The Fifth Irish National Eating Disorder Conference
We were delighted to attend the Fifth Irish National Eating Disorder Conference on the 28th February 2020. This was a day filled with current research regarding eating disorder treatement and outcomes. Below we have noted an overview of the day and also provided you with some of our thoughts and notes that we found valuable from the day.
A note on the speakers
Prof Anna Keski Rahkonen was the keynote speaker of the day, she is an accomplished researcher, academic and clinician and is professor of mental health at the university of Helsinki.
Dr Nikolett Bogar also spoke on "Eating Disorders and the Fashion Industry: Qualitative Research Among Top Models". Dr Bogar was a diagnosed with anorexia nervosa in 2007 and she won "Elite Model Look" Hungary in 2008 and this launched her modelling career. In 2011 she started a full time modelling career on the international market. She stopped modelling in 2013 and started her universtiy education, with a scientific interest in the sociocultural background of eating disorders especially the role of the fashion industry in the maintenance of the slimness ideal. Dr Bogar has written several publications and had co authored "The Fashion Industry and Eating Disorders".
Fiona Flynn from Bodywhys followed Dr Bogar. Fiona presented the research on #morethanaselfie; Evaluating the efficacy of a brief school based intervention to promote the media literact and improve body image in young adolescents". This is a very welcomed piece of research since it is thought now that over 90 per cent of young people are using social media. A growing number of studies suggest that the use of social media may contribute to negative body image. The results of this study suggested that the participation in the intervention had positive effects on participant's attitude to their body image, particularly amoung male students. The study also noted some positive changes were noted in relation to social media behaviours.
Following lunch there was a choice in workshops, one was hosted by Dr Jean Morrissey and Dr Kielty Orberlin from Trinity College Dublin, where they were focused on Building Recovery Focused Relationships with People with Eating Disorders; a key component to successful outcomes" and the other workshop a "Family-based proactive self care for eating disorder recovery" was hosted by husband and wife duo Nick and Carol Pollard from the UK.
Our notes and thoughts from each speaker
- Prof Anna Keski-Rahkonen spoke about how eating disorder outcomes and recovery varied from person to person. This statement was one that we welcomed as often in our work many people ask our team what is recovery and how do we achieve it. Recovery is complex and outcomes are essential in all clients journeys. Dr Keski-Rahkonen highlighted that outcomes might look like; less weight loss, fewer eating disorder symptoms and behaviours, shorter duration of illness, improved self esteem, improved interpersonal skills, improved motivation and a decrease in other mental health issues. There was one thing that Dr Keski-Rahkonen was passionate about during her presentation and that was her discussion on HOPE for eating disorder treatment. She acknowledged that recovery can be a long process and will unfold as the support team evolves with the client. It was mentioned that specialists in eating disorders can never give up on the client and to always focus on achieving better outcomes. She did acknowledlge that early intervention is key and that a person's recovery with a lower body mass index may be longer, perhaps a five to 10 year journey. It was also acknowledged that during this period the treatment team should look at outcomes such as employment, a college degree, relationships, children and everything that interests the person. It was also noted that anorexia nervosa is often the main eating disorder that is discussed at conferences and in the media. Bulimia and binge eating disorder are equally as important to discuss and to treat early. It was stressed and we agree that recovery should fit everybody and should not be led by weight and menstraution. If that happens that alot is left out and relapse will be higher.
- Dr Nikolett Bogar initially spoke about her journey through treatment. She mentioned that some of her eating disorder behaviours included counting calories, body checking, obsessing while always wanting to be a 'healthy and happy woman'. She turned her focus to modelling and one day asked a nurse what weight a model would be. When the nurse gave that figure that became her focus and attention. Dr Bogar acknowledged that this weight focus was not a real recovery as her thoughts were obsessive on becoming that number. Out team can acknowledge and support Dr Bogar's point there that if weight is the sole focus then so much more is missed and relapse will be higher. Dr Bogar also acknowledged that in 2012 her eating disorder took another focus of binge eating disorder before she achieved her recovery. Dr Bogar's research on the fashion industry was telling, she found that the agents and designers role could be seen as a form of psychological abuse and that the average model was encouraged to reduce their body size to being clinically significant underweigt. She cited that many stopped doing modelling as their health deteriorated. This is an area that requires further exploration and perhaps legislation is needed to help protect the models.
- Ms Fiona Flynn then spoke about the research that Bodywhys collaborated with the Irish Research Council and Maynooth University's centre for mental health and community. The research was conducted involving 2500 young people. It was found that 90 per cent used social media and were negatively effected by body image as a result. The researchers produced videos and they foudn that this help to shift their thoughts on their body image. They also found that girls consumed more body image related content. It is the hope that this reserach will beome a pilot programme and will be run from junior to secondary schools to help improve student's self worth and body image. The healthpro team would love if this program also involved an anti diet movement explaining how dangerous dieting is to the human body.
- Nick and Carol Pollard founders of www.familymentalwealth.com alongside their daughter Dr Elizabeth. The healthpro team found it amazing what passionate parents can achieve. Nick and Carol experienced anorexia nervosa first hand when their daughter developed the illness. Their daughter Elizabeth is now recovered and is a medical doctor who is an active voice to drive awareness on eating disorders. She wrote a book called Life Hurts which highlights her journey though her eating disorder. Nick voiced his concern as a parent that initially that the focus for his daughters recovery journey was weight restoration. Nick cited that one might be weight restored but are not thought restored. He noted that this must change as relapse is evident if these are left unsupported. We could not agree more with Nick. The family spoke about how anorexia nervosa is glamourised however binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa are often not spoken about and many people go undiagnosed. They also noted that these conditions are just as serious as the cycling of binging and or purging and they have a high clinical illness. They affect the body's electolyte imbalanes and cardia arrhythmia is often experienced. Nick and Carol also cited that binge eating disorder is often felt like a life sentence coupled with a high level of guilt and shame.This illness is often not spoken about. The team at Family Mental Wealth's focus is on driving awareness and also sharing their experience as parents. Nick admitted that he got his focus wrong in the beginning when he was trying to help his daughter. He reported that initially he thought that "it was my job to get her recovered' after many months Nick realised that he had the wrong goal his goal needed to be that it is his goal to "help, support and to keep everyone together". Nick and Carol's main reflections were: a) be discerning about diagnosis, a label can be helpful at the beginning but do not let it define you b) early intervention is key c) hang on to HOPE. Lastly, the family also stated that they were shocked on how many people's social media profiles use the word anxiety. Nick's concern and we believe rightly so is that these labels are defining and many people believe that they are forever however with the right support they can be overcome.
The conference shared a wealth of information. The healthpro team got some new learnings that they could take back to their clients. Our team also came to an agreement that the methods of treatment within our team are potentially ahead of the industry over the last 10 years and it is great to see others adapting a strong multidisciplinary approach. Eating disorders can be overcome, just like anxiety and depression. Please seek help.
How to get help with an eating disorder:
Firstly we recommend connecting with your GP. Then we recommend that you connect with an experienced psychotherapist and dietitian both can be found on www.healthpro.ie . Early intervention is key. So seek help and say no to the eating disorder.
Recovery is possible.
Published on 7 March 2020 | Back to March Articles