I am a clinical social worker (MSW) and a family therapist.
I have a PhD from the school of social work at the university of Haifa.
I was trained as a Family-Based Treatment (FBT) therapist by Professor Daniel Le Grange at the University of Chicago (Chicago Illinois, USA), Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, The Eating Disorder Program.
My scholarship centers around the topic of eating disorders and eating behaviors. Since joining the School of Public Health at the University of Haifa almost four years ago, I have dedicated myself to the study of the mechanisms underlying healthful and unhealthful eating behaviors among both the general population as well as among patients with eating disorders. I focus on various individual characteristics that can explain these eating behaviors, including sociodemographic factors (e.g., age, race, ethnicity), psychological aspects (e.g., self-esteem, depression, anxiety), and implicit attitudes.
I am particularly interested in learning why and how eating behaviors may change across the lifespan. To date, the eating-disorder literature has focused mainly on youth and young adults, and the mechanisms that drive older people (from midlife and older) to engage in unhealthful weight-control diets are still unclear. I have studied midlife women with eating disorders (Elran-Barak, R., Fitzsimmons-Craft, … , & Le Grange, 2015), as well as midlife women from the general population (Elran-Barak, R., …, & Benyamini, 2016), in order to explore how the transition from younger adulthood to midlife might change eating attitudes and behaviors. In addition, in a study that I recently completed )Elran-Barak & Segel-Karpas, 2020), I aimed to understand what motivates the few old (65-75 years of age) and old-old (75 years and up) people who go on weight-control diets to do so, as the literature suggests that weight-control diets are rather scarce among this age group.
My scholarship contributes to the literature regarding the role of race/ethnicity in eating attitudes and behaviors. In particular, I found that self-esteem impacts the desire to lose weight among white but not among Black young adults in the USA (Elran-Barak, 2019). In addition, I found that implicit attitudes regarding high-fat food impact eating-disorder symptoms among white but not among Black adults in the USA (Elran-Barak, under review). Similarly, I found that frequency of family meals may have a differing impact on disordered eating attitudes and behaviors among Jewish relative to Arab youth in Israel (Elran-Barak, …, & Keinan-Boker, 2020). Given the unfortunately high prevalence of disordered eating and obesity among Arabs in Israel (Elran-Barak, …, Keinan-Boker, 2020), I plan to continue the study of underlying mechanisms that contribute to unhealthful eating behaviors among Arabs in Israel.
In my study of psychological factors underlying unhealthful eating behaviors, I was able to demonstrate several interesting findings, including the differential impact of depression versus anxiety on eating-disorder symptoms (Elran-Barek & Goldschmidt, 2020). I was also able to demonstrate which particular unhealthful eating behaviors are affected by depressive symptoms and low self-esteem among young adults in the USA (Elran-Barak, 2019a, Elran-Barak, 2019b). These research studies, beyond contributing to the understanding of the psychological mechanisms underlying unhealthful weight-control behaviors, might help identify characteristics of people who engage in these unhealthful behaviors, in order to assist healthcare providers (e.g., psychologists, dieticians, physicians) in identifying populations at risk for eating disorders.
I have dedicated a great deal of my time to studying implicit associations about food and weight in an effort to shed light on the unconscious mechanisms that impact eating-related attitudes and behaviors. Using the Implicit Association Test (IAT) to study implicit attitudes towards fat people, as well as towards high-fat food, I found that these implicit attitudes had an important role in explaining weight-stigma (Elran-Barak & Bar-Anan, 2018), eating-disorder symptoms (Elran-Barak, revision invited), and recovery from eating disorders (Elran-Barak, …, & Teachman, 2020). I believe it is imperative to use such implicit measures, and therefore plan to continue doing so in my future research, as explicit measures alone are unable to provide a satisfactory explanation for the various ways (healthful and unhealthful) in which people consume their food.
I recently received two research grants as the research’s individual primary investigator. In both of these research projects I use the knowledge I have gathered over the years in the field of eating disorders to study the utilization of health services across chronic health conditions (physical and mental illnesses). In the first research project, funded by the National Insurance Agency (188,000 NIS), I employ the deep knowledge I have acquired about living with a chronic eating disorder (Elran-Barak et al., 2018) to study how recipients of mental disability benefits perceive the application process for social security disability. In this study, I use a mixed-methods design (qualitative and quantitative) to examine the perceptions of people with eating disorders, in comparison to the perceptions of people with other mental illnesses (e.g., schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, post traumatic disorder), regarding the process of filing a social security claim for mental disability. I believe that this process, of filing the claim, is not only a bureaucratic procedure but rather a key turning point for the recipients. In the second research project, funded by the Israel National Institute for Health Policy Research (144,000 NIS), I use my knowledge about online health communities (Elran-Barak et al., 2018) to examine how people with chronic illnesses, including people with eating disorders, use web-based platforms to gain access to emotional and informational support. In the next year, I plan to complete the data collection for these two studies, assemble the data, and write the scientific reports. I trust that the findings from these studies will help tailor designated services for people with eating disorders.
I am currently involved in several data collections pertaining to the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable populations (Elran-Barak & Mozeikov, revision invited). Specifically, we are now collecting a second wave of data among patients with eating disorders who are being treated at one of the largest mental-health hospitals in Israel. We would like to understand how the transition from face-to-face treatment to online treatment, due to the near-lockdown measures that the Israeli government instituted during the COVID-19 pandemic, has impacted patients with eating disorders. Our goal is to use a real-life setting to discover how eating-disorder symptoms and therapeutic alliance were affected as a result of the crisis, and as a result of the abrupt transition to online treatment. We are now assembling the data in order to write a series of manuscripts about the experience of patients with eating disorders during the pandemic, and in order to examine the feasibility of using these pilot data to submit a research proposal by the end of year 2020.
2019 - 188,000NIS - National Insurance - Examination of the application process for social security disability among recipients of mental disability benefits: Perceptions of clients and workers
2019 - 144,000NIS - The Israel National Institute for Health Policy Research - Providing mental support to people with physical or mental illness: The role of online health communities
Elran-Barak, R., Sztainer, M., Goldschmidt, A., & Le Grange, D. (2014) Family Meal Frequency among Children and Adolescents with Eating Disorders. Journal of Adolescent Health, 55(1), 53-58.
Elran-Barak, R., Accurso, E., Goldschmidt, A., Sztainer, M., Byrne, C., & Le Grange, D. (2014) Eating Patterns in Youth with Restricting and Binge Eating/Purging type Anorexia Nervosa. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 47(8), 878-883.
Elran-Barak, R., Sztainer, M., Goldschmidt, M., Crow, S., Peterson, C., Hill, L., Crosby, R., Powers, P., Mitchell, J., & Le Grange, D. (2015) Dietary Restriction Patterns and Binge Eating in Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder: Trans-diagnostic Examination of the Restraint Model. Eating Behaviors, 18, 192-196.
Elran-Barak, R., Fitzsimmons-Craft, EE., Benyamini, Y., Crow, SJ., Peterson, CB., Hill, LL., Crosby, RD., Mitchell, JE., & Le Grange, D. (2015) Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder in Midlife and Beyond. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 203(8), 583-590.
Elran-Barak, R., Blumstein, , Boyko, V., Lerner-Geva, L., & Benyamini, Y. (2016) Overweight and Obese Midlife Women in Israel: Cultural Differences in Perceived Weight Status. International Journal of Public Health, 61(1), 39-47.
Elran-Barak, R., Barak, , Lomranz, J., & Benyamini, Y. (2018) Proactive Aging among Holocaust Survivors: Striving for the Best Possible Life. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Volume 73, Issue 8, 10 October 2018, Pages 1446–1456
Elran-Barak, R., Goldschmidt, M., Crow, S., Peterson, C., Hill, L., Crosby, R., Mitchell, J., & Le Grange, D. (2017) Is Laxative Misuse Associated with Binge Eating? Examination of Laxative Misuse among Individuals Seeking Treatment for Eating Disorders. International Journal of Eating disorders, 50(9), 1114-1118.
Elran-Barak, R., Bar-Anan, Y. (2018). Implicit and explicit anti-fat bias: The role of weight-related attitudes and beliefs. Social Science and Medicine, 204, 117-124.
Elran‐Barak, R., Barak, A., Cohen‐Ashkenazi, S., & Schifter, T. (2018). Barriers to hospital admission among people with eating disorders: A qualitative internet‐based study. International journal of mental health nursing 27(6), 1784-1792.
Weinstein G., Elran-Barak, R, Beeri, M & Ravona, R. (2018). Personality traits and cognitive function in old-adults with type-2 diabetes. Aging and Mental Health (in press).
Elran-Barak, R, Weinstein G., Beeri, M & Ravona, R. (2019). The associations between objective and subjective health among older adults with type 2 diabetes: The moderating role of personality. Journal of Psychosomatic Research 117, 41-47.
Elran-Barak, R. (2019). The associations of healthful weight-control behaviors with psychological distress and changes in BMI among young adults (2019). Journal of Health Psychology (in press).
Elran-Barak, R. (2019). Self-esteem, weight status, and trying to lose weight during young adulthood: The roles of gender and ethnicity/race. Ethnicity and disease 29(3), 485-494.
Elran-Barak, R., Segel-Karpas, D. (2020). Dieting for weight-control among older adults: The role of perceived health and perceived overweight status. Eating Behaviors 36 (101368), 1-7.
Elran-Barak, R., Bromberg, M., Shimony, T., Dichtiar, R., Mery, N., Nitsan., L., Keinan Boker, L. (2020). Disordered Eating among Arab and Jewish Youth in Israel: The Role of Eating Dinner with the Family. Israel Journal of Health Policy Research
Elran-Barak, R., Dror, T., Goldschmidt, AB., Teachman, BA. (2020). The implicit association of high-fat food and shame among females recovered from eating disorders. Frontiers in Psychology (in press).
Elran-Barak, R., Goldschmidt, AB. (2020). Differences in Severity of Eating Disorder Symptoms between Adults with Depression and Adults with Anxiety. Eating and Weight Disorders-Studies on Anorexia Bulimia and Obesity (in press).