Eating disorders come in all shapes & sizes

The EDGI NZ Team learns heaps from the emails and comments that our participants send us about the experience of being in the EDGI study. We will use this forum to address some of the very important questions and topics that come our way. Today, we would like to explain why we ask questions about your weight history.

We realise that it can be very uncomfortable for people with an eating disorder to answer questions about their weight. In fact, we have been working very hard to make sure that journalists and reporters who talk about EDGI don’t use numbers or talk about weights or specific eating disorder behaviors when they discuss eating disorders, because we know how triggering that can be. So why are we asking you questions about your weight and weight history in the EDGI survey? It is precisely because we want to be able to understand how eating disorders live across the entire weight spectrum.

The EDGI Team is well aware that eating disorders don’t discriminate on the basis of weight, size, or shape. You absolutely cannot tell if someone has an eating disorder by their weight. You definitely cannot tell how serious an eating disorder is just by weight or BMI. Eating disorders can have profound effects on your physical and mental health, no matter what your body size.

Part of what we are trying to understand through our research is how genetic and environmental factors influence different eating disorders profiles. By looking at a range of areas that differ across individuals with eating disorders: weight, mood, anxiety, substance use, life experiences, and of course genetics, we hope to build a richer and more accurate picture of what eating disorders actually are and then how best to treat them.

So please bear with us through these questions. We know it can be difficult to revisit things that may have caused you so much pain at different points in your life, but it is an important piece of the research that will allow us to paint a complete picture of these illnesses.

For us, the bottom line is that the field is not doing a good enough job treating eating disorders. By developing a more complete picture of the heterogeneity within eating disorders, we should be able to move away from the “one size fits all” approach to treatment to develop more personalised approaches that will be acceptable to those who are living with the illnesses and yield better and more sustained outcomes.

If you have any additional questions, please feel free to reach out at edgi@otago.ac.nz.

The EDGI NZ Team

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