National Eating Disorder Awareness Week
January 28, 2022
Eating Disorder Stereotypes
What do you think of when you hear the phrase "eating disorder"? There are many societal stereotypes that surround these specific diagnoses.
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.
What is an Eating Disorder?
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.
Social Media and Eating Disorders
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.
February Eating Disorder Awareness Week
In honor of this important week for mental health awareness, Greer Mitchell, JD, MD, Director of HopeWay's Center for Eating Disorders, gave us a few insights.
Useful Tips for Helping a Loved One Recover From Any Kind of Eating Disorder
What does work:
- Learning more about eating disorders to increase your understanding of the signs, symptoms and treatment options.
- Expressing concern, love and support. Use "I" statements to share your perspective instead of making assumptions.
- Asking how you can best support the individual.
- Encouraging the individual to seek help from eating-disorder specialists including physicians, therapists and dieticians.
- Setting boundaries to protect your own mental and physical health.
- Modeling a balanced relationship with nutrition and exercise.
- Being prepared for difficult conversations. Eating disorders can take a drastic emotional and physical toll. Validate emotions even if you don't understand or agree.
What doesn't work:
- Ignoring or minimizing the problem. Eating disorders are serious, life-threatening illnesses. The sooner someone seeks help, the better their chance is for recovery.
- Complimenting their body weight or shape. Try complimenting clothing/accessories, personality or other strengths.
- Giving generic advice about weight loss, exercise or diets.
- Attempting to guilt or shame an individual regarding their beliefs or behaviors. Separating an individual from their illness is a power tool in recovery, and shifts blame from the individual to the illness itself.
- Oversimplifying recovery. Statements such as "just eat" are often unhelpful and invalidates the individual's struggle.
While HopeWay's main program is not equipped to treat acute, primary eating disorders, in 2021 Dr. Greer Mitchell joined the medical team to serve clients with eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors at HopeWay Psychiatry & Associates. As an expert in eating disorders, her training and passion drive her dedication to her clients and their families. She currently sees clients on an outpatient basis providing psychotherapy, family therapy and medication management. Additionally, she collaborates with other providers in the community for services HopeWay does not provide.
Additional Eating Disorder Resources
National Eating Disorder Hotline: (800) 931-2237
Learn More About Nutritional Wellness