I have been looking down at my belly either with pride or disgust ever since I can remember. At 12, I could see my hip bones and drank milkshakes in an attempt to grow a healthy layer of fat to cover them. But it wasn’t too many years later that I had to choose between curbing my enthusiasm for food or buying larger clothes.
As I turned 20, my solution was to reinvent myself as a vegetarian, which worked for about eight years. But I knew several people who dealt with their body image issues in negative ways that caused physical and mental illness. National Eating Disorders Week (Feb. 23-March 1) brings to mind the fact that approximately 24 million people in the U.S. struggle with an eating disorder, and only 1 in 10 receive treatment, says the Eating Disorders Coalition.
Many women enrolled in The Lily Program®, a 90-day treatment offered exclusively at Brookhaven Retreat, tend to use food to cope with emotional distress by either overeating or not much at all. The answer is to promote a healthy, diet-free approach to eating related to good feelings of acceptance, health and self-esteem.
It’s important to spread the awareness of how rampant the problem is and the fact that eating disorders do not discriminate, which means boys and men are equally susceptible. Age doesn’t matter. Economic class doesn’t enter into it and all races are at risk. The astonishing fact is nearly half of all Americans personally know someone with an eating disorder. Part of the problem is the media celebrates a certain body type giving others the negative impression that they don’t fit the mold society has cut for them, and therefore, they’re not good enough. Other astonishing facts are: the mortality rate for women ages 15 to 24 who suffer from anorexia is 12 times higher than any other cause of death, and at least every 62 minutes someone dies as a direct result from suffering an eating disorder.
The Nutrition Group at Brookhaven Retreat helps women acquire healthy eating patterns. Those who have learned to cope with feelings such as guilt, shame, loneliness, anxiety, boredom, and depression, may binge eat because they mistake their behavior for controlling their feelings.
Unsure of the differences between the eating disorders, or what signs to look for? This may help clear things up.
According to ANAD.org, anorexia is marked by a restrictive food intake caused by the ongoing pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a healthy weight, disturbed eating behavior and a distorted body image. People with anorexia typically think of themselves as overweight, no matter what they weigh. They often become malnourished.
People with Anorexia Nervosa often have the following behavior:
- They refuse to eat or will only eat certain things.
- They exhibit persistent fear of gaining weight.
- They are always dieting.
- They exercise compulsively.
More information is available on the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders website at www.anad.org.
According to WomensHealth.gov, bulimia is the act of binge eating, meaning eating a large amount of food in a short amount of time, then purging either by forced vomiting, taking laxatives or diuretics, or compulsive exercise. The common feeling among people with bulimia is they cannot control their appetites or the amount of food they eat. It is also common, and especially dangerous, that one with bulimia may be a normal weight yet severely malnourished.
People with Bulimia Nervosa often have the following behavior:
- Purging meals, often privately to hide their behavior as well as their shame.
- You can tell if someone has been purging if they have swollen cheeks or jaws, marks on their knuckles from using their fingers to vomit, have teeth that look clear from acid erosion, or broken blood vessels in their eyes.
More information on bulimia can be found by visiting WomensHealth.gov.
According to the Eating Disorder Association (BEDA), people who binge-eat have recurring episodes of excessive eating and guilt and shame in the aftermath. One of the most common eating disorders in the U.S., it affects about 3.5% of women and 2% of men regardless of age, races, and levels of income or education.
People who binge-eat often have the following behavior:
- They eat a large amount of food although they may not be physically hungry.
- They eat faster than normal.
- They eat until they feel uncomfortably full.
- They experience depression, shame or disgust after binging.
- They have a history of weight fluctuation.
More information can be found online through the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) at www.bedaonline.com.
If you know of someone who may have an eating disorder, help is available. Don’t wait until it’s too late.