NYC Registered Dietitian Discusses National Eating Disorder Awareness Week:


Have you ever had a little alarm go off when you started seeing patterns in your daughter’s, a friend’s or even your own eating and/or exercise habits?

Have you ever felt so alone and scared, afraid your son or wife might not live until the next holiday?

The last week of February is NEDA – National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (#NEDA). So to end a month of posts about love and passion, I want to focus on eating disorder awareness. This is the best way to love someone who might be in trouble.

Eating disorders are diseases that hide in plain sight, leaving millions of people untreated and undiagnosed. Eating disorders are shrouded in myths, and the first step is to dispel these erroneous ideas to have accurate, up-to-date information about eating disorders.

  • Eating disorders are not a teenage girl problem: Clinically profound eating disorders will touch the lives of 30 million people in the United States – 20 million women and 10 million men. Eating disorders do not discriminate against age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, socio-economic background, or religion. In fact, eating disorders are on the rise in women over 50 and athletes – two groups that are often forgotten. The Marginalized Voices Project helps debunk some of these stereotypes and myths.
  • Eating disorders are not singular problems. Eating disorders are complex mental and physical illnesses, often accompanied by depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, trauma, obesity and other mental health conditions. An eating disorder is not about “the food.”
  • Eating disorders are not a lifestyle choice, or a fad, or a passing phase. They are serious, life-threatening diseases.
  • Eating disorders carry a social stigma that impedes those suffering from one to get help. Weight shaming, bullying, and the stigma of suffering from a mental health issue often stop people from getting the help they need.
  • Anorexia has the highest fatality rate of any mental illness with bulimia and other non-specified eating disorders coming a close second.

Again, those little alarms might be going off. There are warning signs of eating disorders, both binge eating disorder (BED) and anorexia nervosa, you should be aware of. There are many disorders that fall in the spectrum, so any alarm to disordered eating should be addressed.
Here, I’m going to share some of the most common warning signs of Anorexia Nervosa or BED. Awareness could save a life.

  • Dramatic weight loss or a marked increase in weight, not related to medical problems. (Anorexia Nervosa and BED)
  • Preoccupation with weight, calories, weight gain, fat grams, body image, dieting. When weight and, “Am I fat?” become primary concerns, even to the extent that relationships suffer. (Anorexia Nervosa and BED)
  • Strict exercise regimes. (Anorexia Nervosa)
  • Development of food rituals. (Anorexia Nervosa and BED)
  • Refusing to eat certain foods, then slashing entire food categories. (Anorexia Nervosa)
  • Denying hunger. (Anorexia Nervosa)
  • Eating when not hungry. (BED)
  • Finding stashes of food. (BED)
  • Feelings of shame, depression. (Anorexia Nervosa and BED)
  • Excuses to avoid mealtime (Anorexia Nervosa) and eating when others can’t see you (BED).

I know I write about this every year, but I can’t emphasize how important raising awareness about eating disorders is. It is “time to talk about it.” It’s time to peel away the shame so many people feel. It’s time to shift the conversation and find ways to talk about weight in positive ways with our children.

If you suspect that you or anyone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, you need to get help fast. Take a free screening. Learn what you need to know about insurance and eating disorders. Contact your health care professional to get help as soon as possible. It could be a matter of life and death.