Pacific alumna author’s book aims to combat rise in eating disorders

Photo of Pacific alumna and licensed therapist Signe Darpinian

Pacific alumna and licensed therapist Signe Darpinian '95 will release her second book in March 2022.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a dramatic increase in eating disorders, propelling Pacific alumna and licensed therapist Signe Darpinian ’95 to release her second book, “Raising Body Positive Teens: A Parent’s Guide to Diet-Free Living, Exercise and Body Image.”

According to Darpinian, hospitalizations for eating disorders have doubled during the pandemic at the two main medical stabilization units in Northern California (UC San Francisco and Stanford).

She wants to keep teens from getting to that point.

“We're trying to do something more preventative (with this book) and teach parents how to provide protective factors in their home,” said Darpinian, something she says is a challenge since many parents have their own struggles with food and body image.

Darpinian has been treating eating disorders in the Central Valley region for more than 20 years—a career that was made by a “pivotal” moment at Pacific.

Rewriting her story

When Darpinian graduated from high school, she didn’t think she was smart.

“I didn't have a learning difficulty, but I don't think my learning style was very conducive to a school setting … It was hard for me to learn things—and I wasn't trying very hard,” she admits.

She took classes intermittently at Modesto Junior College, but it wasn’t until she started working long hours at a department store that she realized it wasn’t how she wanted to spend her life. 

Around the same time, her grandmother read a newspaper article about Pacific that put her on a new path.

“My grandmother found this article in the Modesto Bee … something about, if you’re transferring from junior college, we guarantee to get you out in two and a half years,” she said and decided to pursue Pacific where she discovered what would become her profession.

“Something started to really ignite in me there, especially psychology, starting to learn about different things in the world of psychology,” said Darpinian. 

The way she viewed herself didn’t change until graduation when she realized the accomplishment of earning her bachelor’s degree.

“It lit a fire inside of me,” said Darpinian. “School is really hard for me, but I did it. I completed it. It gave me a sense of self mastery that I just hadn’t had, and it started to change my story.”

Raising body positive teens

The realization pushed Darpinian to further her studies. She went on to graduate school, becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist and certified eating disorder specialist with a private practice in Modesto.

Her first book published in 2018 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, “No Weigh! A Teen’s Guide to Positive Body Image, Food, and Emotional Wisdom,” provides teens a resource to prevent potentially life-threatening eating disorders.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, young people between the ages of 15 and 24 with anorexia have 10 times the risk of dying compared to their peers.

The book was coauthored with dietitian Wendy Sterling and adolescent medicine physician Shelley Aggarwal.

After realizing that adults found “No Weigh!” useful, Darpinian and her coauthors focused on helping parents with their second book.

It uses a multi-disciplinary approach to give parents tools to help their kids, while also helping them repair their own relationships with food.  

“How are we as parents supposed to be providing protective factors when we've also lost our way with food and have body image dissatisfaction?” said Darpinian, adding that parents hold a lot of power to influence their kids.

It’s something she’s seen first-hand with her 12-year-old daughter.

“She’s not listening to what I say about food. She's watching what I'm doing with my own food … She’s watching how I respond to my own body in the mirror, what I say about my body, what I say about other people’s bodies, what I say about the shows we’re watching, and she’s taking it all in,” said Darpinian.

With this book, she wants to help parents ensure they’re sending a positive message. It’s set to be released in March 2022.