Raising awareness of eating disorders

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is raising awareness about the problems of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia this week, Feb. 25 through March 3. The theme is “Come as you are.”

The message of awareness is for everyone: “Come as you are, not as you think you should be.” The focus is on everyone at all stages of body acceptance and eating disorder recovery.

When you look in the mirror what do you see and why do you see yourself the way you do?

“Marie” looked in the mirror, displeased with what she described as her “fat, little face.” She didn’t like her extra weight. It caused pain in her knees. She wasn’t sure why she was so heavy. She felt so defeated, right from the get-go. She remembered how heavy her mother was, and other family members. Was it genetic? Or did she eat too much? A male relative once said her only problem was exercise – knowing when to push herself away from the table. She had felt ashamed.

NEDA explains body image: It is how you see yourself in the mirror. Memories, generalizations and assumptions inform you, influence how you feel about your shape, height and weight.

A person with a negative self-image is more likely to struggle with an eating disorder. Also, that person is more apt to suffer from depression, isolation, low self-esteem and to become obsessed with losing weight.

Someone with a positive body image feels comfortable and sure of themselves in their own skin. Like “Stephanie,” thought Marie. That woman was always smiling, had a warm personality and loved to laugh. She dressed to please herself and didn’t worry about her extra weight. She walked at the park regularly, was healthy and tried to be realistic about her goals. She was beautiful regardless of the extra weight.

Marie was concerned enough to go to mybodyscreening.org for an anonymous online screening to see if she has an eating disorder.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that the earlier an eating disorder is identified and treated, the more likely it is to prevent related eating disorder behaviors. In a study, the CDC found that 15 percent of teenage girls and 4 percent of teenage boys reported symptoms severe enough to warrant clinical evaluation. Few reported ever receiving treatment.

A woman in recovery said recovery is a “grueling, relentless, personal process that will push you beyond your limits over and over and over.”

When a person hurts (s)he finds ways to cope. Eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia, distract the person and prevent fixing what is wrong to begin with, what the person is afraid to face, and regaining quality of life. Those who have been down the eating disorder path admit it isn’t easy to deal with the fears, pain and self-hate associated with eating disorders. But they assure that it is worth doing what you need to do to gain your freedom. You are the only one who can do it for you.

Eloise Traina, CEO of Family Recovery Center said, “Recovery is not spelled with a ‘y.’ It is spelled with an ‘-ing’. It’s always ongoing. There is no closure to it.” But the longer a person is in it, hopefully they get stronger.

Eating disorders can happen to anyone: male, female, people of color, LGBTQ+ population, athletes, mid-life and beyond and the Jewish community, advises the CDC. And there is help. Don’t be afraid to reach out for it.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded in part by the Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.