|   Log In

Christian Life

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week: What You Need to Know

Tragically, eating disorders impact millions of people every year in the U.S. And while they don’t just affect teenagers, they frequently begin during the preteen and teen years, sometimes starting a lifelong battle with body image and the way we see ourselves.

This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and the official theme is “I Had No Idea.” NEDA.org explains that they hope the theme will “raise awareness towards the significant impact eating disorders have on individuals, families, and communities across the nation. The more people who learn about these life-threatening illnesses, the more lives we can save.”

While working to reduce the stigma surrounding eating disorders and improve access to treatment resources, NEDA also helps to reach women and men all over the world who are struggling with an eating disorder or who know and love someone who is. As stated on the official site, “Eating disorders are serious, life-threatening illnesses–not choices–and it’s important to recognize the pressures, attitudes and behaviors that shape the disorder.”

Whether it’s you or a loved one who has been affected, or even if you don’t know anyone who has struggled with an eating disorder, it’s important to stay informed about them and what to do if you think that you or someone you know might have one.

WHAT EXACTLY IS AN EATING DISORDER?

Eating disorders–which include anorexia, bulimia and binging–can cause extreme emotions, attitudes and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues (NEDA.org). According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), these are the basic characteristics of some of the most common types of eating disorders:

Anorexia Nervosa:

  • Restricting food intake to below the requirements for a particular individuals physical requirements
  • Intense fear of weight gain and obsession with weight and continual behaviors to prevent weight gain
  • Inability to recognize true body shape or recognize the seriousness of condition
  • May or may not use binge eating and/or purging behaviors

Bulimia Nervosa:

  • Eating an unusually large amount of food at one time followed by compensatory behaviors (such as vomiting, taking laxatives and/or excessive exercise) to prevent weight gain
  • A feeling of being out of control during the binge-eating occurrence
  • Self-judgment largely based on weight and shape

Binge Eating Disorder:

  • Recurrent situations of eating an unusually large amount of food at one time
  • A feeling of being out of control during the behavior
  • May have feelings of shame or guilt towards eating which can lead to eating alone
  • May eat until the individual is beyond full to the point of discomfort

BEHAVIORS TO LOOK OUT FOR

It’s easy to think that if someone has an eating disorder, it will be painfully obvious because of her rapid or dramatic weight loss and the fact that you never see her eat. And while those certainly are signs to look out for, there are others that are just as important. NEDA.org has a brief list of signs, symptoms and behaviors to watch for if you suspect one of your friends may have an eating disorder:

  • Makes frequent comments about feeling “fat” or overweight
  • In general, behaviors and attitudes indicate that weight loss, dieting and control of food are becoming primary concerns
  • Evidence of binge eating, including disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time or lots of wrappers and containers indicating consumption or large amounts of food
  • Evidence of purging behavior, including frequent trips to the bathroom after meals, signs and/or smells of vomiting, presence of wrappers or packages of laxatives or diuretics
  • Develops food rituals (e.g., eats only a particular food or food group, excessive chewing, doesn’t allow foods to touch, etc.)
  • Skips meals or takes small portions of food at regular meals
  • Hides body with baggy clothes
  • Maintains excessive, rigid exercise regimen—despite weather, fatigue, illness or injury—because of the need to “burn off” calories
  • Drinks excessive amounts of water and/or uses excessive amounts of mouthwash, mints and gum

HOW TO HELP

NEDA.org points out that when beginning to talk to a loved one about a potential eating disorder, it’s best to come at it from a loving and supportive angle. Here is the NEDA’s recommended Dos and Don’ts:

Do:

  • Learn the difference between facts and myths about weight, nutrition and exercise
  • Ask what you can do to help
  • Listen openly and reflectively; be patient and non-judgmental
  • Talk with the person in a kind way, when you are not angry, frustrated or upset
  • Explain the reasons for your concerns, without mentioning specific eating behavior
  • Ask if he/she is willing to explore these concerns with a healthcare professional who understands eating disorders
  • Remind your loved one that many people have successfully recovered from an eating disorder

Don’t:

  • Demand weight changes (even if it’s clinically necessary for health)
  • Insist the person eat every type of food at the table
  • Make eating, food, clothes or appearance the focus of conversation
  • Offer more help than you are qualified to give

IMPORTANT RESOURCES

  • Call NEDA’s toll-free, confidential Helpline, Monday-Thursday from 9:00 am – 9:00 pm and Friday from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm (EST) at 1-800-931-2237.
  • You can also chat with someone at NEDA here.
  • Get more facts and resources on this page.

Struggling with an eating disorder? Reflect on God’s word using these 5 powerful scriptures, be steadfast in prayer and SEEK OUTSIDE HELP from a trusted adult or the resources listed above.

  1. Psalms 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
  2. Romans 5:20 But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.
  3. Psalms 55:22 Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.
  4. Jeremiah 32:27 Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?
  5. Hebrews 13:6 The LORD is my helper, I will not fear.

PI Girls, remember that you are NEVER alone. If you need prayers, comment below and the PI community will pray for you.

Image: Hemera | Thinkstock

POST A COMMENT

You must be logged in to post a comment.

9 Comments

  1. Project Inspired

    Posted by Irelandivory on May 10, 2014 at 16:39

    I’ve struggled with bad body image since I was eight and anorexia since I was ten. It’s been a tough time keeping myself healthy and happy lately but I truly believe that the love of my family, friends, fellow PI girls and God is all around me. Just know that whoever you are or wherever you’re from, I care about you, your health and I’ll keep all of you in my prayers and thoughts!

  2. Project Inspired

    Posted by lovejoypeacebell@hotmail.com on April 24, 2014 at 20:24

    I have recently thought about starving myself and losing weight, but I came to realize that I have other healthier options. I run and do many exercises. I am fit and happy with myself. Seriously, I ran every morning and 5 days later I had shed SOOO much and was strong and healthy. I encourage people to exercise to lose weight instead of starving yourself.

    Hope this helped!!

    Love,

    Bella

  3. Carlyck

    Posted by Carlyck on March 15, 2014 at 07:45

    I have struggled with Anorexia Nervosa and was hospitalized and treated for it my sophomore year of high school. For those suffering with an eating disorder I would like to encourage you to stay strong and pray for help. As I went through treatment I prayed with some of the other patients and shared with them my prayer book. With God’s help I am going through my senior year of high school and have already chosen my college to go to in the fall, and through all of this I am staying healthy. I have my good and bad days but my relationship with myself and food has significantly improved and am eternally thankful to God. Thanks for all of you who support those of us with this horrible disease, and thank you Lord for the help and knowledge to help battle eating disorders. All of you girls are beautiful and remember that God loves you and that beating down an eating disorder is possible.
    Love,
    Carly

  4. ssutton98

    Posted by ssutton98 on March 5, 2014 at 11:48

    i was anorexic for a while and still wish i was skinny my belly is disgusting!

    • Project Inspired

      Posted by lovejoypeacebell@hotmail.com on April 24, 2014 at 20:21

      Please don’t think your belly is disgusting!! There is a difference between being thin, and being fit. I personally have started running, hiking, weight lifting, sit ups, etc. And guess what? 5 days later I was strong not only physically but spiritually. I am in the best shape I have been in a long time. I look great not only at my body but in my heart and soul. I am strong and my belly has shrunk, I am trying to get a 4 pack 😉
      Please don’t think starving yourself is the last chance!! I run every day and feel good about my self.

      Good luck!!!

      Love,

      Bella

  5. Shevtrixie

    Posted by Shevtrixie on March 4, 2014 at 19:01

    I have the symptons of Aneroxia Nervosa and Binge eating disorder….

  6. ibelieveinpink

    Posted by ibelieveinpink on March 4, 2014 at 00:51

    I struggled with bulimia and anorexia all through high school

  7. Mandi_lee2014

    Posted by Mandi_lee2014 on March 1, 2014 at 15:05

    I think it is important to mention there can be other types of ED. I had Exercise Athletica which few people caught onto because I was homeschooled so no one realized I would exercise 8+ hrs a day. There is also an Exercise bulimia. They may not be as common, but they can be just as dangerous