(IAEDP is the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals)
As a licensed clinician, supervisor of interns, and adjunct professor of psychology working in and focusing on the field of Eating Disorders and Food Addiction, I have to say, I love my job. I love helping people work on recovery from conditions and often debilitating eating disorders that preclude them from leading their happiest, healthy lives. This field of study is uniquely gratifying, and even more so when the work we do on a daily basis is not only validated, but enhanced by experts in our field who pose not only the very problems and concerns we routinely encounter as therapists, but who also offer the kinds of innovative solutions we seek.
What I found particularly exciting about this year’s symposium, entitled Journey Through the Looking Glass: Complex Issues/Creative Solutions, is the number of conference sessions that focused on Food Addiction education, which included not only presentations by researchers, but by treatment professionals who offered some inspiring perspectives, studies, and methods of treatment. The impressive number of presentations with supportive research maintaining that FOOD ADDICTION is a very real problem is extremely important in today’s world and one worthy of being further addressed and researched.
In addition to sharing my enthusiasm about these remarkable professionals, their sessions, and the ideas they shared with the professionals in attendance, there are some particular highlights worth mentioning:
- In his keynote address, Dr. Mark Gold, Distinguished Professor, Eminent Scholar, Chairman McKnight Brain Institute, University of Florida College of Brain Medicine, presented comprehensive research on the cause and potential treatment of addictions to foods and eating. His presentation was supported by Dr. Nicole Avena, PhD of University of Florida College of Medicine and Princeton University, who, like Dr. Gold, presented compelling research about the brain’s reward centers and the preference in rats for sugar — over anything else!
- Joel Robertson, PharmD, explored the relationship between potentially problematic brain chemistry and one’s body image. In addition to a variety of non-medicating options and methods of treatment, Robertson presented his idea that brain chemistry is affected by disordered eating, posing the notion that healthy eating can improve brain chemistry and become a successful treatment option.
- Kevin Wandler, MD and Elizabeth Dizney, PsyD, representing University of Florida’s Eating Disorder Recovery Center, presented ideas about the relationship between eating disorders and a variety of today’s most prevalent addictions. They noted the importance of treating ALL addictions (food, drugs, alcohol, and shopping) in order to prevent behavior relapse.
- Similar research was included by Carolyn Coker Ross, MD of the Ranch, and Dr. Kimberly Dennis, of Timberline Knolls, in their break-out sessions, Addiction, Food Addiction, Obesity and Binge Eating Disorder. Dr. Dennis provided insightful information about 12-step recovery programs to clinicians who may have received feedback from clients, but haven’t experienced these kinds of benefits directly.
Each of these outstanding presenters affirmed not only the importance of addressing the relationship between the brain and eating behaviors, but the relationship between the brain AND addiction, relative to specific foods and volume eating.
Beyond emotional recovery work (therapy), exercise, and eating at a slower pace, I would like to have seen more innovative treatment-related ideas. That being said, I feel a certain hope that if we continue the open dialogue about food addiction, discuss and share the effects it has on so many lives, talk about what has been helpful in the past and what we can do today and in the future, we can continue to improve the probability and success rate of the recovery process.
When the conference was over, I felt a wave of satisfaction that Food Addiction was addressed at such depth at the IAEDP conference this year, reaffirming confidence in my treatment approach and our work at White Picket Fence Counseling Center.
To address your questions, request information, or to schedule speaker engagements for Sandee S. Nebel, MS, LMHC, please contact her via the White Picket Fence Counseling Centre website.