National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

by Breeann Rodriguez

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDA Week) takes place between February 22 – February 28. NEDA Week invites everyone to the table for a conversation on raising awareness, challenging systemic biases, and sharing stories from all backgrounds and experiences. If you are not familiar with Eating Disorders, they include:

  • Anorexia nervosa

  • Bulimia nervosa

  • Binge Eating Disorder

  • Pica

  • Rumination Disorder

  • Avoidant/restrictive food intake Disorder

  • Purging Disorder

To understand the importance of NEDA Week, let’s discuss each of these disorders separately.

Anorexia nervosa is likely the most well-known eating disorder. The symptoms include being considerably underweight compared to people of a similar age and height, very restrictive eating patterns, intense fear of gaining weight, a heavy influence of body weight/body shape on self-esteem, and a relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a healthy weight. People with anorexia generally see themselves as overweight, even if they are considered underweight, and they typically monitor their weight constantly, avoid eating certain foods, and severely restrict their calories. Anorexia can be categorized into two subtypes – the restrictive type and the binge eating and purging type.

Bulimia nervosa is very similar to the binge eating and purging type of anorexia nervosa in which an individual will binge a large amount of food that they typically would avoid and then they will purge via forced vomiting, fasting, excessive exercise, and laxatives. The difference between an individual with bulimia rather than anorexia is that someone with bulimia usually maintains a relatively normal weight, rather than being severely underweight.

Binge eating disorder is similar to bulimia and the binge eating subtype of anorexia, in which an individual will eat large amounts of food rapidly, and in secret, until they are uncomfortably full, despite not feeling hungry, however, unlike those with bulimia and binge eating subtype of anorexia, these individuals do not purge afterward. Individuals with binge eating disorder are often overweight.

Pica is an eating disorder that involves eating things that are not considered food such as ice, dirt, chalk, soap, paper, hair, etc. Individuals with pica may be at risk of poisoning, infections, nutritional deficiencies, and gut injuries.

Rumination disorder is when an individual regurgitates food that they have previously chewed and swallowed, re-chews it, and then either re-swallows or spits it out. This can cause those individuals to restrict the amount they eat and therefore become underweight.

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is explained by individuals who experience disturbed eating either by lack of interest in eating or distaste for certain smells, tastes, colors, temperatures, etc. This avoidance or restriction of food intake prevents the individual from eating sufficient calories or nutrients for a healthy diet. This can also lead to weight loss, poor development in adolescents, and nutrient deficiencies.

Purging disorder is similar to bulimia and the subtype of binge eating anorexia, in which the individual will utilize purge behaviors such as vomiting, laxatives, or excessive exercise after meals but they do not binge.

Eating disorders typically affect adolescents, teens, young adults, and adult women due in part to the unrealistic expectations of beauty and body types in our country. Statistically, 9% of the U.S. population will have an eating disorder in their lifetime, that’s 28.8 million people. Interestingly enough, less than 6% of people with eating disorders are medically diagnosed as underweight. Eating disorders are also considered among the deadliest mental illnesses, accounting for 10,200 deaths each year.

So, what can we do to help? Getting away from diet culture can be a huge help in the fight against Eating Disorders, adapting the mindset that all foods fit somewhere in our diet, and practicing intuitive eating.

What’s intuitive eating you ask? Intuitive eating is an eating style that promotes a healthy attitude toward food and body image through the use of mindfulness. The idea is you eat when you’re hungry and you stop when you’re full. It sounds simple enough, but for most people, intuitive eating isn’t in their vocabulary. Instead, for some, eating leads to shame which leads to restricting food for the rest of the week or doing those extra workouts.

Media and social media are no help in the fight against Eating Disorders as these are constant reminders of the unrealistic body images shoved in our faces since a young age. Perhaps taking a break from social media once in a while, or recognizing that most of those photos are photoshopped and bodies don’t really look like that can be helpful. We have a long way to come in changing the way our culture views beauty, diet, and healthy eating, but the body positivity movement is coming along nicely.

Share your Story with us…

Real stories are a powerful way for families to understand the benefits of foster care and being adoptive parents. Whether you are a birth parent, adoptive parent or adoptee, adoption changes you. Each time you share your story with someone, you will be reminded how all the pieces of your adoption or foster care journey came together.