February 2021: Bonus Blog Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Dispelling 5 Common Myths About Eating Disorders
By Emilie Hebert
Maybe you’ve believed eating disorders (ED) are rare and only affect thin, white women. Or that someone can “just eat more” to overcome their illness. That’s a big part of the problem—there’s enough misconception about EDs that many go under the radar. But they are more common than you might think, and more dangerous than diet culture has led us to believe.
A Harvard report estimated that 29 million Americans (9% of the population) will have an ED during their life. With these alarming statistics, it’s time to set aside biases and beliefs and learn the myths and truths about EDs. In honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week February 22 – February 28, KRNC is here to help you better recognize those suffering.
Myth #1: Eating disorders have a certain look
The most common images of eating disorders are extremely thin, emaciated women, but actually, a vast majority of those with eating disorders are not classified as “underweight”. Eating disorders affect people in smaller and larger bodies alike. This myth can impact a person’s access to recovery because someone who is not extremely thin may feel like they are “not sick enough” to get help, or the ED may be overlooked by others because they don’t “look like” they have an ED.
Myth #2: Most people with eating disorders are thin, white women
Eating disorders do not discriminate. They affect people from all walks of life. EDs impact people of all gender identities, races, ethnicities, ages, body sizes, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic statuses. Symptoms can differ among people. It is important for us to include marginalized people in our discussions of eating disorders, as they can be disproportionally affected by EDs and face unique barriers to treatment. Learn more here.
Myth #3: Parents/families and environment are to blame
Eating disorders are complex mental health conditions with a variety of different causes, including genetics and environment. While trauma, pressures to be thin and mood disorders can influence ED risk, genetics and other biological factors play a significant role in ED development. Some research suggests genes determine as much as 74% of one’s ED risk. Family dynamics may be one contributing factor, but do not even come close to explaining to full story of this complicated condition. Rather than blame families, consider how they can be involved in the recovery journey.
Myth #4: An eating disorder is just a diet gone wrong
Although many EDs can be triggered by dieting, they are actually classified as mental disorders. Eating disorders can be some of the most fatal mental illnesses, which is why early detection and seeking treatment from an ED specialist is crucial.
Myth #5: Having an eating disorder is a choice
Those suffering from EDs do not choose to have this mental disorder. In addition, recovery is not as easy as choosing to “just eat more” in the same way that those with anxiety cannot “just calm down.” It takes time, often years, to overcome an eating disorder, but it is possible!
Common Symptoms of Eating Disorders
Although symptoms of EDs or disordered eating can vary among people, understanding common symptoms can help you recognize when you or someone you know may need to seek help. Common symptoms of eating disorders include:
- Intense preoccupation with weight loss, dieting, food, exercise, and body size
- Skipping meals
- Feeling cold most of the time
- Sudden weight loss
- Disappearance of large amounts of food
- Dental problems
- Dizziness and/or fainting
- Nervousness to eat around others
- Feelings of guilt after eating
- Secretive behaviors around food and exercise
How to Get Help for an Eating Disorder
You can call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline at (800) 931-2237 and use the eating disorders screening tool.
If you would like to work with a dietitian who specializes in eating disorders, call KRNC (970) 495-5916 or email email@example.com.
Get to know our author
Emilie Hebert, MS, is a dietetic intern and CSU graduate. She plans to pursue nutrition counseling, specifically working with clients struggling with disordered eating, managing chronic diseases, and/or in the LGBTQ+ community. Fun fact about Hebert: she is absolutely terrified of frogs!
For additional resources to healthy eating, check out these programs from our registered dietitian nutritionists. Find delicious and healthy recipes on our Recipes page! More health tips are also available at the College of Health and Human Sciences Pinterest board. Lastly, don’t forget to sign up for the KRNC monthly newsletter!