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Study: Feminism Could Solve Eating Disorders

A new study suggests that feminist theory can help treat those suffering from eating disorders and could even prevent people from developing eating disorders.

“The medical framework may offer the patient a greater sense of personal agency when it comes to feelings of control in recovery,” lead researcher Dr. Susan Holmes said, according to Cetus News. “Given that anorexia in particular is seen to be tightly intertwined with issues of control, this is clearly worth some thought.”

Focusing on empowerment and body positivity can be used as a method to aid the recovery of anorexic patients, say the researchers at the University of East Anglia, according to the Telegraph. The claims come after researchers conducted a 10-week program to treat seven patients at a facility in Norwich, England.

The results conclude that “feminist theory” might be enough to have a positive effect on those who suffer from body image disorders.

The researchers used Disney films, TV advertisement, news articles and material on social media to talk to the patients about the root of their disorders, according to a paper published in the journal Eating Disorders. Researchers sought to ask what role gender played in the development of disorders, if treatment involved a discussion of gender, and if patients thought such discussions were helpful to recovery.

Topics of discussion included “gendered constructions of appetite,” “cultural expectations surrounding female emotion and anger,” and “cultural prescriptions of femininity,” the Telegraph reported.

Feminist theory provides a different way of thinking about bodily stress as it relates to appetite in terms of both food intake and sexual desire, the researchers note. Gender inequalities may contribute to the development of eating disorders and  approaching such disorders through a feminine lens can contribute to a cure, researchers say.

Researchers also recently discovered that many anorexia patients had a faulty gene linked to neuroticism, schizophrenia and metabolism. “Anorexia nervosa was significantly genetically correlated with neuroticism and schizophrenia, supporting the idea that anorexia is indeed a psychiatric illness,” University of North Carolina Professor Cynthia Bulik said, according to the Telegraph. “Unexpectedly, we also found strong genetic correlations with various metabolic features including body composition (BMI) and insulin-glucose metabolism.”

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