Oak Knoll panel discussion tackles important conversation about disordered eating

Oak Knoll School’s Athletics Department moderated a virtual panel discussion on Monday evening where a panel of five experts discussed the definitions, signs, symptoms, and treatments for eating disorders and disordered eating.

“There is an increased obsession among our culture lately with size, weight, diet and exercise,” said Dr. Melissa Maskery, Ed.D., Oak Knoll’s Assistant Athletic Director/Athletic Trainer. “Research suggests that up to 50 percent of the population demonstrates a problematic or disordered relationship with food, their body and or exercise.”

According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, 62.3% of teenage girls and 28.8% of teenage boys report trying to lose weight. 58.6% of girls and 28.2% of boys are actively dieting, while 68.4% of girls and 51% of boys exercise with the goal of losing weight or to avoid gaining weight.

The expert panel included Dr. Rachel Sachs, D.O., Sports Medicine Doctor; Leah Kinder, Licensed Professional Counselor; Shannon Smith, LPC, ACS, NCC, DRCC, Licensed Professional Counselor; Eliza Heverlein, RDN, Registered Dietitian; and Callie Clinch, MS, LMHC, NCC, Licensed Mental Health Counselor.

The panelists explained the difference between eating disorders – such as binge eating (overeating), bulimia (vomiting up food) and anorexia nervosa (starving yourself from eating) – and disordered eating. A person develops disordered eating when one or more than one of these conditions begins to impact their life in an unhealthy manner.

Dr. Sachs explained some of the long-term effects of an eating disorder and disordered eating as affecting every system in the body.

“Eating disorders affect bone density loss, menstrual cycle, decreased endurance, increased injury, depression, bone health, growth abnormalities, fertility, hormonal and cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Sachs said. “There is really not a system in the body that isn’t affected both present and future.”

Callie Clinch said that there are many underlying mental health issues that tag-team with eating disorders like anxiety, trauma, or depression.

“Sometimes these can predispose a person to an eating disorder and social media also magnifies this,” she said.

Shannon Smith said that the use of filters on social media platforms like Snapchat are not realistic and this bends the framework of reality about what people think they should look like.

Panelists explained some of the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder differ from person to person, but some include not wanting to eat or socialize around food and a significant gain or loss of weight.

Maskery and the panelists recommended that for those concerned about a friend or family member who might have an eating disorder to start a nonjudgmental conversation with them, ask them open ended questions or reach out to an adult or trained professional.

For more information about eating disorders or disordered eating, contact the National Eating Disorders Association.

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