Psychologists have long known that early traumatic experiences increase the risk of developing an eating disorder later in life. For example, people who were sexually abused as children are more likely to show signs and symptoms of eating disorders in young adulthood (1). Other studies following people from childhood into early adolescence have found that other kinds of childhood maltreatment, particularly problematic parenting behaviors by fathers, predict the development of eating and body image problems (2).
It can extremely scary, overwhelming and frustrating to provide assistance to a friend or family member who is trying to recover from an eating disorder. These illnesses are stubborn, life threatening and characterized by ambivalence. If you are wondering what to do to help, recent research sheds some light.
For people with binge eating disorder (BED), nighttime is an especially high risk period for experiencing a binge episode. New research published in the International Journal of Obesity sheds some light on the role of stress and hunger hormones in driving this nighttime eating. Higher body weight individuals with or without BED were brought into the lab either in the morning or the evening after they had fasted for eight hours. They were put through a stressful experience and then given a large buffet meal. The researchers found that adults were hungrier in the evening than the daytime, even though both groups had fasted for the same length of time, and that stress increased hunger hormones more later in the day than it did earlier in the day. The increases in hunger hormones in evening were particularly pronounced among the group who had BED. The participants with binge BED also reported lower fullness in the evening, even after eating the buffet, and higher feelings that their eating at the buffet was out of control. Basically, biology and the increased risk of experiencing stress as the day goes on interact to place individuals with BED at risk for binge eating episodes at the end of the day.
Most of us love to share fun times, joys and pleasures with the people we hold most dear. Those euphoric moments can bond us together and create happy memories.
"In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed” -Khalil Gibran
But what do you do when life feels burdensome? What heppens when you are stuck in eating disorder behaviors? Do you isolate yourself? Do you enter into a shame spiral? Do you put on a mask and wait until you feel better or stronger to authentically show up with your friends? If so, I hope you’ll try reaching out, without self-judgment instead. Regardless of how open you choose to be, reach out. Allow a friend to be your warm landing. Let her or him be your bridge. Communicate the problem and what you need...
By Danielle Keenan-Miller, Ph.D.
Exercise is, undoubtedly, a generally healthy enterprise and many people embark on new exercise routines at this time of year. While most people are striving to meet the Department of Health’s guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week, some people go far beyond those recommendations. In a world of “insanity” workouts, encouragement of “double” spin classes, and nonstop news articles on the harmful health effects of being sedentary, it’s easy to assume that more is always better when it comes to exercise. However, in too large of a dose, exercise can have negative effects for both body and mind.
Vaping is very much on the rise in adolescents and adults. (1) While early research shows that e-cigarettes are less dangerous to health than traditional cigarettes, there is no published data yet on cancer risks or the potential long-term impact on our lungs or heart. Here are some of the potential health risks we do know -- insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, increase in heart rate and blood pressure and may impair prefrontal brain development in adolescents. In addition, there’s an increase in the risk of addiction to other drugs, flavored types may cause permanent damage to bronchioles, and certain vaporizers may generate large amounts of formaldehyde and other toxins. (2) Though better than traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are far from risk-free.Unfortunately, people with eating disorders are particularly vulnerable to the allure of vaping -- now using e-cigarettes to suppress their appetites.
“If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there's room to hear more subtle things - that's when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before. It's a discipline; you have to practice it.” (Steve Jobs)
By Danielle Keenan-Miller, Ph.D.
The holidays are often a time for gathering with people we don’t see much during the year-- distant relatives, neighbors, and friends of the family that by chance or by choice are not part of our everyday lives. At its worst, negotiating the several hours of a holiday dinner can feel painstaking or repetitive. But having a handy list of the questions that avoid causing conflict and instead open up the door to engaging and meaningful conversation can turn those long holiday meals into a time for joy and connection.
A new study in the American Journal of Health Education looked at the impact of a popular wearable lifestyle technology on teen exercise habits. At first, the 13 and 14 year olds reported being more motivated -- by guilt and competition to meet the fitness goals. But the positive trend in their desire to improve exercise habits did not last. The study revealed, it’s not that simple.
By Dr. Danielle Keenan-Miller
The holiday season comes with an onslaught of requests for your time and money: envelopes from non-profits arriving to ask for donations, soup kitchens requesting volunteers, and even the ringing bell of the Salvation Army santa. In the midst of the stress, lack of sleep, and (let’s be honest) grumpy mood that can accompany the holiday season, it’s easy to tell ourselves that we don’t have the time, energy, or resources to give. However, the science of altruism suggests that accepting some of these requests, rather than depleting us, would likely improve our well-being (in addition to contributing to the social good).