Medical study suggests OIF/OEF veterans at higher risk for eating disorders
April 15, 2022

The link between PTSD and various eating disorders has long been known. However, new information has emerged that may cast new light on a struggle many combat veterans face.

A recent study conducted using a subject panel of OIF and OEF war era veterans concluded that vets from these conflicts are more likely to struggle with eating disorders than civilians of the same age range.

Research psychologist, Robin Masheb, is the founder of the Veterans Initiative for Eating and Weight. She said, “People talked about being in very chaotic eating situations where one had to either go for a long period of time without eating anything, or having to eat very quickly under certain conditions.”

Masheb also said, “I was seeing a very high rate of binge eating disorder in the veteran population, but I also wanted to know about these other disorders.”

Furthermore, the initiative observed that, “Those types of things also seem to be risk factors for setting people up for problems with their eating later in life.”

According to Masheb, hers is one of very few programs studying eating disorders in the veteran community. She also says that contributing factors to this elevated risk level are not limited to height, weight, and body fat requirements.

Additionally, Masheb points out, service members who were sexually assaulted are more susceptible to developing eating disorders.

Masheb’s initiative based study focuses on best practices for VA doctors when screening for eating disorders among veterans. This can be very difficult as many service members with eating disorders can be either highly unaware, or highly secretive or even dishonest about their relationship with food.

One of the biggest factors, according to Masheb, is control. “Typically, men — and more typically, our veterans — are uncomfortable with that language of being out of control,” she says. “Being in the military is about being in control.”

The study was conducted by the Connecticut Veterans Administration. They concluded that there is a scale on which some service members develop an unhealthy relationship with food on active duty and some develop them after separating.

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