This week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week and you may wonder why I’m writing a post about it on East Texas Moms Blog.
Part of that answer is because I’m an eating disorder therapist and I could talk all day long about eating disorders to anyone for any reason.
The bigger answer is that eating disorders are rampant in our world, they are claiming our lives and the lives of our children.
And they thrive on silence, secrecy, and shame.
So I’m here to battle against eating disorders in any and every way I can. It starts by having open conversations and not shying away from an often uncomfortable topic.
Because our lives depend on it. And our children’s lives depend on it.
So here are some quick truths about eating disorders:
Eating disorders are not a choice.
Eating disorders are a very serious medical and mental illness and have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness, but are often overlooked and misdiagnosed. They are more complicated than food and body and you can’t “get over it” simply by “praying it away” or “eating a cheeseburger”. Recovery requires active choices (like praying and eating cheeseburgers), but eating disorders have many components- biological, psychological, and social components. They require specialized treatment for true healing and full recovery.
They don’t discriminate.
We tend to think of eating disorder as a white, middle class, adolescent female problem. But we couldn’t be farther from the truth. Anyone can suffer from an eating disorder, no matter their age, race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, education level or any other factor.
You cannot tell someone has an eating disorder by looking at them.
Our world has a lot to say about bodies, how bodies “should” look and be, and what a person’s body says about who they are and their character/value in the world. With that, people often think they can know whether someone has an eating disorder by how thin or large their body is. The truth is, I have thin, fit clients that are extremely unhealthy and I have clients that live in larger bodies that are extremely healthy. You have to look at a person’s whole self to know their level of health. Blood work is key to understanding someone’s health and can help educated professionals get a picture of the presence of an eating disorder.
Eating disorders can be hard to detect.
Dieting behaviors and weight loss are glorified and moralized in our world. In my dieting heyday, I was praised everywhere I went when I restricted food, exercised when I felt terrible, and lost weight despite the fact that I was miserable and my body was literally starving. It’s hard to determine what is an eating disorder behavior and what is dieting, disordered eating. This makes detecting an eating disorder difficult. My good friends and colleagues Sara Upson, RD, and Celeste Smith, LMFT-A , created this checklist to help identify the red flags for an eating disorder:
Eating disorders are often triggered during times of transition and stress.
Anyone can develop an eating disorder throughout their life, but we most common see an eating disorder develop during times of change, transition, and stress. Such as graduation from high school/college, starting a new job, moving to a new place (alone or with family), marriage, the death of a loved one, the loss of job, pregnancy and childbirth. The trigger typically happens during a time of transition, but the eating disorder is often not noticed until months or even years later. That’s where the checklist above comes in handy.
Full Recovery is possible.
Early intervention and treatment are key in helping someone recover from an eating disorder, but it is never too late to start treatment! Once someone is diagnosed with an eating disorder, they are not bound to a life with an eating disorder. Most specialized eating disorder professionals believe in full recovery and full freedom from an eating disorder and do not follow an addiction based model. Full recovery takes specialized treatment and a lot of hard work. It’s not easy, but it is possible and absolutely worth every step along the way.
Now we can go back to the importance of talking about eating disorders on East Texas Mom’s Blog.
There are many steps to finding food and body freedom in our world, but the first step is honest, open awareness. For ourselves and for our children.
We can model for our children what a wholly healthy person looks like- in body, in mind, in spirit. This means we seek help when we are struggling, when we see and feel in ourselves we’re trapped in a cycle of food restriction, exercise obsession, body hatred, and misery.
We can identify when we see our children struggling and come to them with compassion, love, and understanding.
We can give them a different definition for health and happiness by showing them how to live a life of food and body freedom while honoring and nurturing our bodies and minds well.
I believe moms hold a special kind of influence in the world and if we can shift the way we, as mothers, experience and relate not only to our bodies and food, but also to our authentic selves, we can change the landscape of this world.
If you suspect that you or someone you love is struggling with disordered eating or an eating disorder, reach out to a trained professional or visit the National Eating Disorder Association for resources and support today.
The silence, secrecy and shame that eating disorders thrive in want us to stay quiet, but we can band together to fight back- for ourselves and for our children!
You can also visit my personal blog and contact me for a variety of resources to help you or your loved one!