National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: It’s Time to Talk about It!

Opening up about your struggles is never an easy task.  Making yourself vulnerable, and divulging personal details can be highly uncomfortable, and digging for information from your loved ones can feel even worse.  However, when it comes to the health of ourselves and others, we can’t afford to let our fears surpass our willingness to seek or give help. February 26th-March 4th is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and we want to encourage you to be aware of the warning signs of eating disorders, know how to help yourself or your loved ones, and embrace this year’s theme: It’s Time to Talk about It!  

When it comes to health issues that are difficult to discuss, eating disorders certainly rank high on the list.  With body shaming being an ever present reality in our culture, eating disorders have become increasingly prevalent, affecting 10-15% of American adults.  Additionally, the National Eating Disorder Association estimates that 10 million American women, and half a million teens struggle with eating disorders.  However, with eating disorders being such hidden or private struggles, detecting them can be difficult.  This makes it all the more vital to bring these struggles out of the shadows and into the light.  Break the stigma with how we both feel about and talk about eating disorders, and refer to the information below to help yourself or your loved ones seek the help they need.

Types of Eating Disorders

The three most common types of eating disorders are bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating disorder.

  1. Bulimia involves episodes of binge eating large quantities of food, followed by behaviors to purge the extra calories, such as self-induced vomiting, fasting, excessive exercise, or taking laxatives.
  2. Binge Eating Disorder causes people to frequently and uncontrollably consume mass quantities of food, but does not result in purging behaviors. There are often feelings of intense guilt or shame associated with the bingeing behavior, yet the individuals suffering from the disorder cannot bring themselves to stop, even when they’re uncomfortably full.
  3. Anorexia involves an extreme fear of weight gain, obsession with body image, and unrelenting behavior to prevent weight gain. People suffering from anorexia commonly have an inadequate food intake, which causes their weight to drop to severely low and dangerous levels.

Signs that Someone You Love May Have an Eating Disorder

It goes without saying that it would be nearly impossible to find someone who is one-hundred percent happy with the way they look.  As we go through adolescence, and emerge into adulthood, weight, in particular, can be a major concern for many people.  However, there is a big difference between wanting to be healthy and fit, and having an unhealthy obsession with body image.  Many people may have diet and exercise plans they follow, which do not raise any red flags.  However, keep a look out for the following eating disorder warning signs.  When an eating disorder is identified and treated early, it makes a world of difference.

Extreme Food Restriction

  • Making excuses to avoid eating
  • Eating very small portions, and cutting out entire categories of food, like carbs or fat, completely
  • Food rituals or habits, such as cutting food into tiny pieces, or chewing each bite excessively
  • Taking diet pills, prescription stimulants, or amphetamines to lose weight

Distorted Body Image

  • Frequent discussion about being unhappy with their weight, or being afraid of gaining weight
  • Wearing baggy or large clothing to hide weight
  • Obsessive weigh-ins, and frequent self-criticism in front of the mirror


  • Wrappers and empty food containers, typically hidden
  • Hiding stockpiles of junk foods
  • Large quantities of food disappearing in a short amount of time with no explanation
  • Eating in secret, and binge eating in private


  • Using laxatives, enemas, or diuretics to lose weight
  • Intense or excessive exercise, and fasting to purge calories
  • Taking frequent bathroom trips, and disappearing immediately after eating
  • Overuse of perfume, mints, or mouthwash to mask the smell of vomiting
  • Stained teeth
  • Often complaining of diarrhea, constipation, sore throat, or nausea



If you are concerned that you, or a loved one might be suffering from an eating disorder, there is something you can do right now, in less than 5 minutes, to help.  Use or share the link below to complete a quick, confidential, online screening questionnaire to see if you or a loved one are showing signs of an eating disorder.  Now is the perfect time to seek or give help, and you should never feel ashamed or afraid to do so.

Helping a Loved One

When someone you love is going through such a devastating personal struggle, two of the best things you can be are encouraging and present.  Alone you might feel powerless, but together you and your loved one can move mountains.  Show your unwavering support, and know that the road to recovery often has some bumps and pit stops along the way.  Don’t expect things to go perfectly, but expect to be there for them no matter what.  There is no need for shame or blame—only compassion, strength, and understanding.

For helpful tips conversation tips, and guidance on what not to say, visit


Getting Help

Asking for help when you feel weak and ashamed can feel nearly impossible, but please know that you are not alone.  Living in shame and pain is not truly living.  There are compassionate professionals ready to help you with treatments that can both change and save your life.  Don’t wait—start here.


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Author: Michelle Adams

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