“The pandemic spreads an existential feeling of unsafety, which registers in the neurons around your heart, lungs and viscera. It alters your nervous system, changing the way you see and perceive threat.
It’s very hard to grasp what’s going on so deep inside. “All trauma is preverbal,” Dr. Bessel van der Kolk writes in his book “The Body Keeps the Score.” “Rational brain is basically impotent to talk the emotional brain out of its own reality.”
The best way to combat this visceral sense of fear and disassociation is by having what Bonnie Badenoch, the author of “The Heart of Trauma,” calls “disconfirming experiences.” These are experiences of deep reciprocal attunement with others that make you feel viscerally safe.These moments of attunement and co-regulation register in the same autonomic nervous system and overcome the fear and helplessness. Creating these experiences takes effort. “Being together is not the same as being connected,” Columbia professor Martha Welch told me. She recommends that people engage in deep intentional and vulnerable conversations, in which they pause — for as long as 90 seconds — after something important has been said, just to let it sink in. “You have to have the feelings conversation,” she says.
She and the other experts I spoke with endorse anything rhythmic. Anything that will create an experience of attunement: singing, dancing, yoga, deep eye contact, daily rituals and games.”
Research suggests the hormonal changes of perimenopause may open a “window of vulnerability” to developing eating disorders. Couple that with the do-it-all, have-it-all mind-set of modern women, and that’s a potent mix. “Who can take a break and think about ‘What do I need to do for myself today?’ let alone ‘What do I need to do to stop dieting and have a better relationship with my body?’ ” Maine said. “Instead of thinking about ‘What am I doing?’ they’re just going on to the next diet or aerobics class. The body becomes the answer”
The other day while hearing a podcast on the prominence of eating disorder populations, I heard a clinician mention that eating disorders were not as prevalent in person of color (POC) populations. Not only was this an untrue statement, but it also reinforced the misconception that eating disorders are stereotyped to certain populations, namely to white, affluent, young women.
Not only does the stereotype leave out the entire landscape of other eating disorders/behaviors (bulimia, binge eating, avoidant restrictive eating, orthorexia and otherwise unspecified disorders). It also leaves out that the way disorders in POC, non-binary, male, older, younger, abled or less abled persons may manifest in entirely different ways than they would for the stereotypical white thin woman. Or they may manifest in similar ways to the stereotype but no one paid enough attention to notice.
The misconception continues to survive because eating disorder behaviors of POC are often mischaracterized, ignored, or minimized, and there is little research or advocacy around POC being given equitable and fair treatment for their eating disorders.
Not to mention the discriminations placed on weight, body size, and body shape. I have said as an ED therapist that if you know one person with an eating disorder, you’ve known one eating disorder. All eating disorders are different, and all people who have them are unique and deserve respect and individually tailored intervention in their recovery.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, no matter your body size, race, gender, sexuality, or socioeconomic status, I believe you! and you are welcome here. Please contact me if I can serve you and support you to move forward in your recovery.
Thanks to #NEDA for creating this infographic highlighting POC’s and marginalized population barriers to treatment. We as clinicians owe it to our clients and ourselves to continue seeking out opportunities for education, inclusion, and equity, to become aware of our own implicit bias and to offer reprieve for those marginalized.
It is already enough to be facing this illness, it is quite another thing to desire help and feel excluded.
If you’ve never heard of the term “Health at Every Size” or you have and want to know what all the buzz about, Carolyn Viggh a registered dietitian and HAES informed provider, does a great job of addressing what HAES is, and some of the common myths surrounding the perspective. Take a look! I am a therapist who practices the HAES approach, if you think this may be something you’d benefit from, comment below or send me a personal message.