It’s Time for Change. Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2023. By Lauren Callahan, LSW, CTRS
“I don’t have a great relationship with food and my body, but I don’t have an eating disorder.”
As an eating disorder and body image therapist, you’d be surprised how often I hear this. Stereotypical images of underweight teenage girls flood the media and people’s minds when they hear the term “eating disorder.” But did you know there are seven types of eating disorders plus multiple subsets? Additionally, non-medical terms have risen in recent years to describe common experiences of disordered eating such as orthorexia and diabulimia. In honor of Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I’ve come to break down common symptoms of eating disorders and how to know when to reach out for help.
Eating disorders often start as a seemingly innocent way to lose a few pounds or engage in healthier eating. In fact, studies have found that dieting is the number one predictor of developing an eating disorder (NEDA, 2022). Dieting encourages food restriction, fasting, and omitting certain foods or food groups. In a short period of time, an individual may lose weight and start an unhealthy addiction with the desire to further their weight loss. However, restriction is never sustainable and many individuals will begin to binge and feel “out of control” in their eating habits. The result is physically, mentally, and emotionally damaging.
As time goes on, an obsession with food, weight, or exercise may become all-consuming. Individuals may have difficulty separating their own thoughts from those of the eating disorder. Increased irritation, anxiety, depression, and social isolation are common. Those with eating disorders often fear social events due to lack of control around food and the fear of judgement from others. It is common for those with eating disorders to find comfort in their illness and will often deny its severity, maintain secrecy, and deny the help they deserve.
Eating disorders thrive in secrecy and shame. The sooner one seeks help for disordered eating, the sooner one can find peace with food, exercise, and their body. Every day I see individuals taking steps towards liberation by finding joy in food and fostering self-love. Although this may seem daunting, please know that it is possible to fully recover from the impact of disordered eating and poor body image.
If you suspect you may be struggling with an eating disorder or want to improve your relationship to your body and food, please reach out today. Our therapists will be happy to support you with the help you deserve.
National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). (2022). Statistics and research on eating disorders. NEDA. https://web.archive.org/web/20230203122737mp_/https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/statistics-research-eating-disorders.