trigger warning: this article discusses eating disorders and disordered eating behaviours

Monday, February 24 is the beginning of the 2020 National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

Although for years, individuals have engaged in research, have advocated, and have created legislation to increase eating disorder prevention efforts and make access to treatment easier, there are still misconceptions around eating disorders. In honour of this week, it is time to clear up the misconceptions.

What Is An Eating Disorder?

An eating disorder is mainly defined as “an unhealthy behavior with food that’s taken to the extreme.” Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and binge eating are common examples of eating disorders. However, there are also Orthorexia Nervosa, Anorexia Athletica, and disordered eating; in which an individual engages in irregular eating behaviours, and avoidance of food.

Each of these eating disorders has its own symptoms, but they all have one fact in common: all of these eating disorders are potentially deadly illnesses. Statistically, these eating disorders impact 30 million individuals, both women and men, but only one-third receive treatment. The rest will continuously struggle and possibly die from their eating disorder. This is the sad, shocking, and serious reality of these illnesses.

The Misconceptions Of Eating Disorders

Many, even providers, believe that in order for an individual to have an eating disorder, they must look a certain way. Appearance is a common misconception of eating disorders. With that said, an individual does not have to be emaciated to have an eating disorder. When individuals, and providers, look for this certain mould it’s dangerous.

Another common misconception of eating disorders is Anorexia Nervosa is the only serious eating disorder. However, Bulimia Nervosa and Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED), have high mortality rates similar to that of Anorexia Nervosa. In addition, those who abuse laxatives and/or diuretics, or force themselves to vomit, are at a higher risk of sudden death from heart attacks. Therefore, all eating disorders are serious eating disorders.

Lastly, age is a misconception of eating disorders. Many individuals believe that their family or friends can be too young for an eating disorder. But, eating disorders do not discriminate, and certainly not against age. In fact, girls and boys as young as five or six can develop an eating disorder. We should bring awareness to eating disorders in young children.

Eating disorders affect all backgrounds, ages, genders, and sizes.

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is this week: February 24- March 1, 2020.

If you have an eating disorder or know someone who might be struggling, consider contacting the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) helpline at 1 (800) 931-2237.