Eating disorders are complex illnesses that can have serious effects on health. They can affect people of all genders, sexual orientations, racial and ethnic backgrounds, sizes and shapes. About 9% of Arizonans will have an eating disorder in their lifetimes. Prevention, early screening, and treatment are important, and full recovery from an eating disorder is possible.
This week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week, an annual campaign to inform the public about the realities of eating disorders and to provide hope, support, and visibility to people and families affected by eating disorders.
There is no single cause of eating disorders, but some risk factors include a history of dieting, being unhappy with one’s body image, bullying about weight and looks, and being treated worse based on weight and size.
Disordered weight control and eating behaviors have a negative impact on health, decrease quality of life, and can lead to an eating disorder. Common disordered eating behaviors include frequent dieting, feelings of guilt or shame around eating, and being overly worried about food, weight, and your looks.
Teen years and young adulthood are high-risk times for developing an eating disorder. In the U.S., about one-third of teens are teased about their weight. In Arizona, 29% of high school students (44% of female students) report using unhealthy ways to control their weight, including not eating for 24 hours or more; taking diet pills; powders, or liquids; vomiting or taking laxatives; smoking cigarettes; or skipping meals.
Health professionals, communities, and individuals can help prevent eating disorders and unhealthy weight control behaviors by supporting positive relationships with food, movement and activity, and body image.
Here are resources to help you learn more about eating disorders
- Harvard School of Public Health report on the social and economic costs of eating disorders
- Learn more about Preventing Weight-Based Bullying and How Parents Can Help.
- Check out the ADHS Must Stop Bullying site to learn more about how parents, youth, and schools can work together to stop bullying.
- Learn more about Body Image and Developing & Modeling Positive Body Image. Explore and share the 10 Steps to a Positive Body Image by the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA).
- Check out the WithAll What to Say Initiative for tips on how to talk with kids about food and body to support lifelong health and wellbeing.
- Feeding young children? Read MyPlate’s Phrases that Help and Hinder to learn more about encouraging kids to learn healthy eating habits and honor their own hunger and fullness.
- Encourage and model a healthy and balanced relationship with food and movement to improve dietary behaviors, health, and well-being.
- Avoid labeling foods and bodies as good or bad to lower the risk of unhappiness with one’s body and chronic dieting.
- Learn more about looks-based compliments and work to improve self-esteem by giving compliments on traits other than appearance (Compliments That Count).
- The NEDA Screening Tool (appropriate for ages 13 and up) can help determine if it’s time to seek professional help.
Here are resources for health professionals:
- Learn about effective messaging strategies for health, nutrition and food, weight, and physical activity in the The Language of Health Style Guide.
- Access education and training through the National Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders.
- Learn more about public health prevention from the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders, including A Roadmap for Addressing Weight Stigma in Public Health Research, Policy & Practice.