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How Does the Climate Crisis Impact Eating Disorders?

Every day when I take my walk with my dogs, I try to take time to thank the trees around me, the earth below me and the birds flying above me. It might sound silly, but this daily connection to nature is extremely grounding for me. It reminds me that we are all part of something bigger. We all rely on each other for livelihood and this necessitates collective responsibility. The trees give us oxygen, we give them carbon dioxide- which they later convert to oxygen. Everything follows a pattern, a cycle and has a unique purpose for the survival of us all. To me, this is beautiful. And as I think about these things, I often feel really sad and in despair about the climate crisis. How can we treat this earth so poorly when it's the very reason we are here- living, breathing, etc? We have lost touch with being reciprocal to earth, and forgotten to give back what we are taking.⁠

SO all this to say, since Body Justice is always on my mind, I started wondering about the connection between the climate crisis & eating disorder prevalence. Since the climate crisis impacts food insecurity and food insecurity is a known risk factor for developing on ED, I knew I was on to something. I did a little research and YUP there most definitely is a connection. Just like my example above- everything is connected. How we treat the earth impacts the production of food, availability of food, nutritional value of food and capitalism adds so much inequity to the communities actually doing the farming. This breaks my heart. ⁠

Research from the climate justice organization @concernworldwideus shows us this connection between climate change and food insecurity:

  • Countries with high levels of hunger are also the most vulnerable to climate change with a low capacity to adapt

  • Climate change impacts all areas of food production: quality, utilization, stability, access, availability

  • Extreme weather disasters decreases yields from major crops

  • Higher C02 levels decrease the nutritional value of crops

  • Losses from greenhouse gasses exacerbate climate change without increasing food security

And research from the International Journal of Eating Disorders and the International Journal of Health Psychology shows us this connection between food insecurity and eating disorders:

  • Growing up with chronic food insecurity makes children 6x more likely to develop a full blown eating disorder.

  • Being undernourished can trigger genetic expression of anorexia nervosa in vulnerable folks, the second most deadly mental illness

  • Forced restriction leads to obsessive thoughts about food and body, restraint while eating and increased night time bingeing in folks who may never have developed an ED

So, if we want a world without Eating Disorders, we need to look beyond individual choices and look at systemic factors that contribute to ED's. As you can see, climate change heightens food insecurity- which is a leading risk factor for developing disordered eating. Climate justice = Body Justice. Everything is intertwined. How can you help? Learn about your carbon footprint and how to reduce it, donate to intersectional climate justice organizations that center the voices of those most effected (BIPOC folks)- my favorite one is @intersectionalenvironmentalist.

If you want to learn more please check out the facts from folks who have been doing this work for much longer than I:

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