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Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

Eating disorders are on the rise

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Aug 10, 2017 4:47 AM
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What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, August 10, 2017:

Pennsylvania is the nation's epicenter for treatment and recovery of eating disorders. Eating disorders are complex and serious psychological conditions that can affect all cultures, genders and ages, most prominently in Western countries. Body dissatisfaction and body dysphoria are the believed to be the main factors that lead to eating disorders, but the root cause of these symptoms is unknown. There are many socio-cultural factors that contribute to the epidemic. Media is often blamed for perpetuating unrealistic body standards, but along with social pressures, research shows genetics and mental illness to be influences that have led to clinically severe cases of eating disorders.

According to the National Eating Disorder Association, 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States suffer from eating disorders at some point in their lives. The most severe and common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa claims more deaths than any other psychiatric disorder.

As young as the age of 6, children, girls especially, begin to express dissatisfaction with their bodies and a fear of gaining weight. Since the 1950's, clinically significant eating disorders in girls aged 15-19 have increased every year. Resources and research have also increased. In Pennsylvania, there are over 150 treatment centers for eating disorders and dozens of support groups. There are many downloadable apps that can help sufferers address and find support for their eating disorders. Ironically, social media serves as a platform to provide both solidarity and information for sufferers, while also perpetuating the very body standards that can cause dangerous body dissatisfaction. The same article in a health or beauty magazine that addresses the issues of body dissatisfaction may be juxtaposed with a picture of a stick thin model.  These contradictions illustrate the intersection of health and beauty standards that make diagnosis and recovery from eating disorders so complicated. There is a lot of work to be done, and these issues are being brought to the forefront in Pennsylvania.

Thursday's Smart Talk welcomes guests Dr. Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania's Acting Secretary of Health and the state's Physician General, Dr. Martha P. Levine, from Penn State Hershey Adolescent Medicine and Psychiatric Registered Nurse Kristen Ebaugh, initiator of a support group and survivor of eating disorders to address the topic.

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Dr. Martha P. Levine - Penn State Hershey Adolescent Medicine / Dr. Rachel Levine - Pennsylvania's Acting Secretary of Health and the state's Physician General

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- I have been listening to the discussion with interest this morning.  I have been reading about eating disorders recently and only recently becoming aware of how common these disorders can be.  As an educator, I am very concerned about this given the likelihood that a significant number of my students might be struggling with eating disorders of which I - and my colleagues - are completely unware.  Based on my recent research, I have a question for your guests regarding Bulimia.  Is it possible to be struggling with Bulimia and not intentionally purge.  In other words, is it possible that the very thought of eating - or, having to eat - particularly in a social context, can create a physical reaction that induces nausea to the extent that a person might vomit without even eating?                               - James

- I appreciate your guest stressing the importance of physicians discussing weight carefully with patients. My 12 year old was in for her well visit in June 2016 and the doctor told her that her BMI was 53. My daughter immediately heard that she was "overweight", as she was above the 50th percentile. She expressed her distress at this, and the pediatrician spent 45 minutes trying to explain that her weight was in the normal range, and was in fact, close to perfect. Unfortunately, my daughter's issue was triggered and she spiraled after that. She developed an eating disorder (anorexia) and entered Hershey's outpatient eating disorder clinic in January 2017.

I am happy to say she is doing well, and has regained weight - she is the weight she was when everything started. The Hershey clinic has been wonderful, and Prozac has been life changing.   - J

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