In Honor Of 'National Eating Disorders Awareness Week,' We Talked To An Expert On How To Help Those Affected

#NEDAwareness.

Eating disorders are a national public health issue affecting more than 30 million Americans. This is why National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (Feb. 26 to March 4) is dedicated to providing information and resources to those affected. 

"The goal of National Eating Disorders Awareness (#NEDAwareness) Week is to shine the spotlight on eating disorders and put life-saving resources into the hands of those in need," it says on the National Eating Disorders Association's website. "This year's theme is It's Time to Talk About It and we're encouraging everyone to get screened. It's time we take eating disorders seriously as public health concerns, It's time we bust the myths and get the facts. It's time to celebrate recovery and the heroes who make it possible. It's time to take action and fight for change. It's time to shatter the stigma and increase access to care. It's Time to Talk About It!"

Talking about eating disorders openly is especially important given that the Eating Recovery Center reports that 70 percent of people will not seek treatment because of the associated stigmas. But this can be prevented by simply having open and honest discussions about the issues. 

To help us "talk about it" and better understand the resources available for those in need, we spoke to Dr. Allison K Chase, executive director of the Eating Recovery Center in Austin, Texas. 



Courtesy of Eating Recovery Center
Courtesy of Eating Recovery Center

Whether an eating disorder is a symptom of a mental health issue, societal pressure, or anything else, Dr. Chase says it is important to first recognize the warning signs: constant weight fluctuation, drastic changes in weight, negatively speaking about themselves (especially their body), obsessive exercising, unusual behavior at meals, hiding their body under baggy clothes, tooth erosion, regularly using the bathroom right after a meal, hoarding food, and changes in mood.

Signs that often get overlooked include: making excuses why they're not hungry, canceling plans that involve food, and being unwilling to miss a day of exercise. 

If you suspect that someone you know has an eating disorder, and you want to help, Dr. Chase says it's essential to approach the situation correctly. "It is very important that friends and family recognize that they are not trained professionals and therefore, they should not attempt to 'fix' or 'cure' the eating disorder." 

She continues, "Instead, their efforts are best spent on pointing out what they are concerned about in their friend or family member and supporting and encouraging them to seek help. If a list of resources can be provided that can be helpful, or offering to go with them or support them in taking the step towards professional help that will be most useful."

If you are living with an eating disorder, Dr. Chase suggests familiarizing yourself with local resources, and to seek the support of others to help you take the first step toward recovery.

"It isn't unusual for someone suffering to be ambivalent about help since the eating disordered behaviors can be a comfort and a form of coping, even though it is a negative and dangerous one. Having support to help foster the motivation and follow through with getting help, either in an outpatient setting or a higher level of care like a treatment facility is useful."

Self-help guides and online resources are brilliant options as well, but Dr. Chase points out that "if these are not leading to decreased eating disorder behaviors and mental state is not improving, it is vital to move to other forms of treatment."

Overall, Dr. Chase writes that it is awareness that is needed most. "With the serious negative physical and emotional consequences of an eating disorder, creating awareness can increase the chances that those suffering with an eating disorder will get the help that they need. Raising awareness can hopefully increase their own motivation to seek help or by helping concerned and caring individuals to mobilize those suffering to seek help and guidance."



She concludes, "Know the seriousness of eating disorders and that eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, and the importance of getting help."

For additional information about Eating Recovery Center, call 877-789-5758, email info@eatingrecoverycenter.com, or visit www.eatingrecoverycenter.com to speak with a Masters-level clinician.

Cover image via Adam Supawadee I Shutterstock

More From A Plus

GET SOME POSITIVITY IN YOUR INBOX

Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.