- Brandi Sentz, MHA, RD, LD, CDE
Eating Disorder Awareness Week
The food—your favorite food—is in front of you. Why can you not lift the fork and put it to your lips? It smells wonderful and your mouth waters and your stomach grumbles, but your head is saying, “No way! You don’t deserve to eat today.” You don’t lift the fork.
Sometimes, you are able to abstain from eating until the next day and you hear a tiny part of you say, “This is not good.” A much larger part of you says, “You did it! This is what you need to do to be perfect.” Sometimes, you are not able to resist and sneak to the kitchen when no one is around and eat the leftovers and whatever else you can find and promise yourself you’ll be better tomorrow. Sometimes, you keep it down and other times you purge—ridding your body of the guilt.
You spend day after day, minute after minute, calculating your nutrition needs and how much you are eating daily and what can be cut from your diet. You missed your friends party because you couldn’t figure out how to fit the birthday cake into your plan OR how to hide the fact you WEREN’T eating the cake. You missed the sun shining outside because you were so tired you couldn’t get out of bed.
Sometimes, you think it would just be easier to disappear…
February 26- March 4, 2017 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.
Eating disorders including binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, and anorexia nervosa are complex mental illnesses involving extreme emotions, attitude, and behaviors in regard to food, exercise and body image. Eating disorders affect more than 30 million people in the United States and have the highest mortality of any mental illness! They also do not discriminate-- affecting males and females of all ages, ethnicities, and social classes.
We have an awareness week for eating disorders in hope to educate family members, friends, and the public to know the signs and symptoms of eating disorders. In contrary to popular belief, eating disorders are not just a “diet gone wrong” or someone “being stubborn.” Eating disorders are scary. Whether the individual is overweight, underweight, or normal weight—body image is almost always distorted. You cannot trust the image in the mirror, but many of my patients insist there is no one else to trust. You want to eat, but the eating disorder voice inside warns you against so you starve- OR- makes you feel so disgusting about yourself you “feed the feelings” by binging. It’s a vicious cycle—and very seldom can one recover on their own.
If you believe you have an eating disorder (or a loved one has an eating disorder) please contact a local health professional who specializes in eating disorders. Explain to this person your feelings. Do NOT let someone talk you out of believing you are struggling with an eating disorder—many times well-intentioned health care pros “judge a book by its cover.” If we’ve learned anything in treating eating disorders, you cannot just look on the outside. Eating disorders are deep seeded, deep rooted illnesses and just because you may not be emaciated does not mean you don’t have an eating disorder. You need a team to help, including a physician, psychologist, and registered dietitian trained in treating eating disorders.
The theme of this year’s awareness week is “It’s Time to Talk About It.” I encourage any of you who may be struggling with food, body image, or extreme exercise to please visit www.nedawareness.org. This website has many excellent resources, and can help you get in touch with the right team. I also encourage anyone living in the Charleston/Huntington, WV area to contact West Virginia University Disordered Eating Center of Charleston (WVU DECC). This program can also help put you in touch with trained eating disorder professionals.