webinar here

Thoughts & Insights

Conversations with People and Their Eating Disorder

Conversations with People and Their Eating Disorder

By Hattie Rowe
West Virginia University

Talking with a person who has an eating disorder might look different than other conversations. For instance, using words that directly reference appearance can be triggering for those with eating disorders. It has been shown that women with eating disorders spend longer time focusing on words that deal with appearance in comparison to women who do not meet the criteria for an eating disorder (Myers, Ridolfi, & Crowther, 2015). While in everyday conversation you may not notice certain phrases as triggering, people with eating disorders are more sensitive to the type of language directed at them in conversation.

A person with disordered eating may experience an “eating disorder voice” taking over the true identity of the person. It’s helpful to identify these two, conflicting selves. When engaging in conversation, addressing both “selves” or “voices” can help you discern who it is you are really speaking to.

When talking with a loved one who seems hostile, don’t let the “eating disorder voice” control the conversation. Try to remember that the person to whom you are speaking with is struggling with an internal battle that may cause them to be defensive. The goal for quality conversation with a person who has an eating disorder is to speak to their true self. Use empathy, patience, and love to speak to the voice that wants to recover. Although you may be feeling overwhelmed, the eating disorder voice can thrive off of this fear and turn it into your loved one feeling persecuted. It is best to have a conversation after you have prepared yourself and are in a good place emotionally.

Choosing certain words or statements over others might seem miniscule, but it can actually make a big difference in patient recovery. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA),

Here are some general tips on how to have conversations about food, body, and concerns with a patient or loved one who has an eating disorder.

References:

Farrar, T. (2014). Approaching Someone With An Eating Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.mirror-mirror.org/approach.htm

Guarda, A. (2019). Expert Q & A: Eating Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/eating-disorders/expert-q-and-a

Myers, T. A., Ridolfi, D. R., & Crowther, J. H. (2015). Reaction times to appearance-related or non-appearance-related word choice among women with and without eating psychopathology. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 39(2), 204–214. https://doi-org.www.libproxy.wvu.edu/10.1007/s10608-014-9653-5

How to start a discussion with someone you think might have bulimia nervosa. (2018, February 20). Retrieved from https://bulimiaguide.org/ways-to-start-a-discussion-with-someone-who- might-have-bn/

Terminology for Mental Health Professionals

Terminology for Mental Health Professionals

By Hattie Rowe
West Virginia University

As medical knowledge increases, so does responsibility. We are continually enlightened of more sensitive ways to approach conversations with patients. People with eating disorders can be sensitive to others and the vocabulary directed towards them (Kuipers, G., den Hollander, S., van der Ark, L.A., & Bekker, M. 2017). Research has shown that people who have eating disorders focus more on appearance-related words (Myers, Ridolfi, & Crowther, 2015). Staying up-to-date on positive and person-oriented terminology for patients is a responsibility for all who work with individuals who have eating disorders.

The following terms have been proposed by researchers and professionals as more appropriate terms to use in conversation with patients who have eating disorders.

References:

Kuipers, G. S., den Hollander, S., van der Ark, L. A., & Bekker, M. H. J. (2017). Recovery from eating disorder 1 year after start of treatment is related to better mentalization and strong reduction of sensitivity to others. Eating and Weight Disorders, 22, 535–547. doi: 10.1007/s40519-017-0405-x

Lilienfeld, S.O., Sauvigne, K.C., Lynn, S.J., Cautin, R.L., Latzman, R.D., Waldman, I.D. Fifty psychological and psychiatric terms to avoid: A list of inaccurate, misleading, misused, ambiguous, and logically confused words and phrases. Frontiers in Psychology. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01100

Media Resources. Retrieved from https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/media-resources/

Myers, T. A., Ridolfi, D. R., & Crowther, J. H. (2015). Reaction times to appearance-related or non-appearance-related word choice among women with and without eating psychopathology. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 39, 204–214.
doi: 10.1007/s10608-014-9653-5

Nielsen, E., Padmanathan, P., and Knipe, D. (2016) Commit* to change? A call to end the publication of the phrase ‘commit* suicide’. Wellcome Open Research, 1:2.
doi: 10.12688/wellcomeopenres.10333.1

Puhl, R. M., Peterson J. L., Luedicke J. (2013) Motivating or stigmatizing? Public perceptions of weight-related language used by health providers. International Journal of Obesity. 37: 612-9. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2012.110

Spencer-Thomas, S. (2018). Language matters: Why we don’t say “Committed suicide”. International Risk Management Institute, INC.
Retrieved from https://www.irmi.com/articles/expert-commentary/language-matters- committed-suicide

Weissman, R. S., Becker, A. E., Bulik, C. M., Frank, G. K. W., Klump, K. L., Steiger, H., … Walsh, B. T. (2016). Speaking of that: Terms to avoid or reconsider in the eating disorders field. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 49, 349–353.
doi: 10.1002/eat.22528

Breastfeeding While in Recovery

Breastfeeding While in Recovery

By Hattie Rowe
West Virginia University

Breastfeeding is a unique and personal choice for every woman. The decision whether or not to breastfeed should be made by the mother, and not by her eating disorder. Research has shown that women who experience eating disorders and body image issues are less likely to initiate breastfeeding and more likely to wean their child sooner than average (Micali et al., 2009; Zerwas & Claydon, 2014; Claydon et al., 2014). (more…)

Medical Disclaimer:

All content found on the Healing Bodies Healthy Babies website, including but not limited to: text, images, audio, and/or other formats were created for informational purposes only. There are possibilities for continuing medical education credits which are clearly identified. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor, go to the emergency department, or call 911 immediately. Healing Bodies Healthy Babies does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on healingbodieshealthybabies.com.
This site also contains some source material and links to external websites. Healing Bodies Healthy Babies is not responsible for the claims of those external websites.