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National Eating Disorder Month

Food is one of the most basic needs a person has. After our first breath, our next instinct is to find sustenance. At first glance, food is a pretty straight forward subject. But for the estimated 24 million Americans who struggle with eating disorders, food is a constant battle. An eating disorder is considered any persistent eating behaviors that adversely affects your health, behaviour and quality of life. While there are many eating disorders, the most common are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating.

shutterstock_152108561Some people are predisposed to eating disorders because of some personality traits, some to meet cultural ideas of beauty. Others turn to it as a way to find control in an out of control world. While an eating disorder can present at any stage of life, the most common time is high school and college, when personal and external expectations and pressures are higher than ever. In an effort to manage these overwhelming feelings, some young people see food as the one aspect of their life they can control. By choosing not to eat, they gain a sense of empowerment. This empowerment then becomes addictive and increasingly hard to stop. Where some will restrict their food to gain control, others will turn to food for comfort and will find themselves in a pattern of bingeing and purging.

As a society, we tend to idolize celebrities and their success. We believe that their lives are perfect or close to it. Many young women develop eating disorder in an attempt to reach these ideals. However ideal these celebrities lives may seem, some of them too struggle with eating disorders. Many actresses have come forward with their eating disorder struggles, which often are linked to self harm, depression or other emotional disorders. Actresses Tracey Gold and Candace Cameron Bure have both openly discussed their struggles with eating disorders. Even Diana, Princess of Wales struggled with an eating disorder. Unfortunately, many women, such as Karen Carpenter lost their battle and their life to an eating disorder. And it’s not just women who struggle; Dennis Quaid once struggled with anorexia before seeking treatment. Eating disorders, sadly, are common for every age, sex and station in life.

Eating disorders are about so more than just food. There are many facets of recovery that require both long term medical care and psychological therapy. However, early diagnosis and intervention can make recovery much quicker. Some common signs of eating disorder are: a marked weight increase or decrease, chronic fatigue, being cold all the time, long trips to the bathroom after meals, preoccupation with food and calories, avoiding meals, depression, dehydration and avoiding family and friends. If you are struggling with an eating disorder or you suspect someone you care about may be, please seek professional care immediately. An eating disorder is very serious and needs to be under medical care as soon as possible.

1 The Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders, “Eating Disorders 101 Guide: A Summary of Issues, Statistics and Resources,” 2003.

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