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An Exploration of the Meaning of Food Activities for Individuals with Anorexia - The role of Occupational Therapy

Individuals with eating disorders often experience maladaptive food behaviours and distorted cognitions around eating. Occupational therapists are one professional group who support the facilitation of food-related activities within eating disorder treatment to support individuals make behavioural and cognitive changes. However, little qualitative research has explored subjective experiences and meanings of food and eating practices for these individuals. In particular, if these meanings change throughout treatment and recovery and what contributes to these meanings.

Occupational therapists explicitly focus on both sources of meaning derived in occupation, and the contribution that occupation makes to meaning in life. Exploring meaning can allow for greater understanding and insight into the lived experience of anorexia and contribute to client-centred practice.

This session will explore:

- Occupational therapy’s role in eating disorders,

- Occupational therapy’s role in food activities in treatment,

- Eating disorders as meaningful occupations,

- Thoughtful discussion into how meaning can be explored around food engagement.

Esther Dark

Esther Dark is an Occupational Therapist who is currently working in a CAMHS eating disorder community service as a CAMHS Eating Disorder Lead Practitioner. Esther is also a PhD student at The University of Brighton, completing an interpretive phenomenological study into the experiences and meanings of food activities for individuals with lived experience of anorexia. Esther is passionate about the role of occupational therapy within eating disorder services.