February 24-28 is National Eating Disorders Week. As the name implies, it is a week dedicated to ‘becoming aware’ of the problem and, just as importantly, knowing what to do about it.
Many folks have the misconception that it is obvious to tell if someone is struggling with an eating disorder by the way that they look. Actually, that is not accurate. People struggling with eating disorders can be of all shapes and sizes and many times appear to be at an ideal weight. Research suggests that about 1% of female adolescents struggle with an eating disorder. This suggests that most of us probably know someone well who is experiencing problems with an eating disorder.
What are some signs to look for? Listen for attitudes and watch for behaviors that indicate that weight loss, dieting or control of food are primary topics of concern. Look for frequent trips to the bathroom, especially after eating, the presence of wrappers, or packages of diuretics or laxatives. Pay attention to strange food rituals. Take note of excessive exercise routines.
If you suspect that a friend or loved one is struggling, ask what you can do to help. Listen openly and without judgment. Don’t invade privacy, make demands or insist on changes. Most importantly, let them know that many folks have successfully recovered from eating disorders and help is available.
Miles Nitz, MS, LMFT
Take Charge Counseling and Consulting Services