SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (Good Things Utah) – Eating disorders affect tens of millions of Americans, but support is available, and recovery is possible.
“Eating disorders are a debilitating health crisis for the people experiencing them and the life disruptions that accompany them,” said Jennifer Wilke, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist with Intermountain Health. “But there is hope.”
March is National Nutrition Month, a time when dietitians encourage people to learn more about healthy food choices. This includes education around eating disorders and their serious effects on health.
Eating disorders have the second-highest mortality rate of any mental disorder, behind opioid-related deaths, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. Eating disorders also will impact an estimated 30 million Americans at some point in their lives, the association reports.
Eating disorders affect people of all genders, ages, races, ethnicities, body shapes and weights, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status, according to the Academy for Eating Disorders.
There is a difference between an eating disorder and disordered eating, Wilke said.
Disordered eating is when a person is starting to develop an unhealthy relationship with food, but it doesn’t interfere with daily life. An eating disorder is a serious illness that is influenced by genes and a person’s environment and disrupts personal and family functioning.
Here are some signs of a loved one may have an eating disorder:
- Unhealthy relationship with food (overanalyzing what to eat, feeling guilty after eating)
- Intense fear of gaining weight
- Rapid, unexplained weight loss
- Throwing up after eating
- Eating more than feels normal and feeling out of control when eating.
Full recovery from an eating disorder is possible, Wilke said. Detection and intervention are key.
“Dietitians can help people recover from disordered eating or an eating disorder,” Wilke said. “The first step is ensuring a person is medically and emotionally stable, because suicide ideation is so common with the disorder. Then, we begin nutritional rehabilitation.”
Nutritional rehabilitation, which is unique to each person, may include:
• Restoring and managing weight
• Exploring reasons behind the eating disorder, including their relationship with food, weight, and body image
• Defining what a normal relationship with food looks like, and learning how to incorporate goals to achieve that relationship in daily life.
To meet with an eating disorder expert or receive nutrition support, visit Intermountainhealth.org.
Sponsored by Intermountain Health.