Ask the expert: Psychologist answers viewer questions about eating disorders

Throughout this National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Centerville psychologist Dr. Meredith Glick Brinegar has provided insight into how complex these issues are.

During News Center 7′s week of coverage she has discussed how the pandemic is making things worse for people who are struggling.

>> I-Team: As pandemic increases eating disorders, Oakwood woman’s story inspires recovery

She has also explained that eating disorders affect people of all ages, races, genders, and sizes, while describing the four main eating disorders the mental health community focuses on.

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>> I-Team Understanding The 4 Different Types of Eating Disorders

In keeping with News Center 7′s commitment to helping people understand these issues, WHIO took viewer questions to Dr. Glick Brinegar. (Her responses have been edited for length. Watch the video for extended explanations and extra questions.)


Molly: In in our first interview you were telling me that anorexia has the highest rate of death of any psychiatric disorder is that right?

Dr. Glick Brinegar: It does. And that’s why we take it very seriously, and it’s partly due to the increased risk for cardiac complications, but suicide as well. And I think I mentioned that. Because it’s such a tortuous disorder to live with, that the noise in your head is so loud.


Molly: Another viewer asked about having an addiction to food an inability to control portion sizes. Is that an

eating disorder? And what can you do about it?

Dr. Glick Brinegar: There’s mixed thoughts on that. But there is a growing recognition of food addiction. There’s actually a Yale Food Addiction Scale. You can easily find it online, you can take it. People are starting to study it a bit more, and to see it as related to, but different from binge eating disorder. And that these folks may or may not engage in an objectively large amount of food. It could be eating all throughout the day, or snacking. But there is a compulsion, an urge that feels comparable to say, alcohol urges or drug urges. So there’s a growing recognition of it. It’s being studied. We think it’s more connected to especially more processed foods. We get more of that kind of rewarding factor when we combine sugar, salt, and fat, kind of in this trifecta, so we think about getting addicted more to those foods than probably food in general, what we call highly palatable foods. It’s not an official disorder like in the DSM, but I think there’s a growing recognition that that does exist.

Source: Yale Food Addiction Scale


Molly: What do you do if someone you know, a loved one has an eating disorder?

Dr. Glick Brinegar: That’s a great question, and I think sometimes people are afraid to speak up, or ‘what do I say?’ And it’s challenging, because people who do have an eating disorder, there’s often a high level of ambivalence about change. They both want to get rid of the eating disorder, and yet it also works. It helps them in some way. And so that does make it challenging. My advice if you are concerned about somebody, is to talk with them, talk with them privately, don’t do it in like a group setting, so do it kind of one-on-one. I usually encourage people to come with concrete examples of maybe behaviors they’ve noticed, because it can be harder to refute that…. And maybe come with some resources too. This is where kind of NEDA, or ANAD can be helpful too to kind of  help them make that next step, or ‘hey, what if we call together, or what if we just looked at some profiles of somebody to just get an assessment. Sometimes I tell people, just go once, just get your foot in the door, to see what it’s like. Because sometimes people might have not ever seen a therapist before. Or maybe they did years ago and they had a bad experience…. And then finally if you get a lot of resistance, sometimes I encourage people to say, ‘so can I check back on you later about this?’ And most people will say ‘yes,’ or if they don’t think they have the problem, well then why would you have a problem with checking back later? Because sometimes it can take more than one time expressing your concern before somebody might be ready to get help.

Sources: ANAD and NEDA

>> Eating disorder resources

Molly Koweek

I am excited to move to Ohio for some warmer weather. That might sound odd, but I've spent the last four years in central Wisconsin working for WAOW. I co-anchor News Center 7 Saturday. During the weekdays you can catch my reports on News Center 7 at Noon, 5:00, 5:30, and 6:00.