National Eating Disorders Awareness Week began on Monday. Eating disorders reveal more about the person than the food that is or is not eaten. Whether a person is anorexic, bulimic or overcome by binge eating, the disorder often reveals an issue of control and fear in the sufferer. It shows up on a physical level and too often leads friends and family to focus on the extra weight, or the skin and bones, instead of the mental element of trying to control weight and body image issues.
The origin of the unhealthy eating pattern is sometimes to be found in the past, when well meaning family members are concerned about overweight children, but cannot express it in an appropriate manner. Perhaps suggestions come in the form of diets or exercise, but may need to come in the form of mental health care.
Brian Cuban, author of “Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder,” remembers his own childhood as consisting of bullying and shame over his 270 pounds at the age of eleven. “Every time I looked in the mirror, no matter how thin I got, whether it was my dorm mirror, whether it was a reflection in a car window, store mirror, I saw this fat, bullied child,” he said.
Cuban suffered from addictions to alcohol and food until he addressed his real monster: Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), which is marked by excessive concern about, and preoccupation with, a perceived defect of physical appearance. Cuban believes that like most addictions, recovery is a lifetime process. The best way he fights back is to manage his thoughts about himself and his continued pattern of self-destructive behavior.
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is coming to a close, and it is important to be aware of the millions of sufferers and their constant struggle with food or the lack of food and good nutrition. It affects the bottom line as a country, and if diagnosed and treated can be a problem of the past. The mental health element of eating disorders makes it particularly difficult for the 10 million men affected to reach out for help. Many sufferers believe they can handle it on their own and are ashamed to admit to their body dysmorphia.
The National Eating Disorders Association, (NEDA), reports that 50% of girls have unhealthy eating habits. For instance, they skip meals or having eaten, will vomit to avoid the calories. Nevada High School, in Nevada, Missouri, committed to becoming more aware this week by planning activities for students. Missouri representative, Randy Pike, attended a ceremony at the school to bring just such awareness.
Maddi Gordon, Student Body President, found that her peers were much more affected by unhealthy eating habits than she had supposed. After talking with students, however, Gordon realized the importance of this program. She spoke with many fellow students who said it affected their daily lives.
The Nevada high schoolers were also made aware of the increase in the number of males who have food challenges. NEDA reports that 34 percent of boys have unhealthy eating habits. Awareness of this fact may help lower the stigma associated with boys, food and nutrition. When mental health care can lessen control issues and body dysmorphia by helping control thought processes, more young people can avoid the pitfalls of eating disorders.
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is wrapping up. Awareness is an important issue for any age.
By Lisa M Pickering