Eating disorders: know the signs

Claire Gelhaus, Editor

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In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives, according to the National Eating Disorder Association, or             NEDA. This can include anorexia, bulimia, or binge-eating, but many suffering hide their disorder from adults, friends, family members, and doctors, leaving lasting effects to their health and body image.

“Some studies suggest that as many as half of teenage girls and 30 percent of boys have seriously distorted eating habits that can adversely affect them physically, academically, psychologically and socially,” said Jane Brody in an article for the New York Times. In a society blurred and cinched by FaceTune, everyone has the ability to alter their appearance, creating unrealistic expectations to have perfect skin, a tiny waist, and a glowing smile.

The signs are subtle, but the tip is knowing what to look for, because often victims will not outright ask for help. It is important to educate yourself, as family members and friends have the best odds at recognizing eating disorders in time to help.

In D.C. Everest Senior High health classes, curriculum doesn’t spend time on eating disorders, though it focuses on healthy eating habits and mental health.

“I take a more general approach to specific factors that cause risk to mental/emotional health in hope to encompass as many students as possible so I don’t specifically cover eating disorders,” said Mrs. Alisha Blanchette, physical education teacher. “We do, however, work to define and find ways to practice self-image, self-esteem, self-talk and self-value and ways to reduce and practice resilience to stress.”

Students in Health, a required course, have the option to pick a mental or emotional “risk” situation and develop a plan to respond to it, but there is no guide to help peers.

“I have had some students pick eating disorders and develop a plan of what to do if approached by a friend or if their “character” struggles with this issue,” said Mrs. Blanchette.

On Nov. 19, 2018, an amendment called the Long-Term InVestment in Education for Wellness (LIVE WELL) Act, was announced which could potentially mandate body image education in federal nutrition programs for all people regardless of weight or body type, NEDA said in a press release. While this has not passed yet, it would include education on eating disorder prevention for all students.

For now, within school, students suffering with an eating disorder are helped as soon as possible to get therapy and treatment.

“Every student that comes in is treated on a case by case basis. The action taken is with the students’ best interest in mind and may vary,” said Mrs. Tami Mlodik, school psychologist.

Sometimes they can be assigned an outside therapist that will come in to the school building to work with students.

Dangerous behavior and signs of an eating disorder, such as skipping breakfast or trying to eat “healthier,” can often fly under the radar as it disguises as normal adolescent behavior, according to The Family Institute at Northwestern University.

Some signs to look for to help your peers and friends are restricting food groups, significant weight change, repeated trips to the bathroom, excessive exercise, and avoiding activities when food is involved. Early detection has an advantage to treatment and less detrimental effects to health later in life.


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