The A to Z of Eating Disorders – Emma Woolf

In The A to Z of Eating Disorders Emma Woolf tackles the whole alphabet, including those pesky consonants Q (quinoa), X (xerophagy) and Z (zinc). Using personal experience along with recent neurological discoveries and the changes to classifications in the DSM-5, Emma’s dictionary takes a whole body approach to explaining risk factors, along with the experience of and recovery from eating disorders.

Covering topics focusing on physical, psychological, neurological, social, emotional, mental, behavioural and societal issues surrounding these disorders, this is a helpful tool for those wanting to learn more about eating disorders or those experiencing them firsthand.

E is for extremes
A is for alexythymia
T is for teeth
I is for insula
N is for neuroscience
G is for gastrointestinal complications

D is for dishonesty
I is also for impromptu
S is for selenium
O is for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
R is for recovery
D is also for deprivation
E is also for emotional eating
R is also for refeeding
S is also for set point theory

S is also for self-compassion
U is for urination
C is for carbohydrates
K is for Key’s classic study

Naturally, there is no substitute available for professional advice and supervision but this book provides useful supplementary information and guidance.

Having said that, I personally know that books can benefit someone with an eating disorder greatly. While it didn’t cure my eating disorder a young adult novel (before the genre existed) was the catalyst that stopped me vomiting after eating. It was 1993 when I read about oesophageal tears for the first time and became so terrified of them I stopped that behaviour immediately. If anyone is interested that lifesaving book was Please Don’t Go by Katherine Applegate and I originally found it at my local library. Yay libraries! I’ve since bought my own copy and will never part with it.

I’ve read many books about eating disorders since they came into my life 25 years ago (geez, that makes me feel old!) but I learned a lot personally from reading Emma’s book. I really nerded out during the explanations of how different vitamins impact on the brain’s functions. Some complex ideas are explained in ways that are accessible to those without scientific backgrounds.

I never realised that the brain uses 50% of the body’s blood sugar, even when you’re at rest and that fat makes up 60% of the dry weight of the brain. Just those two points explain so much about the behaviour and thought patterns of people with food starved brains.

I wasn’t aware of the correlation between disordered eating and hoarding tendencies, although given the similarities in traits between the two it shouldn’t have been a surprise. It also turns out there are many “rexia’s” I’d never heard of including bigorexia, drunkorexia, orthorexia and pathorexia, along with terms like Veganuary and Flexitarianism. I guess I’ve been away from social media just about the right length of time if I’m becoming out of touch with the social world.

I found this book’s no nonsense approach to be refreshing. It encourages accountability and taking steps to help yourself along with obtaining much needed support from professionals. It provides empowerment rather than condescension, hope rather than condemnation, and talks to rather than at you.

I loved the explanation of the role of control in eating disorders. Those with anorexia in particular can feel that their lives are out of control and the only thing they can control is food – what they eat, when they eat and how much they restrict, but in fact this is an illusion. Emma made a 💡 lightbulb moment 💡 point for me, that it’s actually the eating disorder that controls you, not the other way around.

I don’t personally believe the superfood hype so to read that Popeye was right made my heart sing. 🎶 Spinach is more nutritious than kale! 🎶 I detest kale!

My small gripe with this book is the lack of references. The author will say that “studies have shown…” but doesn’t back her statement up with citations which could diminish the credibility of these claims in the eyes of the reader. So unfortunately I can’t tell you the details of the studies that debunk kale, but I want to believe!

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sheldon Press for the opportunity to read this book. I’m definitely interested in reading more from this author.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Are you worried about your food intake? Do you weigh yourself most days and feel guilty if you gain half a pound? Do strict rules dominate your mealtimes and life, just so you can feel more in control?

The A to Z of Eating Disorders is a road map for anyone who wants a way out of the bewildering world of disordered eating and body-image anxiety.

From anorexia, bingeing and clean eating, to social media, yo-yo dieting and size zero, this book explores these complex conditions from a range of angles, offering valuable insights and hope.

In this inspiring, impeccably researched book, renowned writer and broadcaster Emma Woolf says, ‘Eating disorders cause untold misery and can affect anyone at any time of life. As someone who has lived through anorexia and recovery, I receive emails every day from those desperate for guidance. The A to Z of Eating Disorders helps to demystify disordered eating and sets you back on the path to a happy, healthy relationship with food.’

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