National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2019 is February 23-March 5th.
Eating Disorders are a serious and life-threatening mental illness that affect more than 30 million Americans. Within their life time, 20 million women and 10 million men will suffer from an eating disorder, according to National Surveys.
There is no single cause of Eating Disorders, but rather a range of biological, psychological and sociocultural factors combined to create the vulnerability of developing an eating disorder in an individual.
“Too often individuals delay or avoid treatment because they aren’t thin enough, young enough, sick enough, or of the “right” gender to have an eating disorder. It’s important we recognize this stereotype as a dangerous hurdle for seeking and receiving help.”Emily Fonnesbeck, RD and Nutrition Therapist.
This year’s #NEDA Theme is “Come As You Are” geared towards making Eating Disorder Recovery open to everyone who has struggled in their relationship with their body image, food, exercise and eating disorders. This year’s recovery week gives a voice to those who’s stories of recovery have not been widely recognized.
Eating Disorders are treatable, but often go undiagnosed or recognized based on outdated misunderstandings of who is affected; what eating disorders look like; and the normalization of food and weight management that is popular in Western cultures.
Below are 3 Common Myths associated with Eating Disorders that can prevent someone from seeking and/or receiving help.
Myth #1: Eating Disorders are only about Food and Weight
One of the most common misunderstandings about someone suffering from an Eating Disorder is that it is about Food and Weight. This misunderstanding exists EVEN among the eating disordered individual. While Recovery does include regulating food and weight behaviors, one of the first things we educate families and clients on is, “It’s not about the food.” Food and weight are a surface level symptom and management technique of something greater underneath the surface of the eating disorder. This is what is explored in nutritional therapy, treatment, as well as recovery coaching.
Myth #2: You can tell if someone has an Eating Disorder based on how they look.
Unfortunately, an outdated belief on Eating Disorders is that they are diagnosable based on physicality. What we know to be true about Eating Disorders today is that someone can look completely “healthy” or “normal” to you, and could be suffering. Eating Disorders or disordered eating is about an unhealthy relationship with food, weight and body image. It can include beliefs, rituals, values, habits, compulsivity, behaviors and more surrounding food, exercise, weight and body image.
Myth #3: Eating Disorder Recovery is attained after the “Patient” has reached a “healthy” weight.
In line with Myth #2, some of the biggest work we do with families is coaching AFTER a loved one has gone to treatment. Once an individual or Patient has returned to a “normal” weight, the family and even the individual with the eating disorder believes their work is done. What we know about Eating Disorder Recovery is that on average, it takes 5-7 year to completely recover from an eating disorder, with many slips, steps back, progression and regression along the way. Eating Disorder Recovery has much more to do with the internal thoughts and beliefs around food, weight, body image and exercise than it has to do with actual weight. Eating Disorder Recovery is also primarily influenced by the factors that created and/or impacted the Eating Disorder including trauma, sociocultural factors, self-esteem, healthy relationships and more.
Myths about Eating Disorders are common and much of the work we do with families on the front end is education about the Mental Illness. If you believe you or a loved one is suffering from an Eating Disorder or Disordered Eating, there is hope and help available to you.
- National Eating Disorders Association
- NEDA screening tool
- Toll-free National Eating Disorders Helpline: 800-931-2237, available Mon.-Thurs., 9 a.m.- 9 p.m., Fri., 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. EST
- 24/7 Crisis Support via text: send NEDA to 741741
- Doyen Consulting Group, Eating Disorder Interventions, Recovery Coaching, Treatment Recommendations, and Treatment Consulting.