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Giving weight too much weight

first_imgPrograms to fight obesity can exacerbate eating disorders if they put too much emphasis on weight rather than exercise and healthy eating, said experts in a panel discussion at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.The conundrum highlights the complexity of addressing eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating at time when recognition is low, screening inadequate, insurance coverage sketchy, and fighting obesity has become a public health priority, the panelists said.“Some obesity programs are backfiring because of their focus on weight and on the scale,” said Claire Mysko, chief executive officer of the National Eating Disorders Association. “These [eating disorders] are serious public health issues, woefully misunderstood, underfunded, and often untreated.”Some 30 million Americans have diagnosed eating disorders and many more are undiagnosed, said Alison Field, chair of epidemiology at Brown University and head of the Growing Up Today study, which follows 17,000 boys and girls age 9 to 14.The weight-obsessed teenage girl of stereotype is just the tip of the iceberg, Field said. Eating disorders are also an issue with boys, though the details can differ — an obsession with low body fat, the perfect physique, and washboard abs. Eating disorders affect people of all ages, walks of life, and ethnic and racial groups.Joining Field and Mysko for “Eating Disorders, Mental Health, and Body Image,” were S. Bryn Austin, a professor of social and behavioral sciences at the Harvard Chan School and director of the Strategic Training Initiative for Prevention of Eating Disorders, and Thomas Weigel, an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and associate medical director for McLean Hospital’s Klarman Eating Disorders Center. The event was moderated by Carol Hills, senior producer and reporter for PRI’s “The World.”Eating disorders fall into three main categories. In anorexia, the patient eats very little; bulimia involves binge eating followed by a compensating behavior such as vomiting; and a binge eating disorder — the most common of the three — includes binge eating without the compensating behavior.There are many people who may not precisely fit those criteria but for whom thoughts about food and body weight are disruptive, Mysko said. Education on the subject is poor enough that people often call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline and say, “I don’t know if I qualify,” she said.A disposition for an eating disorder can be inherited, the panelists said. Those suffering from eating disorders are often experiencing social stresses such as family conflicts or have in their history childhood trauma or sexual abuse. Many are also dealing with issues related to depression or addiction.A media culture that bombards us with pictures and videos of ultra-thin women and “ripped” men is another key contributor, Mysko said.The disorders take a heavy toll. People can lose hair and suffer constipation. Becoming malnourished can affect heart health, weakening the heart muscle and creating electrolyte imbalances, Weigel said. Malnourishment can stunt bone growth and cause osteoporosis and fractures in young patients.Recovery includes individual and sometimes family therapy, as well as fostering healthy eating habits.While panelists agreed that recognition of eating disorders is still too low, they also said there has been an international push to address the issue in the modeling industry, by standardizing certain health criteria for models. In the United States, advocates have begun to lobby the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to develop guidelines for the modeling industry. Some retailers, including American Eagle, have lately made an effort to feature models with a more realistic physique.Panelists offered a suite of recommendations to address the problem, including early screening for eating disorders, encouraging pediatricians to ask patients about binging and purging, restoring monitoring of eating disorders by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, getting states to ban the sale of diet pills and muscle-building supplements to minors, and closing loopholes that let insurance companies deny coverage.last_img read more


Voices of Faith choir sings a song of community

first_imgMusic, community, fellowship and faith are four words that immediately come to the minds of Voices of Faith gospel choir members when asked why they enjoy spending time together. “We’re more than just a choir. It really is a community,” junior Nicole Campion said. “Yes, we practice singing, but it is also a time of faith and fellowship.” Director Eugene Staples, a senior and four-year member of Voices of Faith, invoked the group’s motto when discussing its communal and spiritual atmosphere, his favorite aspect of the choir. “We are a student-run, faith-based choir,” Staples said. “Singing is my favorite part, but it’s definitely not more important than the fellowship and community. I really enjoy the group’s union of singing with doing something good for our Christian faith.” Senior Amanda Meza echoed Staples’ remarks when asked about her favorite part of participating in the choir. “The fellowship you develop would have to be my favorite part. It’s more than just singing,” Meza said. “We grow together in our faith, and this is something I really cherish and wouldn’t change.” Voices of Faith, a choir marked by cultural, religious and ethnic diversity, provides a home for those searching for alternative ways to grow in their spirituality outside of an exclusively Catholic context. “We provide a home for those who feel alienated,” Staples said. “I come from a Baptist church, and I still feel alienated by some of the Catholic structures. Voices of Faith really is a home away from home for those who don’t understand the Catholic traditions.” Meza, also a member of the Baptist Church, wanted to continue singing and focusing on her spirituality as she had at home. She said she quickly discovered Voices of Faith during her freshman year. “I’m not Catholic, but I wanted to sing Christian music,” she said. “I went to the concerts my freshman year, and they were extremely moving with their incorporation of Bible passages and prayers. I was looking for the Christian identity at the core of the Catholic identity. I was looking for something like home, and I found it with Voices of Faith.” While the music initially grabbed Campion’s attention, she said the community’s diversity is one of the most rewarding parts of participating in the group. “I really like having the opportunity to be friends with such a diverse group of individuals, especially considering Notre Dame’s relative lack of diversity,” Campion said. “I sometimes get bored with the mainstream culture, so the diversity at Voices of Faith almost represents a different culture to me.” While diversity has always characterized Voices of Faith, Staples, Campion and Meza all remarked on how this year’s group has brought religious, ethnic and cultural diversity to another level. “This is our most diverse year ever,” Staples said. “We are so much bigger and so much better. I guess we’ve done great marketing through our performances.” Campion said the group’s constant clapping and cheering during performances often surprises people, but ultimately leads to an enjoyable experience. “Energy is one of the hallmarks of our music,” Campion said. Voices of Faith will host its winter concert this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Washington Hall. Student tickets are $5.last_img read more