This Week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

Posted: February 28, 2012 in Articles, Facts, S&S Tips&Tricks

It took me years and some very special people to help me realize that happiness isn’t determined by the number on the scale.

Nearly 10 million females and 1 million males in the U.S. are battling eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, while millions more suffer from binge eating disorder.

The peak onset of eating disorders occurs during puberty and the late teen/early adult years, but symptoms can occur as young as kindergarten.

More than one in three normal dieters progresses to pathological dieting.

(Courtesy of the National Eating Disorders Association)

I have openly admitted that I have battled an eating disorder. It started in 2005 and to be honest, every day is still a challenge. Although I may not deprive myself of or restrict certain foods, count my calories and measure my food out, take laxatives or diet pills, or work out simply because I feel fat anymore, I still have days where I feel extremely down about my self-image. And working in the fitness industry is both a blessing and a curse. I definitely have to—and want to—watch my figure and what I eat, but a lot of that has to do more with fueling and training myself properly to endure everything I do rather than to be skinny and ripped. Sure, I’d love more defined arms and abs, and I do think that as a fitness trainer/instructor/motivator I should look like I work out hard, but ya know what? There’s been enough sad, reality-check times in my life the past year that I am learning to become more thankful that I can move how I want to and have the means to fuel myself rather than how I look. I’m striving to be healthy and take care of the one body that God gave me because it’s all about respect.

Every year when National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (February 26, 2012 – March 3, 2012) is upon us, I have one goal: Alert everyone I can to the fact that an eating disorder isn’t simply anorexia (depriving yourself of food) or bulimia (binging and purging). It’s true that these are the most fatal and urgent in regards to needing treatment, but there are many other types of eating disorders. For example, I was bulimic in several ways; for a while, I made myself physically sick, then stopped that and used pills before I moved on to over-exercising. I was also a disordered eater. I became very finicky about certain foods and preparation methods, and often tried to stick to a very simple diet because I thought it would give me the best results. Did it? No. It left me deprived, angry, and bitter, especially because I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted because I was binging and purging and messing up my metabolism. Being obsessed with working out, weighing and/or measuring yourself, and what you eat/the number of calories you ingest are all considered forms of eating disorders, too. Why? Because you’re overly-obsessed with your numbers and how they affect how you look instead of your overall health. Don’t get me wrong, it’s natural to be concerned about the number of the scale and how you look—after all, in order to live a happy, healthy, balanced life, you do need to exercise and eat a healthful diet—but not to the point of backing out of social engagements (which I did often) or weighing all of your food (which I did with measuring cups sometimes) or hitting the gym hard more than once a day (which I did every day).

How dangerous are eating disorders? Very, actually. Not only do they scare you mentally and emotionally, but they can do genuine damage to your body, to the point of death. In one study done by the NEDA, they put the seriousness of the disease this way:

In sum, the mortality rate among those with an eating disorder is quite high. Anorexia nervosa (AN) has the highest mortality rate of all the subtypes and late onset of the disorder significantly predicts greater mortality. Furthermore, the mortality rate of AN is much higher than those of other psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder. Both bulimia nervosa (BN) and eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS) have notable rates as well. The elevated rate of death among those with an eating disorder is alarming and further emphasizes the severity of these disorders. It is also important to point out that BN and EDNOS, which are commonly thought to be less severe and not as lethal, do have high rates of death and should be treated with the same urgency as AN. The fatality of these disorders highlights the importance of developing more effective treatments and providing patients with sufficient clinical care.

So please, keep an eye on your loved ones and don’t be afraid to offer your support as he or she battles an eating disorder. And for all of those who are battling an eating disorder, the best thing I ever did was to tell someone. When it’s not completely a secret anymore, it’s harder to get away with, which forces you to walk in the direction of recovery. And do yourself one more favor—surround yourself with those who genuinely care about you and will hold your hand no matter what. You may need them by your side more than you realize.

If you’re struggling with mild eating disorder-like issues, you may want to take a look at a book that helped me, Life Without Ed by Jenni Schaefer and Thom Rutledge. It’s about Jenni and her journey to seeking help for and working through an eating disorder.

If you’re wondering if your eating habits are “normal,” read this three-part series from SparkPeople’s behavioral psychology expert, Dean Anderson.

If you’re wondering what is considered a binge and how to recover after binging, read this article from SparkPeople’s registered dietician, Lauri Watson.

For more information on the different eating disorders, go here and for more information and resources on eating disorders and prevention, click here.

If you ever need help—whether it’s just to talk or ask questions, you can always message me personally, or if you need professional help, call the NEDA helpline.

Remember, take care of you—ALL of you. It’s all about respect.

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