Eating Disorders: It's Not WHAT You Eat, it's How You See Yourself

February is Eating Disorders Month. If you didn't know that, you're probably not alone. But even if you don't hear much about what constitutes an eating disorder, they are very real and have a big effect on the lives of those who live with them.

What exactly are eating disorders? The National Institutes for Mental Health defines them as "serious and often fatal illnesses that cause severe disturbances to a person’s eating behaviors." Things that can signal an eating disorder include obsession with food, body weight, and body shape.

Some of the most common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. People who may have Anorexia nervosa often see themselves as overweight, even when their weight is dangerously low. Bulimia nervosa, on the other hand, may have recurring frequent bouts of overeating, followed by behaviors that compensate for that such as forcing themselves to vomit, or maybe take lots of laxatives. Binge eating is simply that - frequent episodes of binging, sometimes on certain foods. They are often overweight or obese.

So how do you recognize these illnesses? Each one shows itself differently. For a look at each, check out the NIMH website. The important thing is, they are all treatable - and the sooner, the better.

Locally, our system of provider agencies can offer help. Solutions and Talbert House can talk with you and help you determine if you are living with an eating disorder, then work with you on a treatment plan. Your primary doctor could also be involved, since these disorders can have a profound effect on your physical health, too.

Supports are also in place for families and loved ones to learn how to help. Find out more by contacting each agency for their services and programs to help residents with eating disorders.