Monday, September 17, 2012

Eating Disorder Awareness

On every TV that you turn on or each in each magazine you read is filled with images of the prototype of the perfect male or female.  These airbrushed and computer enhanced images are supposed to show us the definition of beauty and perfection.  Not to mention these same magazines that have the newest fad diet plan of the month right next to the pictures.  It is no surprise that eating disorders are becoming more prevalent and especially in younger aged children.

I am a board member of the Eating Disorder Network of Maryland.  Before I became a board member I was very much in the dark about eating disorders.  What I did know was from after school specials on TV and the occasional information in a health class, but eating disorders are so much more than that.

Society fails to treat eating disorders as the mental health disease that they are.  Instead, people with eating disorders are thought of as stubborn or as having a lack of self control.  But this is not true at all.  In addition, many people think that they have never encountered a person with an eating disorder, however, many with the diseases are masters of covering up their illness.    And please remember that eating disorders are not a white girl thing, despite popular belief.  They effect white, black, women, and men,  the poor and the rich, they do not discriminate!  This post is my little part to teach you raise awareness about eating disorders.

Let's start at the beginning.  What is an eating disorder?  According to the National Eating Disorder Network (NEDA) eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating disorders, " include
extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues.  Eating disorders are
serious emotional and physical problems that can have life-threatening consequences for females and
males."

There are several types of definable eating disorders.  Anorexia is categorized as self-starvation and excessive weight loss. Bulimia is, "a secretive cycle of binge eating followed by purging.
Bulimia includes eating large amounts of food--more than most people would eat in one meal--in short
periods of time, then getting rid of the food and calories through vomiting, laxative abuse, or overexercising."  Binge eating includes eating in a large uncontrolled manner to the level of compulsion without purging.  While bulimia and anorexia are the most popular there are more that do not fall into this category.  I recently found out that both over exercising, excessive use of laxatives, and even extreme forms of organic or vegetarian eating can also fall under the eating disorder umbrella

Each individual may manifest symptoms in different ways, however there are many similar underlying issues.  These issues include depression, anxiety, loneliness,and a poor body image.  Other possible factors are troubles with relationships, a history of physical or sexual abuse, and emotional issues.

The repercussions of an eating disorder are far reaching.  Eating disorders may cause other physical issues such as an imbalance of chemicals in the body such as lower potassium levels.  Also common is dental problems such as the erosion of enamel of the teeth.  And worst of all, many insurance companies either do not cover the costs for treatment or do not provide for the full course of treatment that the patient may need!

This year I am the walk coordinator for the EDN/NEDA Walk in Baltimore to raise funds for awareness and education of eating disorders.  If you can please participate and/or please donate to the cause click here.

Also to find out more information about the Eating Disorder Network of Maryland please click here.

To learn more about the National Eating Disorder Association click here.

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