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National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2020: February 24th - March 1st

February 17, 2020

What do you think of when you hear the phrase "eating disorder"? There are many societal stereotypes that surround these specific diagnoses.

Here are some common misconceptions about eating disorders:

  • Eating disorders are a rich, female Caucasian problem;

  • Men don't struggle with eating disorders;

  • People with eating disorders are either extremely thin or overweight.

Like many mental illnesses, eating disorders are often misunderstood. They are not lifestyle choices that only affect certain genders, socio-economic statuses, ethnicities or body types. Eating disorders are serious and complex conditions that have emotional, physical and cultural components. And they do not discriminate.

Millions of people secretly struggle with food and body issues. Today's culture, with social media playing a huge role in comparison issues, apps on cell phones allowing people to easily photoshop pictures of themselves, and weight loss companies targeting children and adolescents does not help. The good news is individuals can overcome this struggle - there is hope for recovery.

This year’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is themed Come As You Are: Hindsight is 20/20. In honor of this important week for mental health awareness, Andrew Harris, one of HopeWay's primary therapists, gave us a few insights.

Here are some useful tips for helping a loved one recover from any kind of eating disorder.

What Will NOT Work:

  • Minimizing the issue or believing it's not a serious problem
  • Simple explanations for the complex issues your loved one is going through ("Just eat more")
  • Thinking that this is "just a phase"
  • Placing blame on your loved one; insinuating it is their choice
  • Thinking that medication alone (i.e. for appetite stimulation) will fix the issue
  • Battling with your loved one to force them to adopt the appropriate behavior
  • Believing a loved one needs to be "ready" in order for treatment to be beneficial

What WILL Work:

  • Validate the person's feelings without validating their behavior - they're not always looking for empathy
  • Do not judge people's size/weight/appearance.  Compliment specific clothing/accessories instead of comments like "You look great!"
  • Lead by example - eat a full meal and do not fixate on diets
  • Directly ask your loved one what you can do to motivate or support them
  • Provide natural consequences when meals aren't completed (ie: "If you cannot eat, then you do not have enough energy from food to hang out with friends, go to the movies, etc.")


While HopeWay is not equipped to treat active, primary eating disorders, our holistic treatment approach incorporates Nutritional Wellness to help clients make healthy food choices and understand the impact food has on their overall mental wellbeing. Our Registered Dietitians offer a comprehensive curriculum that explores the physical and emotional relationship clients have with food so they can make knowledgeable nutritional choices as they progress on their wellness journey. Nutritional Wellness is just one of the many integrative therapies we offer to clients during treatment at HopeWay.


Additional Eating Disorder Resources

National Eating Disorder Hotline: (800) 931-2237

National Eating Disorder Association


Learn More About Nutritional Wellness


Editor’s note: This blog post is presented for informational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness. If you have any health concern, see a licensed healthcare professional in person.