National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is a national public health campaign. It occurs the last week of February, sponsored by the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA). They provide education and resources regarding eating disorders, body image, and other related concerns.
The theme for 2019 is “Come as You Are”. The purpose is to emphasize the importance of inclusivity in the eating disorder community. More importantly, another purpose is to break down stigma and barriers for treatment. They do this by creating more conversation around eating disorders and resources.
When most people hear the term “eating disorder”, they tend to think of a malnourished young woman, most likely suffering from anorexia nervosa. When someone experiences this eating disorder, they experience an intense fear of weight gain, typically show a dramatic weight loss and restrict their dietary intake. Although anorexia nervosa is indeed an eating disorder, there are many eating disorders that are even more prevalent. These are not limited to bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, and others. For a complete list and more information on the different types, please go to the this website.
An eating disorder is a treatable and curable mental illness that includes varied symptoms depending on the disorder. Therefore, it is important to be educated and know where to look for help. Especially because approximately 30 million Americans will experience an eating disorder sometime in their life. They also have the highest mortality rate for any mental illness. For example, one person dies from an eating disorder every hour. The unfortunate news is that out of everyone in the US suffering from an eating disorder, only 30% will seek treatment. This is mostly likely due to financial barriers, stigma, misconceptions, and the lack of access to care.
Common signs and symptoms of eating disorders
The purpose of National Eating Disorder Awareness week is to decrease the shame surrounding eating disorders and create more conversation. If you think a loved one or yourself could be suffering from an eating disorder, here are some common symptoms or signs:
- Preoccupations with food, weight or calories
- Refusal to eat certain foods or food categories (i.e. no carbohydrates, no sugars)
- Skipping meals or restricting meals
- Avoiding people and social settings
- Frequent body checking or looking at self in reflection
- Changes in menstruation
- Dry skin
- Dry hair
- Brittle nails
- Fine hair on body (lanugo)
- Dramatic weight loss or weight gain
- Secret recurrent episodes of binge eating
- Purge behavior (bathroom use after food consumption)
- Expresses need to “burn off calories” after meals
If you believe you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder or disordered eating, please go to a medical professional.