Last weekend I attended the 17th Annual Renfrew Center Foundation in Philadelphia. I had heard that this was one of the best eating disorders conferences out there, and was not disappointed. There were so many great speakers and topics that it was difficult to choose which sessions to attend. In the next several blogs, I’ll be reporting bits and pieces of what I learned.
The title of the conference was “Feminist Perspectives and Beyond: Exploring Eating Disorders Recovery.” Workshops included complex discussions on the role of genetics and cultural factors in the onset of an eating disorder; spirited discussions on the Maudsley method of treatment (in which parents take the lead role in refeeding their eating- disordered child, and which Marcia and I discuss extensively in The Parent’s Guide to Eating Disorders), and the ever popular discussion of how and where the war on obesity intersects with the war on eating disorders.
In this blog, I’ll just tell you a few things that struck me about the workshops that I attended. Later I’ll blog in more detail. I heard a lot about the situation in which an eating-disordered child is trying to get well, but is hampered by a parent, either mom or dad, who also has an eating disorder. Sometimes this parent is terrified of trying to help her child recover because she has been unsuccessful in treating her own eating disorder. She doesn’t know what portion sizes are normal, she doesn’t know how to fix a balanced meal. One nutritionist asked, “What do you do when your trying to help your patient who is away at college and her mother calls her on the phone and says, “I had pickles for lunch!” Or the child who just can’t recover while living with parents who prize thinness over all other qualities. Sometimes the parent will either consciously or unconsciously sabotage a child’s recovery. One nutritionist brought up the situation where her college-aged patient was terrified of going home for break because she knew it would mean being around mom, and inevitably succumbing to the disordered-eating behaviors that ruled the home.
Another topic that I heard a lot about was the desperate need for more transitional, or step-down care for patients who are coming out of an inpatient facility. Their risk of relapse is so high at this point because the patient has been coaxed, often against her will, to restore normal body weight. Often these patients are sent home without knowing how to shop for food or stick to the food plan. Often parents are equally clueless. Without boundaries and guidelines, relapse follows.
Another message I was struck by was the plea by so many professionals to take the focus off weight and dieting and to put it onto to health. That means not obessing about pounds and BMI, but on eating and exercising to stay fit and healthy. The slogans “fat and fit” or “healthy at all sizes,” were phrases I heard more than once.
I’ll be blogging on these and other topics I learned about at the Renfrew Conference, so stay tuned!