The National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is from Feb. 26 to March 4, led by the National Eating Disorders Association. Its purpose is to bring awareness, break down stigmas, and provide resources on eating disorders. This year’s theme is “It’s Time to Talk about It!” So, we’re joining in on the conversation and debunking four myths about eating disorders.
4 Myths about Eating Disorders
We want everyone to know the truth about eating disorders. And, there are a lot of myths out there that stereotype and even hinder people with eating disorders from getting help and recovering. By having a better understanding about eating disorders, we will be able to help and stand by those who are struggling with this illness. Here are four myths about eating disorders and why they’re wrong!
1. Only teenage girls have eating disorders.
The truth is anyone can suffer from an eating disorder, no matter what age, gender, race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, more than 10 million men and 20 million women have dealt with an eating disorder in their lifetimes. Because of this misconception, many men and people from minority groups may not have been properly identified and treated for their eating disorders.
2. People with eating disorders are all skinny.
Just because someone is thin does not mean that they have an eating disorder, and just because someone is normal or overweight does not mean that they can’t have an eating disorder. The stereotype that people with eating disorders are all skinny perpetuates the notion that it’s only about food. At the core of eating disorders there is a complex struggle with self-worth, distortion of body image, negative thoughts, shame, and the need for control. No one can tell if an individual has an eating disorder just by looking at their outer appearance.
3. Parents and family members are the cause of eating disorders.
Parents and family members are not the cause of eating disorders, but they are extremely crucial for the patient’s recovery. Families are often the best support for a patient going through treatment. There is no single cause for eating disorders. Genetic, biological, socio-behavioral, and psychological factors all play into the illness.
4. Eating disorders are a choice.
You don’t choose to have the flu, depression, or ADHD, and you also don’t choose to have an eating disorder. Eating disorders are illnesses, not choices. This notion is one of the most damaging for patients because it puts the blame on them. Instead, we should focus on how they can be treated and supported to full recovery from their eating disorder.
What is an Eating Disorder?
Eating disorders are mental illnesses that produce obsessive behavior and attitudes towards food and also an extreme desire to control their behaviors. They are psychological responses to low self-esteem, stress, and emotional situations. Because of their complex natures, eating disorders can also lead to depression, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders.
Types of Eating Disorders
The most common types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. People with anorexia see themselves as fat even when everyone else says they’re not. Physical symptoms of anorexia include extreme restriction of eating, loss of bone and muscle mass, lack of energy, and emaciation.
Bulimia involves binge eating followed by purging. This can occur several times a day and includes feeling of shame and guilt about overeating and the desire to regain control. Physical symptoms of bulimia include severe dehydration, tooth enamel breakdown from stomach acid, and intestinal distress. If bulimia goes on for a long period of time, it can even lead to a heart attack. Binge eating disorders are similar to bulimia, with binge eating – but without the purge. Binge eaters are trying to fill an emotional void through food.
Thankfully, eating disorders are treatable, and there are many success stories from people who have recovered! Learn more about treatments and overcoming eating disorders here.
Join the National Eating Disorders Awareness Week
Now that you’ve gained awareness and knowledge about eating disorders, it’s time to get involved and take action! There are many ways to do that. You can participate in activities and events near you. There are also plenty of resources to read and learn from. The Holiner Group also has a resource for you to learn more! Finally, join the discussions by getting social. Use the hashtag #NEDAwareness and share facts, information, activities, events, and stories about eating disorders on your social networks.