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Body Language: Interpreting the Relationship Between Exercise and Eating Disorder Etiology in Assessment and Treatment


Saturday, March 25, 2017: 4:00 PM-5:00 PM

Background: This presentation discusses the research around exercise in eating disorders, and explores different factors that exercise may play in one’s symptomology and presentation. It will also review current movement-based treatment theories and the Relative Energy Deficiency in Sports (RED-S) model and how these can be used in eating disorder recovery.

Objectives: 1. To understand the role that exercise and physical activity plays in eating disorder etiology from a developmental, physiological, and psychological perspective, including at least one theory around each perspective. 2. To identify at least two benefits and challenges each in how physical activity plays a role in eating disorder treatment. 3.To understand the process on how to evaluate individuals with eating disorders for physically and psychologically safe exercise recommendations in eating disorder treatment.

I. Overview of Exercise in eating disorder pathology
  1. Review definitions around exercise dependency, addiction and excessive exercise
  2. Discuss roles that eating disorders may play in eating disorder etiology
  3. Perpetuating factors for ineffective exercise behavior, including trauma and emotional coping strategies
  4. Roles of media and social acceptance of excessive exercise behaviors

II. Review of Literature around exercise and eating disorders

  1. Exercise versus no exercise while in treatment?
  2. Exercise and impact of weight restoration
  3. Medical risk of exercise or exercise restriction

III. Review of RED-S and nutritional considerations in exercise

IV. Proper Assessment strategies for exercise and eating disorders

V. Proposed Activity Guidelines and activities for eating disorder recovery

It has been proven over and over again that exercise is a powerful and effective tool in depression and anxiety treatment, both common comorbidities of eating disorders. However, it is often overlooked as a potential adjunct to eating disorder treatment. Compulsive over-exercising is known to be a symptom for many struggling with an eating disorder. However the role of this behavior is not always the same for each individual and removing exercise entirely has other associated risks, both physical and psychological. Where exercise may be used as a compensatory mechanism or a way to alter one’s physique, it may also be driven by other psychological, physiological or developmental issues. Furthermore, where exercise abuse may be a key component of one’s eating disorder pathology, it can also be used as a part of the recovery process when clinicians fully understand the psychological and physiological basis of the desire to exercise.
Identifying the different types of ineffective behaviors and the purpose of each in one’s individual story is an important piece that may be overlooked and is crucial when making exercise recommendations. Investigating the role and physical safety of exercise, can guide clinicians as to whether or not exercise is appropriate. This presentation will explore the research around exercise as it is related to eating disorder etiology and assessment, and define the different effective and ineffective relationships with physical activity. We will also explore how trauma can affect one’s body in ways that promote over or under-activity, and how to understand these movement patterns in relation to their personal activity recommendations.
In this presentation, we will deliberate the risks and benefits of exercise in one’s eating disorder recovery journey, and present ways to discuss these issues with clients. We will review recent evidence based guidelines proposed to guide clinicians in their endeavors to integrate exercise into eating disorder treatment and evaluate the physical and psychological safely of exercise before making such recommendations. We will also discuss specific movement activities that have can help improve the relationship with one’s thoughts, emotions, and somatic experiences.
Primary Presenter:
Jenn Burnell, MS RD/LDN CEDRD

Jenn is the Marketing and Outreach Specialist for Carolina House in Durham, North Carolina. Jenn received her Bachelors at UNC -Chapel Hill, and a Masters in Nutrition at the University of Georgia. Jenn was a reviewer for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Position and Practice Papers for Nutrition Intervention in the Treatment of Eating Disorders. She is a CEDRD and Approved Supervisor through iaedp. As her “side job”, Jenn has been a Certified Group Fitness Instructor since 1991. In her spare time, Jenn enjoys also enjoys stand up paddleboarding, hiking, watching college sports, and volunteering at the local SPCA.



Co-Presenter:
Jessika Brown, MS, RD, CEDRD, CSSD

Jessika has specialized in eating disorders since 2010. She has served as the director of nutrition at the Eating Disorder Treatment Center of Albuquerque offering outpatient, intensive outpatient, and partial hospitalization care to the community. She enjoys working with other dietitians and teaches graduate courses on eating disorders and exercise at the University of New Mexico. Jessika recently gave her first TED Talk entitled “A Healthy Cause To Find A Healthy You.” She loves to spend her free time outdoors with her three boys and purse dog.



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