This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. The theme for the week is I Had No Idea. Really, how many of us understand eating disorders?
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics approximately 24 million Americans have some type of eating disorder. These disorders are serious medical conditions that occur when people spend most of their time focused on food and, oftentimes, body image. Although eating disorders are frequently found among females, men and boys can also be affected by abnormal eating habits.
The American Psychological Association lists three main types of eating disorders.
- Anorexia nervosa occurs when people see themselves as fat but are really very thin from extreme diet restriction.
- Bulimia nervosa is diagnosed when people eat large amounts of food, often in secret, and then purge by vomiting or using laxatives. Or, instead of purging, excessive exercise or fasting are used to keep weight down.
- Binge-eating disorder describes the regular habit of eating excessively without the purge.
According to Marci Anderson, MS, RD, CPT, eating disorders top other psychiatric illnesses in mortality rate. She states that these diseases are not associated only with female teens, but also occur in those over 50 years of age. And it is estimated that 10 millions males will develop an eating disorder during their life.
Females, adolescents, and athletes (such as dancers, rowers, and gymnasts who keep their weight fine-tuned) are often at risk for eating disorders. With the continuing emphasis on obesity and body image in our country, even young children are at risk.
Eating disorders left untreated can severely impact one’s health. Anorexia can lead to an abnormally slow heart beat, osteoporosis, muscle loss, fatigue, dry skin, and dry hair. Bulimia can result in heart failure, inflammation of the esophagus, tooth decay, ulcers, and pancreatitis. Binge eating shares the risks of obesity including diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease.
For more information on eating disorders, symptoms, and treatment, visit these organization websites:
- Academy for Eating Disorders
- National Eating Disorders Association
- Binge Eating Disorder Association
- International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals Foundation