Julie Whittington, RD

Healthy tips from a Registered Dietitian

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2015

neda-logo-webNational Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2015 runs February 22 – 28…an opportunity to bring attention to the millions struggling with eating disorders every day.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), in the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their lives.  Recent research suggests half a million teens are battling eating disorders or disordered eating.

Sadly, disordered eating and body dissatisfaction often start at a young age.  On NEDA’s website, it highlights statistics from Smolak’s 2011 publication of Body Image: A Handbook of Science, Practice, and Prevention (2nd ed. ) Body image development in childhood.  Here, it is noted girls often express concerns about their bodies’ appearance as young as 6 years old.  Additionally, 40-60% of elementary girls aged 6-12 worry about their weight, including a fear of becoming overweight…and the worry often lives on into adulthood.

Eating disorders are serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses that can negatively affect every aspect of an individual’s life – and span decades of someone’s life.

Sadly, many struggle alone.  Whether that is due to embarrassment, guilt, depression, loss of hope or other reasons, many have trouble confronting and defeating eating disorders.  And, even with support, eating disorders present complex challenges, as they feed into who a person is emotionally and physically.  Since many eating disorders develop as a means to cope, they are often hard for sufferers to let go.  Deep rooted struggles must often be confronted in order to recover.  New means must be found to cope.  For information on contributing factors to eating disorder development, visit http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org and click on “contributing factors & prevention”.

And yet, despite the challenges, there is so much hope!  Recovery is possible.  Healthy coping alternatives exist and support systems are available that enable anyone struggling with an eating disorder to break free and regain his or her true self.  As an eating disorder specialist dietitian, I have seen this hope and recovery.  I praise those individuals who have the courage to face their fears and follow the path to recovery.

Eating disorders do not define anyone.  We are all more than any diagnosis – be it a chronic disease, physical illness, disability or mental illness.  As educators, health care professionals, family and friends, we can all come together to break down the barriers to recovery from eating disorders.  We can all learn to be critics to the messages we hear in our society on a daily basis that idealize unhealthy eating behaviors and unrealistic body images.  Learning to self love and respect our bodies is a wonderful technique to follow and teach.  Healthy eating behaviors are of course of high priority, as well, in order to reduce the risk of disordered eating – for us and for those who look up to us (such as our children).

Many amazing organizations exist to welcome those struggling with eating disorders to begin or continue the path to recovery and wellness.  Through the world of the internet, including social media, anyone can access an endless supply of free resources and support tools from any number of pro-recovery organizations.

So let National Eating Disorders Awareness Week be the start of something beautiful for you and your loved ones.  Commit to change.  Commit to compassion for those struggling with disordered eating.  Commit to recovery.  The path to wellness begins with you…there are many people out there waiting to support you and also welcome your support!

Visit these websites to build support for recovery from disordered eating and eating disorders:

Academy for Eating Disorders

Be You At Be Me, Inc.

Eating Disorder Hope

Eating Disorders Coalition

National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)

National Association for Males with Eating Disorders, Inc.


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