National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is a national public health campaign. It occurs the last week of February, sponsored by the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA). The purpose of this week is to shine a light on eating disorders through education, resources regarding eating disorders and body image, and to spread a message of hope.
NEDA Week Theme
The theme for 2021 is “Every Body Has a Seat at the Table”. The goal of this theme is to emphasize the importance of having representation from all different communities, backgrounds and experiences. More importantly, another goal is to break down stigma and barriers for the treatment of eating disorders. They do this by creating more conversation and raising awareness around eating disorders and resources that will benefit those who need help.
When most people hear the term “eating disorder”, they tend to think of a malnourished young woman, most likely suffering from anorexia nervosa. When someone experiences this eating disorder, they experience an intense fear of weight gain, typically show a dramatic weight loss, and restrict their dietary intake. Although anorexia nervosa is indeed an eating disorder, there are many eating disorders that are even more prevalent. These include but are not limited to bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), orthorexia, and compulsive exercising. For a complete list and more information on the different types, please go to this website. Eating disorders affect men and women, no matter their body size.
An eating disorder is a treatable and curable mental illness that includes varied symptoms depending on the disorder. Therefore, it is important to educate yourself and know where to look for help. Especially because approximately 30 million Americans will experience an eating disorder sometime in their life. They also have the highest mortality rate for any mental illness- one person dies from an eating disorder every 52 minutes. Unfortunately, out of everyone in the US suffering from an eating disorder, only 30% will seek treatment. This is mostly likely due to financial barriers, stigma, misconceptions, and the lack of access to care.
Common signs and symptoms of eating disorders
The purpose of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is to decrease the shame surrounding disordered eating, create more conversation, and know where to find help. If you think a loved one or yourself could be suffering from an eating disorder, here are some common symptoms or signs:
- Noticeable fluctuations in weight, both up and down
- Stomach cramps
- Menstrual irregularities
- Dizziness, especially upon standing
- Feeling cold all the time
- Dry skin and hair, and brittle nails
- Fine hair on body (lugo)
- Muscle weakness
- Poor wound healing
- Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, carbohydrates, fat grams, and dieting
- Refusal to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories of food (e.g., no carbohydrates, no sugar etc.)
- Appears uncomfortable eating around others
- Skipping meals or restricting food
- Withdrawal from usual friends and social settings
- Frequent dieting
- Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws in appearance
- Extreme mood swings
- Secret recurrent episodes of binge eating
- Purge behavior (bathroom use after food consumption)
- Expresses need to “burn off calories” after meals
If you believe you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder or disordered eating, please seek out a medical professional who can help. If you are interested in working with one of the nutrition experts at Main Line Nutrition, consider scheduling with Rachel, RDN. Rachel is passionate about helping clients heal their disordered relationship with food.