I recently read the statistic that 60% of girls between the age of 6 and 12 years old are concerned with their weight or about becoming fat. This made me reflect on my life as a school-aged child. I remember playing with LEGO sets, painting and crafting, and having sleepovers with my friends. I road my bike everywhere I could, which meant between my house and my best friend’s house. I went to school, climbed trees and jumped rope. I was a kid and did kid things. I had an incredibly blessed life with two supportive parents and an older brother who terrorized me but loved me. My friends were all different sizes and shapes. I was always a “string bean” type and although I witnessed my mother’s seemingly constant dieting habits and listened to her recount stories of being a weight-obsessed teenager, I never questioned my size or, to my recollection, worried about what the future held for my physique. It never occurred to me that others may worry about how much they weighed or perhaps used food as a means to find control. I was very sheltered in this regard. It was not until I started studying nutrition and dietetics that I learned about the impact of eating disorders. I discovered that many of my classmates were drawn to nutrition and dietetics because of their own personal struggles with eating disorders. After becoming aware of the prevalence of eating disorders, I started wondering how many people throughout my life have struggled with them. Have I missed the signs among my friends or family members?
February 24 is the start of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. I want to take a few minutes to raise some awareness and focus on the facts of eating disorders.
- You cannot tell if a person has an eating disorder by looking at them. Eating disorders affect people of every size, sex, gender, shape, race, and ethnicity.
- Eating disorders affect both young and old and may develop at any time in a person’s life.
- While eating disorders involve food, they have more to do with a mental illness than with caloric intake.
- Eating disorders are considered serious mental illnesses. The diagnosis often presents with other mental illnesses such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or depression and increases the risk of suicide.
- Eating disorders will affect every aspect of a person’s life: mental, physical, social, spiritual.
- Although anorexia and bulimia are the most commonly known, binge eating disorder is the most prevalent. There are many others eating disorders that are less know.
If you suspect you or someone you know has an eating disorder, seek help. Here are a few resources to help guide you through the recovery process:
National Eating Disorder Association
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders
For more information, visit NIU’s Come As You Are Fair. The event, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26 at the Holmes Student Center, features activities and information all health and fitness.