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Implications of the Holocaust for eating and weight problems among survivors' offspring: An exploratory study

by Betty E. Chesler
European Eating Disorders Review ()
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This paper explores the proposition that Holocaust survivors’ experiences of deprivation and trauma influenced the development of eating and weight problems among their offspring. Interviews with 11 adult offspring of Holocaust survivors find 10 subjects with current, and one with past, disordered eating. Moreover, eating and/or weight problems are reported for 12 of their 17 siblings. Interviewees’ restrained eating syndromes with low weight appear related to parental emigration from Europe by 1941; overeating syndromes with high weight appear related to parental incarceration in concentration camps. By contrast with other studies, in which parents’ embracement of the cultural ideal of thinness contributed to their children’s development of disordered eating, this study links Holocaust survivors’ personal experiences of deprivation and trauma to their offspring’s restrained or overeating patterns. Research and clinical implications for the families of war and genocide survivors are discussed.

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