Dr. Kimberly Dennis is the Medical Director at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Prevalence of Eating Disorders in Female Athletes Exacerbated by Need to Masculinize One’s Body

Eating disorders and disordered eating are commonly experienced by female athletes, and are many times brought on by the pressure female athletes feel to masculinize one’s body. Right now, as the World Cup is going on and baseball is in full swing, I want to make young athletes and their coaches aware of this growing problem.

As I’ve seen in my own experience treating eating disorders in young women, the prevalence of these disorders in female athletes occurs at an even higher rate than the general population. They can be spurned by denial, perfectionism and psychosexual implications. Most athlete role models are men, with the exception of aesthetic sports such as dance, cheerleading and synchronized swimming and because of this many females think their bodies must match a male physique.

The psychosexual implications of being a female can contribute to this increased prevalence and risk of disordered eating among female athletes. Because most athlete role models are men there may be pressure to masculinize one’s body and become more muscular. They might also seek to avoid menstruation, with its inherent cyclical fluctuations affecting bodies and moods, since stability, consistency and control are important for athletic performance and success.

Early detection is key to fighting this deadly disease, which has a death rate twelve times higher than the death rate of ALL other causes of death for females between fifteen to twenty-four years old, and coaches and school administrators are sometimes the first line of defense in noticing key changes that could signal an eating disorder. There needs to be education around prevention and recognition of eating disorders, particularly to staff and coaches for female athletes and to the female athletes themselves. Coaches and school administrators must foster a culture of safety around the athlete so that they feel comfortable asking for help and expressing concerns about weight, as well as be able to make appropriate treatment recommendations. It is only through a combined effort on all fronts that we can stop this deadly disease and help young women find lifelong recovery.

As always, I encourage you to email questions you have about eating disorders or topics you would like me to address in an upcoming column to Dr.Kim@itsallinthejourney.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Timberline Knolls Helps Repair, Rebuild and Restore Health, One Meal at a Time

At Timberline Knolls, incorporating nutrition therapy into an individual’s personal treatment program is not an option – it is critical to recovery success, and it follows the position of the American Dietetic Association (ADA) which states that, “nutrition intervention, including nutritional counseling, by a registered dietitian is an essential component of the team treatment of patients with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and other eating disorders during assessment and treatment across the continuum of care.”

At Timberline Knolls, registered dietitians are skilled counselors who conduct a complete dietary evaluation in relationship to an individual’s physical needs and act as a bridge from the unknown to a new education about what food and drink must be to physically meet the body’s needs. During treatment, residents are given personal meal plans, designed to repair, rebuild and restore a resident back to health. Registered Dietitians work with residents to come to an honest understanding of current food intake and emotional associations with foods – which is one of the most important steps in finding recovery.

Normalizing nutrient intake is critical to allow recovery to occur. Without a minimum intake of calories and nutrients, making the simplest decision can prove difficult and this can impede recovery because the human body can’t function properly.

Through a combination of meal support and planning, support groups and family involvement, Timberline Knolls’ registered dietitians are able to work with residents to provide encouragement in order to begin on the path to recovery. Our goal here at Timberline Knolls is to bring honesty and caring communication about eating to our nutrition therapy program, because it is only through this safe environment that recovery from eating disorders can happen.

I encourage all of you to ask questions about proper nutrition intake – and watch the behaviors of loved ones around you for disordered eating. Don’t be afraid to seek help or information. As always, I encourage you to email questions you have about eating disorders or topics you would like me to address in an upcoming column to Dr.Kim@itsallinthejourney.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Summer Weather Aggravates Negative Body Perceptions

Summer is upon us - and this is a time we need to be especially aware of our own body image. During the warm weather season, negative body perceptions are aggravated for many people. Clothing is thinner and less substantial, increasing feelings of inadequacy which manifest as poor body image. It is during this time that men and women sometimes take drastic measures to try and get their bodies to an “ideal” size they feel comfortable showing off in the summer – and these drastic measures can lead to serious eating disorders.

People begin the warm-weather season thinking they need to lose a few pounds to look good. They may go on a crash diet or begin a cycle of binging and purging. Positive reinforcement of this sudden weight loss by peers could cause a person to feel like he or she must maintain that type of body to feel good about him or herself, and this can trigger or reinforce eating disorder behaviors.

But we must remember that even when someone does lose weight to fit into that swimsuit, if he or she is not comfortable from the inside out they will never feel good in anything they wear. As people continue to lose weight and receive praise, they feel they need to keep going and keep losing weight – which quickly turns into a full-blown eating disorder. Watching for warning signs of an eating disorder during these months leading up to the summer is crucial for loved ones and friends – and not being afraid to talk to someone if you suspect they have a problem. Anorexia nervosa has the highest premature mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder, so the earlier it is addressed, the more likely the individual is to find recovery and begin to work on their own self esteem and body image issues.

Many people who suffer from eating disorders are not clinically overweight – they simply see themselves in a distorted fashion – so it is best to consult with a doctor if you want advice about losing weight. Eating healthfully one day at a time is the only way to maintain consistent and healthy weight loss if a doctor determines you have a weight issue. Crash dieting because you have to fit into a swimsuit this summer is not healthy, nor is it safe. Just remember, it’s not about what you eat, but rather, what is eating you. You can learn by visiting the Timberline Knolls website.

As always, I encourage you to email questions you have about eating disorders or topics you would like me to address in an upcoming column or on this blog to Dr.Kim@itsallinthejourney.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Dr. Kim