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The Body’s Built-in Safety Nets

Our bodies are capable of amazing things, and there is a lot going on in there to keep us alive and attempt to make sure that we are functioning at our best. When we upset the optimal levels that our body needs to function, there are coping mechanisms that take place as built-in safety nets to help us survive. There are also specific things that happen in the presence of an eating disorder, and some of these can be exhibited as signs or symptoms to warn us of the underlying issues. For example, in times of starvation or malnutrition, when we are not getting enough energy through calories consumed, our bodies attempt to slow down metabolism in order to conserve energy1. One of the ways that the body accomplishes this is by lowering its’ body temperature. Blood circulation is decreased, and blood is conserved around the internal organs for protection, which causes a lack of warm blood flow to the extremities of the body such as the hands and feet. The blood that is sitting in the extremities gets cold due to the lack of circulation, and thus causes the hands and feet to feel especially cold. Another reason for always feeling cold is the loss of the body’s insulating layer of fat, which is normally used to keep the body warm2. Individuals with eating disorders sometimes explain feeling cold often and this is why it occurs. If this is something that is happening for you or a loved one, it’s important to speak with a health care professional to let them know. Our bodies have a specific temperature range where they function optimally, and a lower temperature range can lead to dangerous health complications.s

Other adaptive changes that the body makes in times of stress can include a reduced respiration rate or hypotension (low blood pressure), which are both also due to the slowing down of the body’s metabolism to conserve energy3. There can also be growth of a fine hair on various parts of the body in an effort to keep the body warm and insulated and try to regulate temperature. This hair growth is referred to as lanugo4. With all of this being said, when these warning signs appear it is extremely important to seek help from a professional before trying to reintroduce a higher calorie intake. The reintroduction process needs to be gradual to avoid refeeding syndrome, where your body cannot adapt quickly enough to the change and cannot cope properly. After prolonged starvation, the body shifts to get energy from different places, and is potentially deficient in essential vitamins and minerals. When refeeding, the metabolism can overwork itself trying to make up for lost tissues and it can be difficult to adapt again to a new change5. Consulting with a physician or dietitian first can help to make personal recommendations while also monitoring nutrient levels and maintaining safety above all in the recovery process.


References

1. Gaudiani, J.L. 2015. Why feeling cold can be a dangerous sign in anorexia nervosa. Retrieved from: http://www.gaudianiclinic.com/gaudiani-clinic-blog/2015/12/21/why-feeling-cold-can-be-a-dangerous-sign-in-anorexia-nervosa

2. Eating Disorders Glossary. Hypothermia (low body temperature). Retrieved from: http://glossary.feast-ed.org/3-treatment-medical-management/hypothermia

3. Ahacic, J.A. 2016. Nursing made incredibly easy! Vol 14-2Retrieved from: https://www.nursingcenter.com/cearticle?an=00152258-201603000-00007&journal_ID=417221&issue_ID=3331856

4. Mascolo, M. 2018. Anorexia recovery and overcoming physical side effects of an eating disorder. Retrieved from: https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/information/bulimia/anorexia-recovery-and-overcoming-physical-side-effects-of-an-eating-disorder

5. Grubiak, K. 2018. Restoring nutritional health in anorexia nervosa recovery. Retrieved from: https://www.verywellmind.com/restoring-nutritional-health-in-anorexia-nervosa-recovery-4115081

 

What is Thin Privilege?

Thin privilege, related to weight bias, stems from the unrealistic ‘ideal’ of a thin body type for everyone, or for a preferred thin body type. It supports the idea that those with a thin body type have more advantages than those who do not. These advantages can be represented in scenarios such as easily finding your size while shopping at trendy stores, being offered help versus being told that nothing will fit you, not being judged by what you choose to eat, finding a place to sit on a bus or an airplane, and even finding a seat that properly and comfortably supports you. Others include not being associated with labels such as “lazy”, having more employment opportunities, receiving unbiased healthcare, and being accepted by peers, colleagues, and family members1. The adverse effects that result from those who lack these advantages can be detrimental to one’s well-being and include less engagement in self-care behaviour2. These unjust social advantageslead to not only unequal access to resources or health inequity, but also poor interpersonal relationships4.

This is not to say that judgment can’t be felt by thin individuals as well. Just because someone has thin privilege, does not mean that they feel accepted, have high self-esteem, find clothes that fit them, or necessarily have all of the said advantages noted above. This is why thin privilege can be such a contentious topic. It’s important for us to remember that no one is immune to hardship and we are each fighting our own battles. In addition, those who are thin due to serious health issues or poverty, are most definitely not privileged5. However, recognizing that thin privilege exists can help to bring awareness to the topic, and hopefully end the stigma that surrounds it. It’s crucial for us to be aware of how such biases can be harmful to those of any body weight.

One way in which we can combat this is by educating ourselves and others about the existence of thin privilege, because being aware of it can help us to be more aware of our own actions and biases as well. We can also educate ourselves and others about dated information regarding health, such as the use of BMI as a determinant of health. Fortunately, with the help of the HAES® movement, education regarding Health At Every Size is making it’s way around. It’s about time! Every body is deserving and should be treated with equal respect.

The more we know, the more capable we are of standing up to unfair practices. It’s essential that we talk to each other about circumstances like this so that we can support each other and prevent them from happening in the future. We are all deserving of equal opportunities and body equity is something that is to be celebrated. So let’s rise above and instead of judging, remember to practice love and compassion to others but also to ourselves.


References

  1. Bruce, K. (2018). What exactly is “thin privilege”? Retrieved from https://www.kristinabruce.com/blog/what-exactly-is-thin-privilege
  2. Kater, K. (2015). Hope for the future: transforming the destructive assumptions of thin privilege and weight stigma. Retrieved from: http://nedic.ca/conference/closing-keynote-%E2%80%93-april-17th-2015
  3. Bacon, Linda. (2010). Health at every size : the surprising truth about your weight. Dallas, TX :BenBella Books
  4. Nutter, S., Russell-Mayhew, S., Arthur, N., Ellard, J.H. (2018). Weight bias and social justice: implications for education and practice. Retrieved from: https://link-springer-com.proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/content/pdf/10.1007%2Fs10447-018-9320-8.pdf
  5. Nash, M., Warin, M. (2017). Squeezed between identity politics and intersectionality: a critique of ‘thin privilege’ in fat studies Feminist Theory Vol. 18. Retrieved from: https://journals-sagepub-com.proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/doi/pdf/10.1177/1350506812456461

 

Breakfast: Is it Really the Most Important Meal of the Day?

Many of us have been told since we were children that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Truth is, it’s not a myth! Eating within an hour of waking “breaks the fast” (ie. break-fast) and helps our body to wake up and get ready for the day. In order to tackle our daily tasks, we must first fuel our brains and provide our bodies with substantial energy to thrive during the day. Eating meals and snacks throughout the day not only provide us structure but also assists in the recovery process by helping our body get used to adequate nutrition again.

What does “breaking the fast” really mean? Well, during the night our bodies are in a fasted state which means that bodily processes slow down to rest. This includes our breathing, our heart rate and digestion. Upon awakening, our bodies seek energy primarily in the form of carbohydrates which is utilized to supply fuel to our brains. Further, the digestive tract begins its’ natural rhythm as it knows that food is on its way.Consuming breakfast after the night’s fast helps to regulate blood sugars and hormones such as cortisol, the “stress hormone”.By fuelling our bodies with food, cortisol levels naturally balance out and our body is no longer in a stressed state due to the overnight fast.2

Eating breakfast also helps to set up our appetite. Hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin, are noticeably balanced after consuming a meal.2 A large piece of eating disorder recovery is re-learning our hunger and fullness cues and eating breakfast can be tremendously helpful in this endeavour. People who do not eat breakfast will often notice increased feelings of fatigue and brain fog as the day goes on.The cycle perpetuates itself, often impacting cognition and the ability to learn.4

Nutrition supports growth and bodily functions. For example, during infancy, childhood and adolescence, nutrition supports cognitive development and growth. During the later years, nutrition helps to maintain a strong immunity and maintain cognitive performance.3,5 Many studies illustrate the connection of eating a nutrient dense breakfast to increased academic performance and sustained energy. Eating breakfast also enhances concentration, memory and alertness.2,3 It provides us with the brain power to critically think and reason out outcomes during problem solving.Consuming regular meals and snacks helps in meeting nutrient and energy needs, facilitates the development of normalized eating patterns and reduces the likelihood of disordered eating.6

Consuming breakfast is one of the first nutrition goals when working with our dietitians to overcome an eating disorder.By engaging in regular eating for recovery, one will recognize and respond to their hunger cues and become more in tuned with their body providing it with sustained energy throughout the day.This is also known as mechanical eating, suggesting that individuals should eat every 2-4 hours while awake. This technique disrupts disordered eating, grazing, binge eating, purging and relieves anxiety associated to food rules.4 Committing to this nutrition goal benefits the individual by providing them with structure to their day and encourages routine to plan, prepare and prioritize meals.4 Ultimately it is protective to recovery as it allows the body to heal and repair and stimulates a positive mind set.


References

1. Betts, J. A., Chowdhury, E. A., Gonzalez, J. T., Richardson, J. D., Tsintzas, K., & Thompson, D. (2016). Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? In Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 75(04), 464–474. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0029665116000318

2.  Spence, C. (2017). Breakfast: The most important meal of the day? In International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science, 8, 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijgfs.2017.01.003

3. Affinita, A., Catalani, L., Cecchetto, G., De Lorenzo, G., Dilillo, D., Donegani, G., Zuccotti, G. V. (2013). Breakfast: a multidisciplinary approach. In Italian Journal of Pediatrics, 39(1), 44. https://doi.org/10.1186/1824-7288-39-44

4. Ferrer-Cascales, R., Sánchez-SanSegundo, M., Ruiz-Robledillo, N., Albaladejo-Blázquez, N., Laguna-Pérez, A., & Zaragoza-Martí, A. (2018). Eat or skip breakfast? the important role of breakfast quality for health-related quality of life, stress and depression in spanish adolescents.International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(8), 1781. doi:10.3390/ijerph15081781

5. B, C. (2018). The Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Eating Breakfast. In Brookhaven Blog. Retrieved from https://www.brookhavenretreat.com/cms/blog-22/item/3090-mental-physical-benefits-eating-breakfast

6. Fleming, K. (2018). Regular eating for recovery. In Center for Clinical Interventions. Retrieved from https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/~/media/95F9A1FC3F1C4D0A92CD31B09166FDDB.ashx

 

Sick Day Management: How to Stay on Track With Recovery When You Have a Cold

Over the winter months, we welcome frigid temperatures, frequent snowfalls and of course, cold and flu season”. During this time, we begin to experience a weakened immunity due to the change in weather, the lack of sunlight and shorter days.1Certain measures can be taken to avoid getting sick, such as frequent hand washing and getting the flu vaccine.2It’s also helpful to  get adequate sleep, stay hydrated and nourish our bodies with food.

Sick day management can be challenging. You may be experiencing fatigue, congestion,  and a lack of an appetite.3When we’re not feeling so well, it’s normal for our appetites to be suppressed. Our days may feel dull and dragged out and our energy levels lower than usual. During recovery from an eating disorder, this can become more challenging and requires extra attention to stay on track with recovery.4Efforts should be made in order to consume a sufficient amount of energy required for eating disorder recovery and also to recover from the cold or flu. Since hunger cues may be affected, without proper attention an individual can easily under-eat, become dehydrated and as a result prolong their sickness and regress in their recovery.5

When we are ill, our body’s defense army will work extra hard to attack the virus impairing our wellness. This is why maintaining regular eating habits and nourishing our bodies is crucial to repairing and strengthening our immune system. It can be beneficial for individuals in eating disorder recovery to practice mechanical eating during times of sickness. Eating based the clock, every 2-4 hours, will help meet energy and micronutrient needs despite feeling unwell.5Intuitive eating should be avoided as appetites tend to be suppressed during times of sickness.

Since we know that the common cold can diminish our hunger and speed up satiation, an easy way to manage our energy intake during recovery is to choose more nutrient dense foods and drink energy rich fluids5. A simple way to add extra energy to our meals and snacks is to use full fats in recipes and meals, such as rich cheeses, full fat yogurts and heavy creams. Increasing the nutrient content in beverages is highly recommended and can be accomplished by replacing water with milk, soda or fruit juices..Choosing to make soups and smoothies when we are feeling sick can also been a good choice rather than consuming heavy meals when our appetites are suppressed. Finally, staying warm and scheduling in adequate time to rest is imperative for your body to heal sufficiently.


References

  1. Influenza (Flu). (2018). In Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season.htm
  2. Allan, G. M., Arroll, B. (2014). Prevention and treatment of the common cold: making sense of the evidence. InCanadian Medical Association journal186(3), 190-9.
  3. Influenza (Flu). (2018). In Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/coldflu.htm
  4. Karges, C. (2016). Dealing With Sickness: Maintaining Recovery During the Holiday Season. In Eating Disorder Hope. Retrieved from https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/blog/dealing-with-sickness-maintaining-recovery-during-the-holiday-season
  5. Leech, R. M., Worsley, A., Timperio, A., & Mcnaughton, S. A. (2015). Understanding meal patterns: Definitions, methodology and impact on nutrient intake and diet quality. In Nutrition Research Reviews,28(01), 1-21. doi:10.1017/s0954422414000262

 

 

 

Diet Culture in Disguise

Diet culture is defined as “a system that values weight, shape and size over health and wellbeing”. 1 It can be very difficult to spot and is very misleading.  The culture of dieting is led by an industry that claims to encompass “wellness and health”.This industry provides the means for society to internalize the thin ideal and practise behaviours that are likely to stem into social, mental and physical issues.There is a great emphasis on health and becoming the best version of oneself however, this can create unrealistic perceptions and ideologies. The preoccupation with health foods and health journeys in general is diet culture in disguise.

As individuals, we should all be aware of diet culture and obtain the appropriate skillset to be able to recognize its’ bias and translate its; language for what it truly is. Corporations have become smarter and are choosing language which captures the attention of their audience. The words “health” and “wellness” are largely misused in this industry and have negatively impacted mindsets resulting in mental and physical harm.3 There is a constant pressure to uphold the social construct of beauty that society has laid out for us with the influence of the media, role models and misused terminology.We have all become victims of diet culture when we believe that beauty is defined by perfection and that certain shapes and sizes carry more value over others.

Children as young as 6 years old have begun to express curiosity about their body weight and shape, as well as a fear of becoming “fat”. In fact, 40 to 60% of elementary school girls have become victims of body shaming and have expressed their concerns for body image.4,5 This is the age for children to grow, experience and find their voice. They are meant to carry body fat, experience growth spurts and explore their appetites. This is the face of our next generation and without proper guidance they can be easily persuaded by negative body ideals that promote negative behaviors congruent with eating disorders and body checking.6

Diet culture reaches society from every possible angle and medium. It is important to be able to identify what triggers us, then prevent the honouring and promotion of negative behaviours and mindsets. Triggers can include messages sent out by the food police mislabelling foods and shaming food groups. People are afraid of being an outcast, making the “wrong” food choices and possibly being bullied as a result.6 With this, we are not respecting our bodies and honouring our rights to nourish our mind, body and soul. When we become preoccupied with food and exercising, we then fall into the hands of diet culture.3If we try to interfere with our bodies’ natural rhythm and happy state, we are pushed away from our “set point” and damage our metabolism in the long run.7

The environment that we surround ourselves with is the best indicator as to whether one will ignore or engage in diet culture. Eating disorders stem from the environmental contribution of the sociocultural idealization for thinness. 8 It is important not to feel overwhelmed by fad diet culture and to discourage weight loss as a goal.We need to pay attention to the language that we are using. Our choice of words and demeanor can be misread and pose harm to an individual, especially if the individual is vulnerable to diet culture or is in recovery from an eating disorder.

There are certain pressures from our society to embark on a fitness journey or exercise program. Following a new year, every magazine, morning show, and advertisement focuses on the misleading ideology that health is defined by a number and size. It is a misconception that in order to be healthy, we need to be thin, exercise vigorously and encourage behaviours that can consequentially cause harm.3,6 It is important to experience autonomy and freedom when moving your body and to mitigate the stresses and pressure to exercise by media blasts.

As human beings we eat to nourish our bodies with nutrients and energy to meet our physiological needs and bodily functions. Food is meant to be celebrated; it allows us to fuel our systems, form connections and experience a level of satisfaction and pleasure.9  For decades, society has allowed food to be mislabelled into categories of “good or bad”.Many words are used in the media to suggest “good food” such as superfoods, health foods, detoxifying agents and low calorie, to name a few. By feeding into this perceptual bias, we have become consumed with diet culture and are likely to be missing out on sacral moments and pleasurable experiences.

“Clean eating” and “meal prepping” is also being taken to the extreme and being promoted to support the wellness of individuals.2,3 These are more examples of diet culture in disguise.10 Orthorexia Nervosa is described as a form of dysfunctional eating and preoccupation with healthy living. It shares characteristics with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Anorexia Nervosa.11 People who become preoccupied with healthy living usually live by food rules that involves the elimination of a food group, energy restriction, consuming cheat meals and other compensatory behaviours.10This leads to shame and guilt and welcomes an opportunity for body distortion, negative relationships with food and isolation. Ultimately, this preoccupation with food can trigger emotional dissatisfaction and pose threats to our wellbeing.11

Once we take the stance and abolish diet talk, weight shaming and unrealistic beauty ideals, we can welcome a life free of restriction and control. Diet culture can be powerful, but can be defeated as we spread awareness of diet culture in disguise and begin to refuse its’ enticing but unrealistic promises. By changing the shift of self-destruction to self-actualization, we can focus our energy on living life to the fullest and reaching our greatest potential.


References

  1. Upson, S. (2017). Diet Culture 101. In My Signature Nutrition; Nutrition Education & Councelling. Retrived from http://www.mysignaturenutrition.com/2017/05/20/diet-culture-
  2. Chiu, A. (2018). The new Weight Watchers is all about ‘wellness.’ Critics say it’s ‘diet culture’ in disguise. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/09/25/weight-watchers-rebrands-critics-say-its-another-disguise-for-the-diet-culture/?utm_term=.01023d49cd99
  3. Hesse-Biber, S., Leavy, P., Quinn, C. E., & Zoino, J. (2006). The mass marketing of disordered eating and Eating Disorders: The social psychology of women, thinness and culture.In Women’s Studies International Forum,29(2), 208-224. doi:10.1016/j.wsif.2006.03.007
  4. Cash, T. F., & Smolak, L. (2011). Body image: A handbook of science, practice, and prevention. In Guilford Press.
  5. Statistics and Research on Eating Disorders. In National Eating Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/statistics-research-eating-disorders
  6. Lawler, M. & Nixon, E. J. (2011). Body Dissatisfaction Among Adolescent Boys and Girls: The Effects of Body Mass, Peer Appearance Culture and Internalization of Appearance Ideals In Journal of Youth Adolescence. Retrieved from https://doi-org.proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/10.1007/s10964-009-9500-2
  7. Set Point Theory. In Center for Clinical Interventions.(2018)Retrieved fromhttps://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/~/media/CCI/Mental%20Health%20Professionals/Eating%20Disorders/Eating%20Disorders%20-%20Information%20Sheets/Eating%20Disorders%20Information%20Sheet%20-%2024%20-%20Set%20Point%20Theory.pdf
  8. Culbert, K. M., Racine, S. E., & Klump, K. L. (2015). Research Review: What we have learned about the causes of eating disorders – a synthesis of sociocultural, psychological, and biological research. In J Child Psychol Psychiatry, 56(11), 1141-1164. 
  9. Fleming, K. (2018) Normal eating Vs Disordered eating. In Center for Clinical Interventions. Retrieved from https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/~/media/CCI/Mental%20Health%20Professionals/Eating%20Disorders/Eating%20Disorders%20-%20Information%20Sheets/Eating%20Disorders%20Information%20Sheet%20-%2022%20-%20Normal%20Eating%20vs.%20Disordered%20Eating.pdf
  10. Fleming, K. (2018). “Clean Eating”: When “Healthy” Eating Becomes Unhealthy. In Center for Clinical Interventions. Retrieved from https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/~/media/CCI/Mental%20Health%20Professionals/Eating%20Disorders/Eating%20Disorders%20-%20Information%20Sheets/Eating%20Disorders%20Information%20Sheet%20-%2007%20-%20Clean%20Eating.pdf
  11. Orthorexia Nervosa. In Ketly Eating Disorders.Retrieved fromhttps://keltyeatingdisorders.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Orthorexia-Nervosa-Fact-Sheet.pdf

 

 

New Year’s Resolutions: Helping or Hindering Recovery?

Following the holiday season, there comes the time of year where people tend to reflect on all the experiences and milestones that they have accomplished and begin to assess what they can change.  January 1st becomes the marked date where resolutions are made in hopes to change a habit, better yourself or make new commitments to name a few.  Many see it as an opportunity to leave certain habits or negative vibes behind and start fresh with a new year. Some may even say “new year, new me”1. This particular time of year can be very exciting but also very triggering for individuals living with disordered eating. There are societal pressures encouraging many people to become the best version of themselves1. What we hear less of is that this can backfire and cause people to make unrealistic goals or create negative mindsets. By being kind to yourself, we can choose to either make helpful, healing resolutions or opt out of resolutions altogether! Either way, we can reach our goals while embracing self-love and self-acceptance.

We have noticed that the majority of people who make new year’s resolutions strive for perfection. They make too many goals with the hopes to change old habits or make major life changes all at once1. This can be quite overwhelming! To no surprise, the University of Scranton noted that only 8% of people successfully translate their resolutions into their lifestyle while 92% fail to continue2. Why is this? When we make too many goals at once, it can be hard to keep track and sustain each goal; creating a negative attitude towards the rest. Guilt and shame suddenly overwhelm our thoughts and our abilities to succeed. Just like eating disorder recovery, making a change in life requires steps and should be regarded as a journey3.

Whether the goal is to set boundaries, practice more self-compassion, budget your money, or incorporate a new self-care activity, there is sure to be some regression and progression. SMART goals may be a helpful tool in helping you to sustain a change or successfully incorporate new year’s resolution into our lifestyles. SMART goals represents the need for goals to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time based4. It is very easy to get caught up in the pressure in making resolutions and dismissing reality. By making your resolutions a journey, you maybegin to understand the process. It it may even mean that you take a few steps back before you can take a few steps forward.

Especially around this time of year, there is a great emphasis and focus on the word “health”. A lot of resolutions stem from a negative mindset of wanting to make changes to our weight, eating patterns and body shape1. This can be triggering to many individuals, especially those who are on their journey to recovery. It is important to consider your audience when discussing anything around food and exercise to ensure you are not risking harm to your peers. We all need to be gentle with ourselves, but especially as we are in the process of healing and can be easily influenced by the negative body ideals, social media blasts and diet culture surrounding us.

It is important to be conscious of helpful versus hindering resolutions. Individuals who are in recovery from an eating disorder can be susceptible to the diet culture language and can easily fall into disordered thoughts, behaviours and patterns if they are not mindful. Over-exercising and food rules (just to name a few) can hinder recovery and cause regression. Try to be gentle with yourself, acknowledge how far you have come and embrace your accomplishments. Remain aware of your triggers and strive for a mindset that is free from restriction, rules and perfection. By shifting focus from a new resolution to the journey of recovery, it may be easier to focus on nourishing your body and make yourself a priority each and every day.

If you are someone who finds goal-setting or new year resolutions helpful and healthful, here are some ideas:

Begin everyday with positive affirmations.

Look in the mirror and remind yourself how strong, courageous and beautiful you are.  By doing this, you will begin each day with a positive mindset and know that you can overcome any challenges that you may be faced with.

Focus on your well-being.

Do something each day that you love.  Take this time for yourself to reflect and relax.  This can be as simple as reading a book, journaling, disconnecting from social media, taking a bath or baking something delicious.

Make yourself a priority.

Take charge and do what’s best for you and do not be afraid to remove yourself from a situation that may hinder your recovery.  Practise intuitive eating and self-love.

Spend time with your loved ones. 

Spend more time with family members, call a friend or plan a social gathering.  Embracing your support system will benefit your well-being and enhance your confidence.



References

  1. Bradley, G. (2018). New Year’s Resolutions That Will Actually Make You Feel Good. In National Eating disorders. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/7-new-years-resolutions-will-actually-make-you-feel-good
  2. New Years Resolution Statistics. (2018). Statistics Brain Research Institute. Retrieved from https://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/
  3. Are New Year’s Resolutions helpful in Eating Disorder Recovery?. (2016). In Eating Disorder Hope. Retrieved from https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/blog/resolutions-eating-disorder-recovery
  4. Effective goal setting: applying SMART goals. (2010). In Healthcare Registration. Retrieved from http://link.galegroup.com.proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/apps/doc/A234795397/AONE?u=lond95336&sid=AONE&xid=95cc921e

Hydration Nation

Did you know that several types of beverages and many different foods can all contribute to your hydration status throughout the day? This means that your daily fluid intake for hydration is not limited to just water. The daily recommendations for water are about 3.7L for men, and 2.7Lfor women; however, the amount of fluid needed each day varies between individuals and depends on various factors such as age and activity level.1Hydrating fluids can come from many different sources, as will be discussed in this blog post.

Drinking water is a great way to stay hydrated, but sometimes we may want to drink something a little more flavourful. Adding some fruits, cucumber, or mint to water can help add some flavour, but there are also several other types of beverages that can hydrate our bodies and contribute to our daily fluid intake. These fluids include: soft drinks, sports drinks, juice, milk, broth, coffee, and tea.All of these beverages are a great choice for hydration because they all have a high water content. Many soft drinks contain between 89 to 99 percent water, along with other ingredients and flavourings.2Similarly, sports drinks have a high water content and also contain carbohydrates and electrolytes that help keep the body in balance during intense exercise. Fruit and vegetable juices are composed of primarily water, unless they are concentrated. Juices also contain vitamins and carbohydrates that fuel our bodies. Likewise, water is the main constituent in animal milks, ranging from 83 to 91 percent.3Animal milks are also a good source of protein, calcium, and vitamin D. Similarly, plant-based milks, nut milks, and broth are all composed of primarily water and contain other nutrients.

There is a common misconception that coffee, tea, and other caffeinated beverages are dehydrating due to the fact that caffeine can induce fluid excretion. Although it is true that large amounts of caffeine can increase an individual’s need to urinate, the amount of caffeine in a regular coffee or tea is not sufficient enough to disturb fluid balance. Caffeine can cause mild fluid loss when consumed in large doses of more than 500 mg (about 5 cups of coffee).4Furthermore, the water content in most caffeinated beverages outweighs the possible caffeine-induced fluid loss.5Therefore, it is possible to enjoy caffeinated beverages throughout the day while hydrating your body, but remember, all foods and beverages fit in moderation.

It may seem as though all fluids available to us are hydrating, however, alcohol is an exception. Alcoholic beverages do not count towards fluid intake for hydration because they promote fluid excretion and dehydration in any quantity.6In addition, strong alcoholic beverages do not contain enough water to replace lost fluids. If you chose to consume alcohol, make sure to drink enough water to replace lost fluids.

There are several foods that have a high water content and can help hydrate our bodies. Many fruits and vegetables are composed of more than 80 percent water. Some examples include watermelon, tomatoes, strawberries, oranges, lettuce, celery, and cucumber. Some simple ways to incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet are eating them as a snack, making a fruit and/or vegetable salad, or making a smoothie using fruits and vegetables. Both lettuce and zucchini have very mild flavours and are packed with water, nutrients, and fibre, which makes them a great addition to smoothies. Soups and yogurt are also relatively rich in water. Note that most packaged and processed foods have a lower water content in order to increases their shelf life.

Water is essential for survival. It is responsible for lubricating joints, making nutrients accessible for the body, transporting nutrients and waste, and regulating temperature.7Common signs of dehydration include thirst, dry mouth, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, and irritability.8Remember that thirst is not always a reliable indicator of hydration status, and it is possible to drink too much water; thus, sipping on beverages throughout the day is the best way to stay hydrated. In addition, eating a variety of water-rich foods, and drinking a variety of different beverages each day can make meeting your daily fluid intake more pleasurable. With so many different sources of water available to us, remaining hydrated can be easy. Carrying a reusable water bottle when going out is another helpful way to stay hydrated. With such a large variety of hydrating foods and beverages, nourishing our bodies can be simple, easy, and enjoyable.


References

  1. Dietary reference intakes: water, potassium, sodium, chloride, and sulfate. (2004). In The National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved from http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/reports/2004/dietary-reference-intakes-water-potassium-sodium-chloride-and-sulfate.aspx.
  2. Journey Staff. Why water is one of the coca-cola company’s most important ingredient. In Coca-Cola Journey. Retrieved from https://www.coca-cola.co.uk/stories/why-water-is-one-of-our-most-important-ingredients.
  3. Milk composition. In Food and Agriculture Organization. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/dairy-production-products/products/milk-composition/en/.
  4. Renn, Lisa. (2014). Does coffee make you dehydrated? InABC. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/health/talkinghealth/factbuster/stories/2014/02/27/3951831.htm.
  5. Flood, Anthony. (2018). Newsbite: pore over what drinking only coffee and tea all day does to your body. In Food Insight. Retrieved from https://www.foodinsight.org/what-happens-if-you-drink-coffee-and-tea-all-day-caffeine.
  6. Healthy hydration guide. (2018). InBritish Nutrition Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/hydration/healthy-hydration-guide.html.
  7. Mayo Clinic Staff. Functions of water in the body. In Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/multimedia/functions-of-water-in-the-body/img-20005799.
  8. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018). Dehydration. In Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/symptoms-causes/syc-20354086.

What is Water Loading?

Water loading refers to drinking excessive amounts of water in a short-period of time. There are several possible reasons for water loading in the disordered eating population. Firstly, large amounts of fluids may be consumed to ward off hunger. Secondly, water loading may be used to aid purging.Thirdly, excessive amounts of water may be consumed right before being weighed by a health professional in an attempt to alter the reading on the scale. A possible reason for attempting to falsify weight during a clinic visit is to disguise the weight loss effects of an eating disorder.Another possible reason for falsifying weight is to deceive health professionals about complying with a refeeding treatment.This can occur because individuals with eating disorders may experience a fear of restoring weight during the early stages of treatment. Since water is an essential nutrient, water loading may seem harmless for the body, however, having too much of anything can harmful. Drinking excessive amounts of water is a dangerous behaviour as it can severely dilute electrolytes and lead to serious medical complications.

Drinking too much water too fast can lead to water intoxication. This occurs when the body takes in more fluids than the kidneys can handle.As a result, excess water collects in the blood and dilutes electrolytes, which are responsible for proper nerve and muscle function. When electrolytes are diluted, symptoms such as muscle weakness, muscle spasms, and muscle cramps may occur.The heart is an important muscle that pumps blood throughout the body. When electrolytes levels are brought out of balance, the heart can begin to ineffectively pump blood, resulting in cardiac arrest, which occurs when the heart stops functioning properly.Moreover, excess fluids can begin to enter the brain cells, causing changes in mental state such as mild confusion and disorientation, and can further progress to hallucinations, delusions, or inappropriate behaviour.If left untreated, water intoxication can also lead to seizures, unconsciousness, coma, and even death.Early treatment is crucial to prevent fatal complications, thus emergency help should be obtained if any of these symptoms develop.6

Water intoxication requires drinking extremely large amounts of water. The amount of water that will cause intoxication will very between different individuals. Before water intoxication occurs, your body may show more mild signs that you may be drinking too much water. Signs of over-hydration include nausea, vomiting, headaches, fatigue, drowsiness, restlessness, or irritability.In addition, very frequent urination may be a sign of over-hydration.

Water intoxication is a medical emergency. It can be treated using an intravenous electrolyte solution or using medication that will replenish electrolytes.Medical professionals are becoming increasingly aware that some patients may attempt to falsify their weight readings. As a result, patients may be weighed in a hospital gown with little to no clothing underneath, or unscheduled weight checks may be performed to reduce temptations of weight manipulation.In addition, periodic urine tests may also be utilized to either detect or prevent water loading.Most attempts to falsify weight are ineffective, not only because medical professional are becoming increasingly aware about it, but also because they pay attention to weight trends; thus, severe weight loss will still reveal a downward trend, even if water loading is used. Therefore, water loading can be a dangerous and ineffective way to manage weight readings. Even though water is necessary for life, our bodies need to receive everything in moderation to stay in balance.


References

  1. Marino, J. M., Ertelt, T. E., Wonderlich, S. A., Crosby, R. D., Lancaster, K., Mitchell, J. E., Fischer, S., Doyle, P., Grange, D., Peterson, C. B., & Crow, S. (2009). Caffeine, artificial sweetener, and fluid intake in anorexia nervosa. The International Journal of Eating Disorders. 42(6), 540-545. doi: 10.1002/eat.20633.
  2. Fluid Loading/Water Loading. InEating Disorders Glossary. Retrieved from http://glossary.feast-ed.org/3-treatment-medical-management/fluid-loadingwater-loadingweight-manipulation.
  3. Weight Manipulation. In Eating Disorders Glossary. Retrieved from http://glossary.feast-ed.org/3-treatment-medical-management/weight-manipulation.
  4. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018). Hyponatremia. In Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hyponatremia/symptoms-causes/syc-20373711.
  5. Radcliffe, S., & Watson, S. (2017) Overhydration. In Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/overhydration.
  6. Farrell, D. J., & Bower, L. (2003). Fatal water intoxication. The Journal of Clinical Pathology. 56(10), 803-804. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1770067/.

 

 

The Risks of Purging

Purging is the behaviour of ridding the body of recently consumed energy in an attempt to  prevent weight gain.1This can be vomiting (aka oral purging), but also includes overexercise and the use of laxatives/diuretics. We will focus on the former today.

For individuals living with eating disorders, purging is a dangerous way to try to manage weight as it can lead to several medical complications involving many different organs; the type of medical complication depends on the mode and frequency of purging.2Purging is also an ineffective and unsustainable way to manage weight. Firstly, purging does not prevent the body from absorbing any calories because digestion begins in the mouth, continues through the esophagus, stomach, and so on. Purging can only remove up to about half of the calories ingested.3Secondly, most of the weight loss after purging is due to water loss, which will be regained after water is consumed again. Thirdly, if the body is constantly denied nutrients and energy, it can begin to hold on to anything it gets, resulting in water retention. The body can also decrease its metabolic rate to compensate for nutrient loss, resulting in metabolism disturbances.3This blog post discusses several possible side effects and risks associated with purging.

All types of purging can be harmful for the digestive system. Oral purging interferes with stomach digestion and emptying, which can cause a host of side effects including: stomach pain, bloating, nausea, blood sugar fluctuations, bacterial infections, intestinal block, and constipation. It can also result in feelings of fullness after eating very small amounts of food. This is not a good thing because our bodies require a certain amount of food for energy and trying to eat adequate portion sizes afterwards may feel uncomfortable. Purging can also affect digestion by preventing the body from getting enough food and nutrients. Having an inadequate amount of food in the digestive tract can stop the body from trying to eliminate anything. This can in turn weaken intestinal muscles, and result in insufficient strength to propel digested food out of the body. This inability to digest food can lead to intestinal obstructions and prevent elimination. In addition, the pancreas can become inflamed, causing pain, nausea, and vomiting. The use of substances that induce purging can also damage nerves, leaving the body dependent on these substances for bowel movements.4In addition, they can cause rectal bleeding, hemorrhoids, and excessive diarrhea.2

Oral purging can also damage the esophagus, throat, mouth, teeth, and hands due to acidic stomach contents. Stomach acid can wear down the esophagus with frequent purging and eventually cause it to rupture. Purging can also cause acid reflux. Moreover, sores can develop on the throat resulting in painful swallowing and a hoarse voice.4In addition, the inside of the mouth, especially the soft palate, can become red, irritated, and cut.5 Stomach acid is so strong that it can even damage the skin on the back of the hand causing skin to harden or develop a scar.1Oral purging can also cause teeth to develop cavities or even break.2

All types of purging deplete the body of water and electrolytes. Frequent dehydration can cause urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and kidney failure.6Furthermore, sudden and severe dehydration can cause the body to go into a serious medical condition called low blood volume shock, which results in low blood pressure and a decreased amount of oxygen in the body.6Moreover, low electrolyte levels can impair nerve and muscle function, resulting in muscle cramps, and in more serious cases, heart issues. Balanced electrolyte levels are essential for proper heartbeat and contraction.4Without sufficient electrolytes and energy, the heart may become unable to adequate amounts of blood, resulting in low blood pressure and a low heart rate.4This can then lead to irregular heartbeats and increased risk of heart failure.4

By riding the body of essential nutrients, purging can also impair brain function. Symptoms such as difficulties concentrating, dizziness, brain fog, difficulties sleeping, and numbness/tingling in hands and feet.4In addition to impaired brain function, the immune system can become weak and increase the probability of getting sick.

As we have discussed, there are no real benefits associated with purging. Not only is purging harmful for our health, but it is also ineffective at managing weight. In fact, purging can make binge-eating episodes larger and more frequent as purging can give a false sense of security that all the effects of binging can be reversed.1However, as previously discussed, this is false because about half of the calories eaten will be absorbed, and the body will begin to do everything it can to hold on to as many nutrients as possible. Try to remind yourself that breaking your diet eating more than you planned is completely okay. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out for help from loved ones or trained professionals, they are there to help and support you. Understanding the dangerous signs and symptoms associated with purging can allow for early treatment and help prevent serious medical complications. However, the simplest way to take care of your body is to nourish it with essential nutrients; only then, will it fully support you in doing all the things you desire.


References

  1. Dangerous eating behaviours. In Kelty Eating Disorders. Retrieved from https://keltyeatingdisorders.ca/types-of-disorders/dangerous-eating-behaviours/.
  2. Mehler, P. S., Marx, R. (2016). Identifying eating disorders: medical food for thought. In National Eating Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/identifying-eating-disorders-medical-food-thought
  3. Vomiting and your health. (2018). In Centre for Clinical Interventions. Retrieved from https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Home/Resources/~/media/02EEAE7ED9C24FC699AFDA0573778554.ashx.
  4. Common health consequences of eating disorders. (2018). In National Eating Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/health-consequences.
  5. Dental complications of eating disorders. (2018). In National Eating Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/dental-complications-eating-disorders.
  6. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018). Dehydration. In Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/symptoms-causes/syc-20354086.

Weight Fluctuations of Fluid Shifts

If you find yourself stepping on the scale daily, or even several times a day, you’ll probably notice slight differences between weigh-ins. Try not to let this affect your mood or eating patterns as these weight fluctuations are completely normal and happen to everyone. They are most likely caused by fluid shifts, not changes in body mass such as bone, fat or muscle. The human body is composed of about 60 percent water, and depending on various factors, our bodies either retain or expel fluids.On average, body weight can fluctuate between 2 to 4 pounds each day primarily because of fluid shifts.However, those who struggle with disordered eating or eating disorders can experience greater weight fluctuations.2In this blog post we will discuss various reasons for these fluid shifts and subsequent weight fluctuations.

The first and most obvious cause of fluid shifts is the amount of water we consume and expel. Consuming large amounts of water in a short period of time can cause us to weigh more. However, consuming too much water at one time can be dangerous as it can dilute our electrolytes and lead to impaired nerve and muscle function. Sipping on water throughout the day or drinking around 1 cup of water at a time is a good way to stay hydrated. In contrast, consuming inadequate amounts of water leads to dehydration and can cause us to weigh less. Dehydration is problematic because our bodies need to be sufficiently hydrated to function properly. There are also some substances in alcohol, caffeine, and tea that increase the amount of fluids our bodies expel. Try to stay hydrated and maintain fluid balance by replacing the fluids you lose. The daily recommended adequate intake of fluids for females is around 2.7L, and for males around 3.7L.But remember, many foods and all fluids will contribute to our hydration status, not just water.

Some possible causes of fluid retention include the menstrual cycle, sodium intake, and stress. Firstly, hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle can cause various fluid shifts and it is common for women to experience fluid retention before their period.Secondly, consuming larger quantities of sodium than usual can cause fluid retention because sodium attracts and holds water.Thirdly, both physical and psychological stress can cause fluid retention because it increases the levels of the cortisol hormone, which also attracts water similarly to sodium.

Some possible causes of fluid loss include exercise, weather, and carbohydrate restriction. Firstly, it is common to weigh less soon after exercise because fluids are lost through breath and sweat. Similarly, hot and humid weather can also increase sweat production.For these reasons, fluid consumption should be increased during exercise and during the summer to avoid dehydration. Thirdly, restricting carbohydrates can cause fluid loss because glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrates) retains water. Thus, if carbohydrates are restricted, glycogen is used up and can no longer hold any water. As a result, the initial weight loss from restricting carbohydrates is due to water loss.

Chronic dieting and unbalanced eating patterns can cause greater weight fluctuations because the body is severely out of balance. If we deny our bodies the nutrients and fluids they require, it is likely that they will retain anything they get.This can create a vicious cycle of restricting, binging, and purging for individuals who struggle with eating disorders. Although purging behaviours may promote immediate weight loss due to fluid loss, it is not sustainable and a rebound effect of weight gain may occur.In addition, purging causes large electrolyte imbalances, which as mentioned previously, have a harmful effect on the body. Larger weight fluctuations not only take a physical toll on the body, but can also have a significant effect on mental and emotional states. The first step of refeeding is to properly hydrate the body, which can be particularly difficult for individuals who struggle with eating disorders as it often results in an increase in weight.6

As we have discussed, there are several reasons for fluid shifts and subsequent weight fluctuations. Everyone’s weight tends to vary throughout the day. Our bodies are dynamic systems that adapt to different environments and conditions in order to function. When recovering from an eating disorder, the initial stages of weight restoration can be difficult. However, once the body is finished establishing balance and regenerating, the weight fluctuations will diminish. If you find that your mood or eating patterns are affected by short-term weight fluctuations, try to remind yourself that this is just your body maintaining balance so that you can function optimally and do all the things you love.


References

  1. Stevens, J., Truesdale, K. P., McClain, J. E., & Cai, J. (2005). The definition of weight maintenance. International Journal of Obesity, 30, 391-399. Retrieved from https://www-nature-com.proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/articles/0803175.pdf.
  2. Haglund, K., Franceschi, G., & Huff, L. (2015). Weight fluctuation, chronic dieting and bulimia. In Eating disorder hope. Retrieved from https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/information/bulimia/weight-fluctuation-chronic-dieting-and-bulimia.
  3. Dietary reference intakes (DRIs): recommended dietary allowances and adequate intakes, total water and macronutrients. In National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK56068/table/summarytables.t4/?report=objectonly.
  4. Mayo Clinic Staff (2018). Water retention: relieve this premenstrual symptom. In Mayo clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/water-retention/art-20044983.
  5. Mayo Clinic Staff (2016). Sodium: how to tame your salt habit. In Mayo clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/sodium/art-20045479.
  6. Winkler, J., & Alperovitz, D. (2015). The body’s response to adequate fuel in anorexia. In Eating disorder resource catalogue. Retrieved from https://www.edcatalogue.com/the-bodys-response-to-adequate-fuel-in-response-to-anorexia/.