10 Things I Wish The Public Knew About Eating Disorders
Dr. Ed Tyson, a medical doctor who specializes in treating eating disorders in Austin, Texas, recently wrote an article, entitled, “Ten Things I Wish Physicians Would Know About Eating Disorders.”
Inspired by this piece, I’ve compiled my own list of ten things I wish the public knew about eating disorders:
1) Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. You cannot guess if someone has eating disorder by looking at him/her. This goes for body type, race, gender, etc. (Side note: Someone who’s average weight or heavy could have a restrictive eating disorder – and not the binge/compulsive/emotional eating disorder you might think – don’t assume behaviors based on size.)
2) An eating disorder is not a desirable condition of glamour or restraint. It is a mental illness in which a disorder takes control of a person’s thoughts, emotions, behaviors – and life.
3) Eating disorders are not about vanity or simply the internalization of society’s thin ideal. Yes, our culture’s thin ideal can play a big part in triggering an eating disorder (which is why I fight so hard against it), but there are other factors (genetic and constitutional) that increase susceptibility to eating disorders. The thin ideal also plays an unfortunate backdrop for eating disorder recovery – another reason I work so hard to challenge it.
4) There are other ways to purge (in bulimia nervosa) outside of vomiting. Some patients abuse laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or engage in excessive exercise – and some compensate for binges by significantly restricting their food outside of the binges – all can constitute bulimia.
5) There are evidence-based treatment approaches for eating disorders. These are treatment modalities that have been proven effective in research studies. Such treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy, family- based treatment, and dialectical behavior therapy. Seek out providers who practice evidence-based treatment.
6) Along these lines, seek out providers who are licensed professionals and who have experience and expertise in eating disorders. Life coaches, health coaches, personal trainers, etc. are not equipped to deal with serious psychiatric disorders.
7) Diets, including juicing, cleansing, and other plans, are not recommended for the treatment of eating disorders. Cutting out specific foods or food groups is contraindicated for eating disorder recovery. Same goes for 12-step programs that prescribe diets or similarly limit food intake.
8) School practices, such as BMI reporting and class weight-loss or calorie-counting assignments, can trigger pathology in those who are susceptible.
9) Disordered eating can be painful and self-destructive, even if it never shifts into a full-blown disorder. Let’s take disordered eating and other eating disorders (besides the most talked about) seriously.
10) It is possible to fully recover from an eating disorder. The sooner someone gets treatment, the better the chances at full recovery.