Let’s Get Real

February 23, 2018 by Kendra Wilson, LCSW0

Eating Disorder Awareness Week

For the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA)’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week (February 26-March 4), the theme is “Let’s Get Real.” The goal is to highlight the stories we don’t hear as often and to open the conversation to everyone.

For more info from NEDA, please go to https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/, and if you are concerned you might have an eating disorder, use their Helpline 1-800-931-2237 or their screening tool https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/screening-tool.

According to statistics provided by NEDA, 30 million Americans struggle with a “full blown” eating disorder, and countless more struggle with eating and body image concerns. Because of the stereotypes and stigma attached to mental illness and eating disorders, a lot of people don’t reach out for help.

Last year, the theme was “It’s Time To Talk About It” and Kelly Broadwater, LPA here at Chrysalis Center highlighted the high mortality rate, the lack of funding for research, the negative messages about food and weight we get bombarded with every day, getting help, and having hope. To read more from this blog post, go to http://chrysaliscenter-nc.com/its-time-to-talk-about-it/.

Truths About Eating Disorders

There are a lot of stereotypes about eating disorders. How many of those are even real? Instead of going through all the myths about eating disorders, here are some truths:

  • An eating disorder is not a choice; it is a mental illness with serious physical, cognitive, and psychological implications.
  • It is not possible to “just snap out of it.”
  • There is no one cause for an eating disorder, it is a different root for every person.
  • It is a big deal.
  • Anorexia is not the only eating disorder, even if it is the one we think of most often – bulimia, binge eating disorder, and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder are also serious, life threatening illnesses that need to be taken seriously.
  • Just because you don’t see it physically, doesn’t mean it’s not there or that you should ignore signs because it doesn’t fit the stereotype.
  • There are a lot of other issues linked to eating disorders, including anxiety, depression, and trauma.
  • People need their support system, including friends, family, and treatment team, to recover.
  • Men can have eating disorders, and the CDC found that about 1/3 of all eating disorder sufferers are male.
  • Children as young as five can develop eating disorders, and many people who struggle with eating disorders as a child or adolescent will continue to struggle with them as an adult unless they receive help.
  • It is not just about food.

For people with these disorders, one of the biggest obstacles is the secrets and shame that go along with those behaviors.

Say Something!

Too often, loved ones will see something wrong and not say anything – if we are going to “Get Real” that needs to change. People are afraid to bring things up, but that is one of the things that keeps the stigmas about mental health and eating disorders alive.

Why not ask, or express concern? What is wrong with talking about it, really? It can be a difficult topic, but if it is approached with concern, caring, and empathy, people will rarely shut down the conversation.

If this seems too stressful or delicate to do on your own, seek help from a professional (a therapist or dietician who specializes in eating disorders) to help you have the conversation.

As an eating disorder specialist, the most important message I want people to hear is that truth and honesty is necessary from everyone affected – the person with the eating disorder and their loved ones.

Don’t walk on eggshells – but don’t smash them either. If you try to get real, make sure you are coming from a genuine place of caring before you try to open the conversation. If it is approached with compassion, the conversation has a much better chance of being productive for the person with the eating disorder and their loved ones.

#NEDAwareness

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