NATIONAL EATING DISORDER AWARENESS WEEK: WHAT TO DO AND HOW TO HELP
By WVUA 23 Student Reporter Emily Moessner
National Eating Disorder Awareness Week aims to expand the conversation surrounding eating disorders and other psychological diseases and will take place from Feb. 26 to March 4.
Some 20 million women and 10 million men in America will develop an eating disorder in their lifetime. Lori Greene, an instructor in the Department of Human Nutrition and Hospitality Management at the University of Alabama, said she wants people to start understanding eating disorders as a psychological disease.
“A lot of times we think of (eating disorders) as a food disease, but it’s just a psychological disease that is manifested through food,” she said.
It can be hard to see specific warning signs in those affected by an eating disorder. Greene said that, in addition to eating less or losing weight, there are less common signs that people do not usually associate with an eating disorder.
“A lot of people with eating disorders tend to be ritualistic, so sometimes they just eat the same thing over and over again,” she said.
While some of the most well-known eating disorders, like bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, involve eating and then binging or purging food, there are other eating disorders that do not involve food at all. For instance, compulsive exercise and exercising to an extreme extent is also classified as an eating disorder.
Greene said the best way to approach someone who may have an eating disorder is to be understanding and compassionate.
“Just say ‘I’m concerned about you because I’m witnessing this,’” she said. “So not that we’re going to accuse them of having an eating disorder, but just try to understand why it is that they are eating less, or exercising in a more unhealthy way.”
Eating disorders can lead to a variety of health issues, including poor bone health, fertility problems later in life, and skin and hair damage.
Greene said that eating disorders need to be treated by a professional, whether it is a physician, dietitian, or counselor.
More information about specific eating disorders, treatment options, and support can be found on nationaleatingdisordres.org.