Living Well: Keeping A Healthy Approach To Food In Body & Mind
Did you know that it’s Mental Illness Awareness Week? In 1990, Congress recognized the efforts of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in raising awareness of mental illness by designating this as the first full week of October each year. This year the week runs from October 2-8.
It’s a topic I’m writing about because eating disorders are classified under mental illnesses, and it isn’t an isolated problem, as approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (about 43.8 million) experiences mental illness each year. It’s also estimated 1 in 25 adults in the U. S. (10 million) experiences a serious mental illness that significantly interferes or limits one or more major life activities. In the United States, about 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from an eating disorder sometime in their life.
Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder (BED), include extreme attitudes, emotions and behaviors that surround weight and food issues. These conditions can seriously affect a person’s emotional and physical health, and can potentially life-threatening. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Depression, anxiety and other mood disorders also frequently co-occur with eating disorders.
While the focus of many who suffer from eating disorders is on food, the truth is they are about much more than food. The sad reality is that eating disorders are often overlooked as a mental illness.
Eating disorders are serious illnesses and they are not lifestyle choices. They are complex conditions that may arise from a combination of emotional, behavioral, biological, interpersonal and social factors. Eating disorders do not discriminate. Girls, boys, women and men of all ages, races and ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses and sexualities can be affected by eating disorders. It’s safe to say that everybody knows someone who has been or is currently affected by eating disorders.
According to studies, 70 percent of people aged 18-30 years report dislike of their body. People who have a negative body image are more likely to develop an eating disorder and suffer from low self-esteem, have feelings of depression and obsess about body weight. About 35 percent of the people who report “normal dieting” eventually progress to pathological dieting and of those, around 20-25 percent will progress to partial or full-blown eating disorders.
But did you also know that help is available for people suffering from an eating disorder and recovery is possible? Early intervention and access to care are critical. The treatment of eating disorders often requires a health care team. Professionals, including physicians, dietitians, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists or clinical social workers and exercise physiologists may all play a role in a healthcare team that is vital to successful management and recovery of these illnesses.
It is also essential that we erase that stigma that has so long been associated with mental illness. It is not too late to join NAMI this year in “shining a light on mental illness and replacing stigma with hope.” Join me this year in taking the stigma-free pledge at www.nami.org/stigmafree, and by doing so learn more about how you can educate yourself and others about mental illness to include eating disorders.
If you or someone you know someone who may be suffering from an eating disorder, don’t be afraid to seek more information and ask for help. Visit www.anad.org, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org, www.bedaonline.com or www.aubreyssong.org to find out more.
This article is dedicated to my dad, who has suffered from mental illness, has courageously fought this battle and has bravely and publicly shared his lifelong journey to raise mental health awareness.
Meet Our Dietitian
At Owensboro Health, you’ll get nutrition counseling from a registered nutritionist — an expert in medical nutrition therapy. Beth Cecil, RDN, LD (right), is certified in food allergy management and is a Lifestyle Coach for the Diabetes Prevention Program. She also holds a Certificate of Training in Childhood and Adolescent Management, so you can trust her to care for your or your loved one’s specialized needs.
This article originally appeared in the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer.