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Join Srinika at this special workshop, where she will be sharing recommendations on how to resolve disordered eating patterns and eat with harmony and balance for optimal health.

With special guest psychologist, Dr. Marcella Raimondo, PhD, MPH, you will learn about essential tools for healing eating disorders, disordered eating behaviors and body image issues. Dr. Raimondo brings many years of expertise, passion, and commitment in helping clients establish a healthy and meaningful relationship to food and to their bodies.

Srinika:

Hi, I’m Srinika Narayan of Srinika Healing and Nutrition, and on tonight’s episode we will be talking about disordered eating patterns. Usually you hear me talking about different kinds of diets or food sensitivities, but tonight we’re actually going to be talking about problems with eating itself, which are actually quite common. I brought in my guest and colleague, Dr. Marcella Raimondo, who is a psychologist and who specializes in eating disorders. Dr. Marcella, please tell us a little bit more about your background and how you got into this field.

Marcella:
Sure. I would say it started with my own eating disorder as a teenager and in my early twenties, and as a queer woman of color with all my cultural background, as well as- and all of the societal elements around it that went into my eating disorder and in recovery. So that was like me personally getting into this field and then as I began to do more and more activists work in the field, I just began to see does that, many folks talking about their relationship with food and their bodies. And then I began to do more work in psychology and pursued eating disorders as my career. And so I’ve been doing this work for a good 25 years now.

Srinika:
Well, I’m excited for you to show your knowledge on this subject and learn more about the warning signs of these disorders and what to do about them. I guess a good place to start would be how do you define disordered eating?

Marcella:
Good question. I would look at it as when one is engaging in eating behaviors that are dangerous for the body. When one has a relationship with food that is distressing and interfering with their lives, and unfortunately our diet culture really supports that level of disordered eating. So that’s probably a general framework that I would start with before getting into all the various nuances and details of how has one relationships with food can be somewhat distressing and can be somewhat problematic.

Srinika:
Hmm, okay. You know, in my practice I don’t necessarily see many people with anorexia or bulimia, or at least that’s not what they come in for. But I do see people who are, talk about being prone to bingeing. How do you work with that issue?

Marcella:
I think we need to look first as stereotypes of an eating disorder. When we often think of a person who has an eating disorder, we think of a very thin, white, emaciated girl with an eating disorder. And actually only 20% of folks with an eating disorder fit that stereotype. So that in and of itself is telling us that we kind of come in with a certain lens of who has an eating disorder and who doesn’t. And that can be concerning because if we look at someone and assume they don’t have an eating disorder, we wouldn’t dive deep into, like “okay, tell me about your eating. Tell me about your relationship with food.” Bingeing is also pretty tricky and a word that gets used too common. And so a lot of folks say that they’re bingeing and I wouldn’t want to discount someone’s relationship with food in that way or what feels very distressing to them because you actually want to ask like, “well, tell me about your bingeing.”

Marcella:
“Tell me about what’s that like?” Often what I think is really telling is to do a 24 hour food recall with someone and say like, okay, tell me what you’ve eaten in the past 24 hours. And for someone who binges, you will see that they are eating, but something is triggering for them or something happens to them and they have more of an emotional release by taking it out on food. Someone who tells you that they’re bingeing, but they may be more compensatory eating will tell you, I had an orange for breakfast, an Apple for lunch. And somehow I just couldn’t stop eating in the afternoon. And it would be important to normalize and say, “it sounds concerning, but what’s really happening is that your body’s hungry. And so let’s actually look at what we can do to start, build up, breakfast and lunch. That way you won’t get into this really vicious cycle of not having food and then overeating. And I’m sure there’s an emotional element to that. And so now you’re kind of just caught up in this pretty vicious cycle.”

Srinika:
Okay, great. You know when I do the nutritional analysis, the testing for uncontrolled bingeing or extreme food cravings. What oftentime comes up are heavy metals on a physical level. You know what I test for heavy metals, which can then bring on yeast in the body, which then the yeast has its own hunger basically. And it’s only for certain foods, especially carbs and sugar. So that’s oftentimes when I test for these things, that’s what comes up.

Marcella:
And that is important to know because folks use words like food addiction and I’m addicted to sugar and I can’t stop eating. That there really is, I’m really addicted to food or I’m really addicted to sugar and it, I think it’s really great and it’s really telling that something for me that you know there are things happening to the body like heavy metals and this is actually producing some of the yearnings or the cravings for sugar. Because there are many studies that show that actually food addiction does not exist. But when you’re caught up, and particularly- if there’s something off kilter about the body in terms of there some heavy metals that can be alleviated by doing some of the work that you’re doing that might start to bring down some of the cravings around sugar. And if there’s an emotional element about that, then that can be also addressed too.

Marcella:
So I think it’s good to know this and also good when folks come in and they’re working with you and when they say, I’m addicted to sugar, and we said like, “well, that’s actually not true,” or that “there’s no such thing. But right now there’s something off kilter about what’s happening. Let’s do some muscle testing, let’s see about what might be going on with your body”. And also an opportunity to say like, “and tell me, do you have an emotional relationship with food? Tell me about how it is for you.”

Srinika:
Hmm, okay. Yeah. Great. That’s one thing I should incorporate, kind of asking about people’s emotional relationship with food. That’s such a huge component. One thing I do see a lot as well is sometimes people come in and they’re so disciplined with their diet and in fact barely eating anything at all. They’ve gone extremely vegan, raw food or just doing juices and then I suspect it’s a disordered eating habit that’s disguised as a health interest and I believe the term for this, there’s kind of a new term for it called orthorexia, which is defined as excessive preoccupation to eating healthy food. Can you say more about this phenomenon?

Marcella:
That’s a tricky question to ask and I don’t want to set up thinking or mindset that people make bad decisions, or that people don’t trust, or that people are not to be trusted with the decisions that they make. I think the question that I ask folks when they’re telling me that they are vegan or that they’re not doing sugar or cutting out wheat is to ask them, “well, what benefits do you want to get out of that? Tell me about why you made this decision.” I’m also asking folks about, because they talk about, “well, I feel better” and I think that’s also really great and asking people, “okay, well, so let’s also hear the difference between what feels like liberation and what feels like deprivation.”

Srinika:
Oh, interesting.

Marcella:
It’s more about people feeling that they have a new relationship with food or that they feel nourished. They may feel grounded, they may feel like better in their body, like “I’m able to sleep better” or “I’m able to move more.” “I’m not as tired during the day,” deprivation when you start to hear deprivation and there’s such a focus on the food itself and really focusing on the food more. Often what I hear with deprivation too, is well like a focus on weight as well. I mean it gets really tricky because our diet culture just gets in the way of that. I feel like our diet culture takes any type of curiosity or eating or some type of experimentation and really imposes, “well, if you’re not losing weight then why are you doing it?” And that’s what I don’t like about diet culture because I mean there are many things I don’t like about diet culture, but that it also really shreds someone’s curiosity to experiment with food.

Marcella:
I mean, I’m sure you work with folks saying like, “cut out this, try this, do more of this, do less of that.” And that is curiosity you want to see how your body responds to that. And I think that’s great. And it is important for us to like be in tune with what’s our bodies that way. But diet culture just comes in and says like, “is that good or is that bad? Are you losing weight or not? If you’re not losing weight, then why are you doing that?” Well, so that’s what I don’t like about that. And also just like, I mean I think also what gets hard and also tricky is that people make decisions based on the way food is prepared.

Marcella:
And that’s pretty political in terms of like a lot of big companies that use a lot of means to produce foods around mass production, which often means an exploitation of workers and often not the best quality of food. Often this is done at when these foods are produced, this is what more poor communities can afford because it’s done to cheapen food and so that also just gets into a pretty vicious relationship with food. Our land, folks working, the ways foods are embedded in terms of access and food justice. So when people make decisions, it is complicated because our food has unfortunately become complicated.

Srinika:
Yeah, that’s much more than just the food itself. Yeah.

Marcella:
Right.

Srinika:
Yeah. Well tell me Dr. Marcella, some general suggestions you would make to people who feel like they’re going down the road of some disordered eating patterns.

Marcella:
Well, I would say get help. Find a way to talk to someone, there are many eating disorder therapists and professionals in your area? If not, there’s actually more and more folks doing work online and you can, there’s some great resources. There’s be nourished, there’s health at every size. There’s a food site podcast, and there are many clinicians listed on these resources for you to work with. Many times you may not feel you are having a, you may feel like, “well, I’m fine”, and it’d be important to ask yourself questions like,

Marcella:
“am I dividing foods and to good foods or bad foods? Are there foods that I regard as safe versus unsafe? Are there foods I just refuse to have in the house because of fear of that I might eat the whole thing. Do you find yourself tired because you’re not eating enough? Are you finding ways to cut food out?” Also looking at your relationship to exercise. Exercise is something that our bodies do, or that you know something that we do like movement is really good for the body. However, if you’re developing a relationship with exercise that you find yourself doing it when you’re sick or injured or you’re missing out on social events because you have to exercise. That might start to say something about like, “huh, let me look at my relationship with exercise.” Same thing with food. If you’re avoiding a lot of social events because like “I don’t want to eat what’s there.”

Marcella:
Also take a look at that and see like, “huh, are there ways I can be flexible?” Like if rigidity is, it’s just taking over your life in terms of food and exercise. That might be like, that might be kind of a bit of a red flag or a bit of a warning like “huh, maybe I might need to take a look at that.”

Marcella:
Because if it’s consuming my life and taking over my life, first of all, I can’t imagine it being fun. I have not met a single patient that said like, “I like my eating disorder I like all this, this is great” and maybe there are and they’re not coming to see me, but we have a lot of folks coming to see me and also at my work and telling me like “I’m in hell.” So I think it starts to say something about like, we want a balanced relationship with food. We want to enjoy our bodies, we want to enjoy movement, we want to eat with others, we want everyone to have access to food. So when the rigidity, it starts to set in, and there’s just no flexibility and no ways of enjoyment, that’s when it is time to get help. And help is first of all is possible, and to have a nourishing and holistic and joyful relationship with food and your bodies is also very possible.

Srinika:
Okay, great. So it sounds like what you’re saying, and in treatment that getting rid of restrictions on foods and the No’s is a good thing so people can start to, eat more foods basically. And it’s interesting because in contrast with my work a lot of times, I’m looking for problematic foods that can make issues worse. So you know, with things like psychological issues, emotional issues, nervous system issues, which disordered eating is, a lot of the foods that come up would be things like processed food, artificial sweeteners and flavor enhancers. Things like gum, it’s not really food but processed ramen. Those kinds of foods really come up as just toxic to the nervous system and would be worsening a condition and other things would be chocolate, sugar, wheat, those commonly come up. But sounds like you’re saying at least in the beginning of treatment to let those things go. You know, just get a person less restrictive and eating more and then start to refine from there.

Marcella:
Yeah, because when someone has an emotional relationship with food, like I do hear what you’re saying in terms of some of these foods and sugars and chocolate possibly being –

Srinika:
Exacerbating-

Marcella:
exacerbating the nervous system and all, and yet when someone has an emotional relationship with food, we also have to look at the stress around that too. And so my stance is always like, “okay, let’s wipe out” or “let’s try to do what we can to alleviate one’s emotional relationship with food”, which could be a process. It’s not going to happen overnight. As you start to look at some of the more in depth work you do with folks, nervous systems and how they’re responding. And maybe you’re kind of trying to like balance right now. Like let’s say someone’s having a very strong reaction to chocolate but they like chocolate and then there’s like this emotional relationship to chocolate.

Marcella:
So it might be like, “okay, so how are we going to do this?” Cause I want, it’s important to liberate chocolate.

Srinika:
Mm-hmm (affirmative) and be okay with eating it and won’t be deprived.

Marcella:
Yes. And yet right now, you know when I test you and chocolate comes up, this is what’s coming up. So how can we find kind of a balance that way we normalize chocolate. We take some of the power away from chocolate. Is it possible to bring chocolate in as enjoyment? We see what it’s doing to your nervous system, so how do we balance all of that? I’ve worked with folks with eating disorders who have diabetes and so we have to provide like some degree of, like we have to work within their meal plan in terms of, maintaining their sugars. But within that meal plan we have liberate food. So maybe for them to balance the carbs and sugars they’re eating, but to say like, but we can’t say no sugar and carbs.

Srinika:
Right,

Marcella:
Right.

Srinika:
Okay. Very interesting. Well, any final thoughts on this topic?

Marcella:
I have a lot to say about this topic, but like some final thoughts. This is a really personal and nuanced relationship like food is so many things, like food is love food is personal, food is very nuanced and one has a deep relationship with food from their family to their culture, to our society. Food is celebration too, I mean, food is so many wonderful things, but yet unfortunately food has also become political from ways that it is mass produced, from ways that, there are many access issues to food.

Marcella:
And so a lot of food justice movements have come into to bring all kinds of foods for folks. It also seems like food is entrenched in a lot of white supremacy in terms of the production, the accessibility, and also there is a certain kind of morality that comes with food. One of my colleagues, Gloria Lucas, Nalgona Positivity Pride. She talks about colonization and eating disorders, but she also talks about colonization and food and where this good food, bad food came from. Where do these super foods come from? She talks about like how we pride clean eating because it’s so good for you and she often says there’s no such thing as clean eating because someone got exploited to put that food on your plate.

Marcella:
And so thinking about like all the way foods are produced, thinking about our animals, the land, our climate, and so food has not become this neutral topic. I think it’s important to look at what food is for you, what it means for you. Thinking about how food is and in our society and ways it hasn’t, in ways it’s like shifted from that love and that celebration and culture and our land to something now very political and how do we bring that back? How do we have our own meaningful relationship with food that is nourishing and loving and joyful and have that with other people? People have their own relationship with food our bodies change. So it means that our bodies respond to food differently. And so how do we still maintain that loving relationship with food as our bodies change and as we adjust to new foods, or have to have a new relationship with food.

Marcella:
And this also goes with our bodies as well. Our bodies are our home. And one of my colleagues whom I just adore, her name is Sonya Renee Taylor, and she does work on The Body is Not an Apology. And she talks about loving our bodies is our right? Like we were born loving our bodies. But along the way, that relationship became so distant from just all the oppression in our society, the way bodies are targeted, the way weight stigma comes in. And so she talked to us about that. That we can come back to that and that our bodies are political.

Marcella:
She says that over and over again, like our body said, become political and whether we want to or not. And we can come back to that and we can help you know, ourselves and others have that relationship with our bodies. We can dismantle weight stigma, we can dismantle all various forms of suppression, of oppression just by coming back to our bodies. And that means all the ways we fight for bodies to be bodies that which could be all kinds of accessibilities from larger airplane seats, to sensitive lighting for people who can’t tolerate various forms of light and noise and various places. To also supporting trans and our gender nonconforming folks and having gender affirming surgery. So all the ways that we fight for bodies to be bodies and for people to have that relationship with our bodies. I also believe really strongly and glad that there are folks really, who are really fighting for that.

Srinika:
That’s wonderful. Wow. That was amazing. So yeah, if you’d like to learn more about Dr. Marcella Raimondo’s work, you can check out her website.

Marcella:
And that is marcellaedtraining.com.

Srinika:
marcellaedtraining.com, great. And you can always check out my website as well at srinikahealing.com for more info on my work. Thank you so much for tuning in tonight and we will see you next time.

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