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Posts Tagged ‘anorexia’

February is a month of much emotion among eating disorder sufferers, activists, professionals, and the like. It’s a month dedicated to raising awareness about these life-threatening disorders in an effort to save the lives of millions across the world.

My focus this month is “I will help others survive.” As many of you may recall, I lost my best friend to anorexia in November and I vow to do what I can to limit the loss of other precious souls such as hers.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association (2005), more Americans suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and compulsive overeating, than from Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, NEDA reports 10 million people in the U.S. battle eating disorders, compared to four million fighting Alzheimers. Yet, research dollars set aside for eating disorders is 75-percent less than that for Alzheimer’s.

NEDA offers the following chilling statistics on their website regarding these research dollars:

In the year 2005, the National Institutes of Health funded the following disorders accordingly:

Illness                              Prevalence               Research Funds

Eating disorders:              10 million                   $12,000,000 (Anorexia Only)

Alzheimer’s disease:         4.5 million                  $647,000,000

Schizophrenia:                  2.2 million                  $350,000,000

Perhaps this is because some consider eating disorders a choice illness that individuals can “snap out of” at any time. Or maybe it’s because not enough awareness about the truth of these disorders has been raised.  I can tell you that while individuals can certainly overcome eating disorders, the road to and through recovery is one that is physically and emotionally taxing. It can take as many as seven years to solidify recovery, although for some it can take much less or much more time. There are several factors to be considered on an individual basis.

Eating disorders are not, I repeat, ARE NOT, based on desire to lose weight. Ineffective eating behaviors are a symptom of a bigger problem and are reported to most often include issues with control. Whether a man or woman feels pressured to succeed, is struggling to cope with past abuse, has lived their life feeling overlooked and just wants to be loved…whatever the reason, once an eating disorder creeps into a person’s life, it takes root very quickly.

If someone struggling with an eating disorder becomes aware that their disorder is dangerous and is willing to seek help, there are numerous resources available. In some cases, individuals can become unable to make treatment decisions on their own, and family members are forced to make these decisions for them. It’s recommended that sufferers work with an individual therapist, a medical doctor, a nutritionist, and a psychiatrist. If outpatient therapy is not enough, or if medical complications are compromising the individual’s ability to function, residential or inpatient treatment is suggested. Sadly, however, many individuals cannot afford such intensive treatment, which can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars for a 60-day stay – with or without insurance. Outpatient services can be just as costly over time.

It’s imperative that those of in recovery and those of us in the helping professions make known the dangers of eating disorders, as well as the treatment options available. I can’t tell you how many professionals I’ve come across who have very little knowledge about these illnesses and I hope that someday we will see a drastic increase in the number of practitioners who can help the millions who so desperately need it.

If you or someone you know is battling an eating disorder of any kind, please visit www.nationaleatingdisorders.org for more information. NEDA offers resources and links that can put you in touch with treatment centers and treatment professionals. Psychology Today is also a wonderful resource for finding a therapist. Once on their site, you can type in your zip code and search the listings for professionals in your area who specialize in eating disorders. If you’re in the Cincinnati area and in need of help, please visit Eating Recovery Center of Ohio to contact an admissions coordinator.

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This blog post may be a bit sensitive for some, but I can’t hold in my view on the subject any longer.

Perhaps you’ve seen the T-shirts that read, “I beat anorexia,” or have been asked on occasion about losing weight. Whether or not you or someone else did actually have anorexia is not why I’m steaming. It’s the fact that there is even a T-shirt with these words being sold in plus sizes (and regular sizes too I’m sure) as a joke and the fact that people so regularly comment on the weight of the thin.

Even if someone does have anorexia and is underweight, what gives people the right (besides freedom of speech) to comment so openly on the weight of the perceived slender individuals in this world? And what gives people the right to publicly make fun of those who have a serious mental illness? I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t walk up to someone who has gained weight and say, “Wow, you’ve really gained some weight. Have you been eating more?” Nor would I post jokes on a social networking site about mental. illness. Not all thin or underweight people have an eating disorder and if they do, take their hand and help for crying out loud…

I am defensive about mental illness because someone NEEDS to be.

My goodness people, why does someone having an eating disorder or being naturally slender permit the rest of us to comment so darn freely on how his/her weight appears??? You will never see me wear a T-shirt with the words, “I beat anorexia,” even though I truly have beat the illness.

Humans are more than a number. We are more than an appearance or a size or a hairstyle. So please, let’s all do the world of favor and unless we are being sincere and not inquiring just to inquire (or because we’re jealous), let’s stop with the weight talk and move on to life’s more important things.

While we’re at it, let’s stop all the trash talk and jokes about an illness that kills more than 20 percent of sufferers.

It’s no laughing matter…

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It’s that time of year again. Time to recognize and raise awareness about eating disorders (EDs). In my book, this should be done every single day and I know that there are many of us out there who aim to do so.

You may or may not know someone who has battled or is battling an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia or compulsive overeating/binge eating. Some think EDs are about trying to look like a Hollywood actress or trying to impress a boyfriend or girlfriend. That’s not always the case. In fact, it’s very rarely the case. EDs begin in individuals for a variety of reasons and they manifest in a variety of ways. But there is one thing that’s the same regardless and that is EDs can be fatal (no matter which ED one suffers from). It’s the reality many have had to face head-on at times.

I have a best friend right now sitting in the hospital suffering from the effects of her ED and in August I lost a friend to anorexia. These disorders are not just an attempt to lose weight or to stay as thin as possible. In fact, weight is only one part of the bigger picture..

There is hope, help and healing from EDs. This week is a time to spread the word about EDs and how more than 11 million Americans alone (both men and women) are fighting for their lives every single day. It’s a time to wear purple, to reach out and to speak up. It’s time to talk about it. Period.

There is no shame in admitting we need help. There is no shame in admitting we are afraid. There is no shame in any of it because we are human and we all have our “stuff.” Hope is not lost and in the future when I have clients sitting across from me who are where I have been, my prayer is that I can offer them something to bring them to a place of acceptance, truth, forgiveness and healing. You don’t have to succumb to your disorder.

Take time to visit the National Eating Disorders Association to learn more. There are many good resources on the site, including educational tool kits, fact sheets, recovery stories and more. The more people who are aware, the more people who can recover.

Thank you in advance.

M

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