Eating disorders… disordered eating… what’s that all about?
This is not a light subject by any means and my intent is to inform, create awareness, and hopefully, build a safe place for finding the right resources to get help. Having seen the ravages of eating disorders in my own family, I want to share some resources and info so more people don’t have to feel the pain of seeing a loved one struggle with disordered eating. Please read on so that we might help one another in this crazy world we live in where we don’t all know how to take care of ourselves, receive love, and thrive.
What is disordered eating?
Disordered eating can cover a number of things, but is often made manifest as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Disorders like these affect a small amount of people but they are potentially deadly and hurt people and their families. Eating disorders are not fads, lifestyle choices, or phases. Anyone can develop an eating disorder, just like anyone can develop depression or anxiety, so it’s important for us to learn all we can.
Anorexia is a disorder in which someone will eat much less than what they need or stop eating altogether. The people who suffer with this disorder think they are too fat or too big, no matter how much they weigh, even if they are very thin. Gaining weight can be terrifying and they often obsess about their bodies.
Bulimia is a disorder in which someone will binge, or eat a lot more food than normal in a short period of time, and follow that with a purge, or a way to get the extra food out. The people who suffer with this disorder will make themselves throw up, or take a lot of laxatives or diet pills, and they often feel very guilty about eating so much.
The treatment for persons with eating disorders involves more than just nutrition; it’s also psychological and behavioral help, medical treatment from licensed doctors, and love and support from the family, or close friends, to get the person back on track. The root cause of an eating disorder can be so much more than just the misuse of food in itself. No matter what though, the sooner someone receives treatment, the sooner they can recover.
What are some red flags?
According to National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), these are some possible warning signs. Know that these may indicate an eating disorder, but they are not all-inclusive. If you are concerned about someone, but they are not demonstrating these warning signs, speak with them or seek the guidance of a professional.
- Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, dieting and/or body image.
- Development of abnormal, secretive, extreme or ritualized food or eating habits.
- Withdrawal from usual friends and activities.
- Evidence of binge eating, such as the disappearance of a large amount of food.
- Evidence of purging behaviors, including frequent trips to the bathroom after meals, self-induced vomiting, periods of fasting or laxative, diet pill or diuretic abuse.
- Compulsive or excessive exercising.
- Discoloration or staining of the teeth.
- Feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety or irritability.
If you think that you may be struggling with disordered eating, this screening tool from NEDA can help determine if it’s time to seek out professional help.
Where can someone go for help?
Call their toll-free, confidential helpline, Monday – Thursday from 9:00 am – 9:00 pm (EST) and Friday from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm (EST)
For crisis situations, text “NEDA” to 741741 to be connected with a trained volunteer at Crisis Text Line
The Click-to-Chat option is another way to speak with a live, trained Helpline volunteer, should you prefer instant messaging the Helpline instead of speaking to a volunteer over the phone.
You can always leave a message for the Helpline if it is not currently available and they will return your call or email promptly.
Remember, there IS hope.
Know above all that we humans are unique individuals who are worthy of love. Our bodies are truly amazing! If you are struggling with an eating disorder, it’s not too late to reach out. There is no need to be ashamed about asking for help and there are many people who love you and want to help. Talk to someone. Don’t be silent.
The views stated here are opinions of the author and are not affiliated with SCNM, its faculty, or staff. Information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to treat, cure, or diagnose any disease or condition and is not a replacement for medical advice or a doctor-patient relationship. Be sure to talk to your doctor before embarking on any new health or dietary strategy. If you or a loved one is experiencing an emergency situation, seek immediate emergency medical attention.
NEDA website: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org