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What is an Eating Disorder?

An eating disorder (commonly abbreviated as ED) is characterized by abnormal eating habits that may involve either insufficient or excessive food intake to the detriment of an individual's physical and emotional health. The causes of eating disorders are complex and vary drastically. Eating disorders are estimated to affect 5-10 million females and 1 million males in the United States. Although not yet classified as separate disorder, binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the US affecting 3.5% of females and 2% of males according to a study by Harvard affiliated McLean Hospital.
Bulimia nervosa was the second most common, followed by Anorexia nervosa.

If you or a loved one has anorexia, you have seen how devastating the disease can be to a person’s health and body. The self-starvation and excessive weight loss that characterizes anorexia can be life-threatening, and can result in serious medical consequences. If you or a loved one sufferes from an eating disorder, there is hope and there is help. Don't know if eating disorder is the right diagnosis? Here are some ways to help determine if you or someone you know is struggling.

Is it a diet or an Eating Disorder?

Healthy Dieting Unhealthy Dieting
Weight loss is viewed as a way to improve health and appearance. Weight loss is viewed as a way to achieve happiness.
Self-esteem is based on more than just weight and body image. Self-esteem is based entirely on how much you weigh and how thin you are.
Is an attempt to control weight. Is an attempt to control your life and emotions
The goal is to lose weight in a healthy way. Becoming thin is all that matters; health is not a concern.

Symptoms of an Eating disorder
* Dieting despite being thin and follows a severely restricted diet. Eats only certain low-calorie foods. Bans “bad” foods such as carbohydrates and fats.
* Obsession with calories, fat grams, and nutrition. Reads food labels, measures and weighs portions, keeps a food diary, reads diet books.
* Pretending to eat or lying about eating. Hides, plays with, or throws away food to avoid eating. Makes excuses to get out of meals (“I had a huge lunch” or “My stomach isn’t feeling good.”)
* Preoccupation with food. Eats very little, but constantly thinks about food. May cook for others, collect recipes, read food magazines, or make meal plans.
* Strange or secretive food rituals. Often refuses to eat around others or in public places. May eat in rigid, ritualistic ways (e.g. cutting food “just so”, chewing food and spitting it out, using a specific plate.)
* Using diet pills, laxatives, or diuretics. Abuses water pills, herbal appetite suppressants, prescription stimulants, ipecac syrup, and other drugs for weight loss.
* Throwing up after eating. Frequently disappears after meals or goes to the bathroom. May run the water to disguise sounds of vomiting or reappear smelling like mouthwash or mints.
* Compulsive exercising. Follows a punishing exercise regimen aimed at burning calories. Will exercise through injuries, illness, and bad weather. Works out extra hard after bingeing or eating something “bad.”
* Dramatic weight loss. Rapid, drastic weight loss with no medical cause.
* Feeling obese, despite being underweight. May complain about being overweight in general or just “too fat” in certain places such as the stomach, hips, or thighs.
* Fixation on body image. Obsessed with weight, body shape, or clothing size. Frequent weigh-ins and concern over tiny fluctuations in weight.
* Harshly critical of appearance. Spends a lot of time in front of the mirror checking for flaws. There’s always something to criticize. They’re never thin enough.
* Denies being too thin. Refuses to believe that his or her low body weight is a problem, but may try to conceal it (drinking a lot of water before being weighed, wearing baggy or oversized clothes).

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