Parallel Session 12

Navigating Differences Within Eating Disorders and “The Other”: What the Professional Brings and What They Leave Behind



This workshop will explore professional biases in terms of intersectional identities. Eating disorder professionals are often trained to be neutral and objective. However, in an increasingly diverse environment, there is need for exploration and reflection on differences in identities and social belonging. This workshop will provide professionals with the tools and practices needed to hold space for our biases, privileges and social identities that impact our work. It will teach participants how to use differences as a tool to enhance understanding, foster connection and increase passion for our work.



Traditionally, eating disorders are represented as “someone else’s problem” – the issue of young, white, privileged girls who should simply start eating. Even amongst calls for increased awareness of eating disorders amongst people with diverse identities – men, people of colour, older people, people with disabilities, and more – conversations about eating disorders still carry a number of assumptions that limit our capacity to deeply engage with those who struggle. Difficult conversations about barriers to treatment, one-dimensional representations, and harmful assumptions for those with eating disorders remain. Further, professional training programs rarely offer curriculum on navigating social differences and personal biases within relationships and research. Rather, the professional is told to remain neutral and objective, focusing all of their attention on the medical ailments plaguing the “eating disorder patient”. However, we know from research that our personal biases, formed within social environments, impact our work. Persons from diverse backgrounds are consistently reporting disconnection and disengagement from eating disorder services. They feel misunderstood and let down. From beliefs around food and body size to subtle (often unintended) messages about race, sexual orientation or disability, the professional is far from being neutral. We believe that it isn’t our biases that create disconnection, rather it is the lack of awareness and exploration of those differences that can create these issues.

In this workshop, we will encourage participants to not shy away from differences and tricky conversations, but rather, to use those differences as a tool for greater connection and passion in our work. We will facilitate increased awareness and self-reflection of our own positions, privileges and spaces of belonging as people who research, aim to prevent, and treat eating disorders. Whether or not someone has a history of an eating disorder or other mental health concern, we are all implicated in a system that carries with it potentially problematic relationships with food, weight, shape, exercise, and diverse bodies. Our positionality within this system will impact how we interact with people with eating disorders and work to balance diverse needs and desires as people seek to overcome challenges in their bodies. Through guided exercises, professionals will be given the necessary skills for exploring both what they can offer and what they can leave behind in their work. Taken together, this workshop will act as a starting point for working toward more inclusive ways of engaging with diversely embodied people with eating disorders – we will invite participants into this discussion and open space for being with difference.

Knowledge Level: All 


Presenter Biographies

Kaley Roosen and Andrea Lamarre are both PhD students and Vanier Scholars (CIHR) who engage in critical scholarship around eating disorders and healthcare.

Kaley is training to be a Clinical Psychologist and works therapeutically with women with eating disorders. Her work focuses on the experience of disordered eating and weight bias for those with disabilities. Kaley is presently working as a Health Psychology Postdoctoral Fellow at SickKids Hospital with teenagers with disordered eating and challenging medical diagnoses.

Andrea attends the University of Guelph. In her work, she explores eating disorder recovery through a social justice lens, using qualitative and arts-based approaches to understand how to make eating disorder recovery accessible to more diverse individuals. She is also an eating disorder activist, passionate about facilitating more inclusive healthcare and respect for bodily diversity along all lines, including but not limited to size locally, nationally, and internationally. She is committed to translating research knowledge into practice by blogging at Science of Eating Disorders, where she has published over 70 posts.