National Eating Disorder Awareness
Feb. 23-March 1 marks National Eating Disorder Awareness week. Eating disorders are serious, sometimes life-threatening, conditions that involve a person’s focusing too much on weight, body shape or image, or too much on food. The three different types of eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. Decreasing the body’s intake of food can impact the body’s ability to get adequate nutrition and harm the heart, digestive system, bones, teeth and mouth. On average, eating disorders are not discriminatory against ethnic background, women or men. Eating disorders typically begin in the teen and young adult years. With extensive treatment, survivors may be able to return to healthier eating habits and hopefully, but not always, reverse some of the complications.
Symptoms vary, depending upon the eating disorder. People who suffer from anorexia nervosa tend to use extreme efforts to control their weight, usually by limiting calories, exercising excessively, using laxatives, diet aids or vomiting after eating. Bulimia nervosa sufferers differ from anorexia nervosa sufferers in that they typically binge eat and then purge the food in an unhealthy way, similar to anorexics. A person who has a binge eating disorder regularly eats too much and continues to eat even when full. He may feel disgusted or ashamed of his eating behavior and often eat alone.
It is important for family members to know they are not at fault, but they can play a key part in their loved one’s seeking medical attention. The following are red flags that may indicate eating disorders:
- Skipping meals
- Adopting an overly restrictive vegetarian diet
- Making own meals rather than what the whole family eats
- Withdrawing from normal social activities
- Persistent worry/complaining about being fat
- Frequently checking the mirror for flaws
- Excessive exercise
- Repeatedly eating large amounts of sweets/high fat foods
- Calluses on the knuckles from inducing vomiting
- Problems with loss of tooth enamel due to vomiting
- Leaving meals to use the toilet
- Expressing depression or guilt about eating habits
- Eating in secret
- Use of dietary supplements, laxatives or herbal products for weight loss
If you are worried someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder, contact his or her doctor to discuss concerns. You also may visit NationalEatingDisorders.org.
Melanie Yunger is a local wife, mom and nurse practitioner.
As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns.