_____________________________ ST. NORBERT CHURCH           RATES ________________________         EBOOK


Recognizing the Roots and Red Flags of Eating Disorders,and Why Treatment is so Important

February 24, 2023

February 27 – March 5 is National Eating Disorders Week

With advertising, social media campaigns and influencers associating being thin with beauty and glamor, many people – especially young impressionable teenage girls – feel pressured to lose weight to become more ‘attractive’ and ‘accepted’ among their peers.

Sadly, this can be one of many causes that lead to individuals being inflicted with serious eating disorders, which in turn can result in severe illness and even death. As such, ensuring a healthy relationship with food is key to good overall health and well-being.

“Our relationships with food can be complicated, shaped by many factors including culture, media and by the people we love,” said Dr. Evita Limon Rocha, a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist with Kaiser Permanente Southern California. She noted children are especially at-risk due to societal and peer pressure.

“Ultimately, our relationship with food starts at home,” Dr. Rocha continued. “Children and adolescents in particular are continually learning from the adults around them. They see how the people they love speak about themselves and how they interact with food. They learn to label foods as bad and good, along with placing body shapes into these categories. They see how we speak about others in our environment. Through our criticism of others or ourselves, they learn to view their own bodies in a negative way.” 

In observance of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Feb. 27 – March 5, it’s crucial to educate, as well as provide support and visibility to those affected. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) , nearly 29 million people in the United States will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives.

NEDA states eating disorders are serious but treatable mental and physical illnesses that can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes and weights. 

The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) notes that eating disorders are among the deadliest mental illnesses, second only to opioid overdose. According to ANAD, 10,200 deaths each year are the direct result of an eating disorder – that’s one death every 52 minutes.

Furthermore, ANAD states about 26% of people with eating disorders attempt suicide, adding the economic cost of eating disorders is $64.7 billion every year. Black people are less likely to be diagnosed with anorexia than white people, but may experience the condition for a longer period of time, ANAD states. Black teenagers are also 50% more likely than white teenagers to exhibit bulimic behavior, such as binge-eating and purging. And, in a college campus survey, ANAD notes 91% of the women surveyed admitted to controlling their weight through dieting.

Because disordered eating patterns are highly challenging to treat once they have progressed, Dr. Rocha stresses that early detection and treatment can be lifesaving.

“If there’s a concern a loved one may be struggling, just like we would seek medical care for a broken bone or an infection, we need to seek medical care and speak to our health care provider,” she said.  

Dr. Rocha urged parents to look out for certain signs exhibited by their children who may be struggling with eating disorders, and to seek help before it’s too late.

“Look for changes in behaviors such as eating less, changes in appearance, or an increase in irritability,” she said. “If there are concerning changes in a child’s behaviors impacting one’s well-being, this can be a signal that it may be time to talk to a physician.”

Limiting how much time children spend on social media is also important, Dr. Rocha noted, adding adults need to model appropriate media consumption. When using electronics, setting limits on time spent on devices is important. 

“Assuring the content children and adolescents are consuming along with the conversations that are being held in this social media realm is of high importance,”

Dr. Rocha advised. “Creating time to review emotions triggered by the social media content such as sadness or doubt can help strengthen relationships between parents and a child or adolescent.”

Kaiser Permanente offers valuable information related to symptoms and treatment of eating disorders.