On the evening of April 25, former Eating Disorders Coalition Board Member, Gail Kennedy and Tim Barabe opened their San Francisco home to Dr. Cynthia Bulik and her team from the University of North Carolina to launch fundraising and networking for the next planned genetic study of eating disorders, the Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative or EDGI. Although we have made progress on the genetics of anorexia nervosa, our understanding of genetic factors that contribute to other eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder lags woefully behind. We hope to rectify that situation by extending our genetic research to include these other disorders. EDGI is planned to be a multinational research project designed to crack the genetic code of eating disorders.
Olympians and stakeholders of all ages and backgrounds came from around the Bay Area and beyond to learn how both genes and environment contribute to eating disorders. Gail Kennedy set the tone for the evening explaining how important advancing the science of eating disorders is to improving outcomes. Olympic figure skater and UNC clinical psychology graduate student Rachael Flatt talked about the role of sports in triggering eating disorders and her plans to help coaches and trainers create a more positive body environment. Dr. Bulik presented advances in our understanding of the genetics of anorexia nervosa and her plans for expanding our work to collect DNA samples from 100,000 individuals with eating disorders!
Also in attendance were Olympic figure skater Emily Hughes, Olympic champion Brian Boitano, and fellow skater Lisa Anderson. Mr. Boitano wisely opined that any sport in which humans fly through the air holds an increased risk for eating disorders. Olympic bobsledder Emily Azevedo spoke about the reverse body image issues in her sport, with large bodies being valued within the sport, but the challenges come being a large bodied woman outside of the sports environment. Other guests included Signe Darpinian, the San Francisco Bay Area President of the IAEDP Chapter, Jenna Tregarthen and Elissa Chakoff of the eating disorders app Recovery Record, and Elizabeth Scott, co-Founder of The Body Positive.
To make EDGI a reality, our first goals are fundraising and networking. We are planning a patchwork funding approach with hopes of funds from federal and local agencies and foundations as well as private donations. Once we are underway, we will be asking everyone’s help to engage the eating disorders community in our science! We are so grateful to Gail and Tim for opening their home to us and to everyone in the Bay Area who came out to support EDGI! Learn more about EDGI and and give a gift to EDGI here.