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Researchers have not been able to pinpoint the specifics behind these causes, they can identify that a variety of influences come into play which influence disordered eating. These factors can include biological (genetics, change in body shape, hormones/chemical imbalances, etc.), social (due to cultural norms surrounding appearance, weight and food), environmental (home and work life, trauma,) and psychological (personality and mental health considerations).
Eating disorders(ED) are a mental illness, not character flaws or choices. Individuals don’t choose to have an eating disorder.
There are many common misconceptions about causes of eating disorders and reasons for engaging in them. EDs are about more than wanting to be thin. Individual’s often struggle with their self-esteem, appearance, life stressors, or past traumas. They can use behaviours such as dieting, starving, binging, purging etc. to cope with life’s stressors and difficult thoughts and emotions. These behaviours work to give the individual relief in the short term; long term they can provoke more stressors, anxiety, and long-term complications physically.
Research shows 1 in 21 pregnant women in north America meet the diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder (Bulik et al., 2007; Easter et al., 2013)
The risk of experiencing a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD) are higher if you are struggling with an eating disorder, as well as poor self-esteem and body image. Having a space to address eating disorders concerns can impact in quality of life and mental health through the perinatal period and beyond.
Feelings of uncertainty, vulnerability fear and insecurity are very common as a parent. Sometimes feelings of shame for struggling with disordered eating or body image struggles can occur also. Most birthing persons in some capacity struggle with the changes in their body after birth.
MANY describe the experience of being pregnant and into the postpartum period as a “tug of war” between their ED and their child which can commonly lead to feelings of disgust, guilt, shame and loss of control.
Perfectionism, loss of control, feelings of isolation, and memories of childhood often bubble to the surface. These things, coupled with a changing body, can be scary and a slippery slope.
“The non-stop counting, comparing, and measuring that happens during those nine months and beyond can tap into some of the very vulnerabilities that are linked to eating disorders and food and weight obsessions,” (NEDA, 2018)