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Make A Difference during National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

February 27, 2012

By Lori Hanson

February 26 – March 3, 2012 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Does it affect you personally or is it something you’ve elected to ignore because it’s one of these “mental health things” that makes most people uncomfortable?

Did you know that over 10 million individuals in the United States are suffering with eating disorders, and the numbers are

Lori’s Award-winning book

increasing daily? Did you know that this number is completely skewed because so many individuals like me, have never told anyone? It wasn’t until my book, It Started with Pop-Tarts came out in 2008 that people knew I had lived with bulimia for many years. It’s embarrassing, it’s a behavioral addiction that forces you into isolation to hide the shame, guilt and fear you’re experiencing. But most of all, food and your body is all you can think about when you’re trapped in the devastating grip of anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and EDNOS (eating disorders not otherwise specified).

The landscape has changed. Eating disorders aren’t just for girls any more. And although the numbers are much higher for adolescent’s there are many middle-aged individuals falling prey to this addiction as well. Children as young as 6-7 years old are being diagnosed with eating disorders. Other people in their forties, fifties and sixties have been dealing with it for life. There is something incredibly wrong with this picture.

When I share my story and speak to raise awareness about eating disorders people are curious…from a comfortable distance. I hear questions like, “What do you say to someone who is getting deathly skinny? How do you approach a friend? When do you talk to your college roommate’s parents to let them know there is a problem…and is it really up to me to do something?”

One of the hardest things about trying to help someone with an eating disorder is that they have adopted a few traits which makes it downright difficult to help them.
1 – They isolate themselves, they may find creative ways to eat alone on a regular basis

2 – Until they are ready to face their fears, they live in denial, just like a drug addict and won’t admit it to you

3 – One of the most frustrating things in being on the inner circle of a person with an eating disorder is they will lie, manipulate other people and do whatever they have to do to continue the behavior that numbs them out to life’s pain. I’ve always said bulimics are great actors – you may not even be aware they have a problem because not all bulimics purge and their weight may not fluctuate.

Why have eating disorders reach such epic proportions? In part the american diet has contributed to this issue. The lack of balanced meals and proper nutrition that adversely affect the brain and body chemistry combined with the pressures of growing up, the media, expectations from people close to the individual, family relationships and unfortunately sexual abuse are top contributors.

Over 75% of women admit to having an unhealthy relationship to food and their bodies aka disordered eating. The statistics for men are high as well, they just haven’t been surveyed.

Our society has placed great emphasis on how we look. There are TV shows dedicated to judging how actors looked at the Oscars. Too many magazines at the checkout line in our grocery stores that show us what we need to look like to be beautiful or pretty. And even more proclaiming the magic way to lose that fat quickly, shape your butt, lose your gut and get the quick tune-up before summer. If we weren’t obsessed with our bodies and food these magazines wouldn’t be selling!

Effective Treatment

The biggest issue I have as an Eating Disorder, Stress and Nutrition Coach is that many people are being fed the information that they will struggle with this for a lifetime, that this will be a long and difficult path and they may never truly recover. It’s simply not true. The issue is the approach that’s being taken. When brain and body chemistry are balanced in addition to improving self-esteem, getting the focus off the behavior and getting to the root of the issue that is causing the individual to want to numb out people can and do recover to live healthy, happy, balanced lives.

Make a Difference

We all have the ability to make a difference whether you know someone personally that has issues or not. Every day you do and say things that affect other people in your life. The biggest opportunity you have this week is to reevaluate how you speak to others and what you say. Do you judge other people based on their size? Do you make off-handed comments that hurt other people’s feelings by calling them skinny, or fat or some other insensitive name? You may be doing it without even realizing it.

I was recently on the campus of Michigan Tech University to deliver a women’s empowerment workshop and wellness speech. I had lunch with a female student who told me a guy in her class recently said, “If you weren’t fat, you’d be pretty.”

#1 – This girl was not fat or overweight, she just wasn’t “model thin,” her body was beautiful and her face and eyes gorgeous and full of life.
#2 – As a male college student, or anyone else – where did he lose his manners to make such a judgement on someone else and even dare to speak it out loud?

These types of comments can be critically damaging to the individual receiving them depending on their level of self-esteem and confidence. This is exactly the type of thing that needs to stop in order for our society to begin to heal from this mess we’ve gotten into.

Make the Pledge
This week you have a chance to build awareness in your own day-to-day life. Evaluate what you are thinking about other people. Listen to what you say to other people. Consider how it would feel if others openly judged you, put you down and how it would make you feel. Then join me in taking the pledge not to judge people by the package they came in. We are all here for a specific purpose and that purpose is much deeper than the skin you’re in and physique other people see from the outside.

Make the “I Accept You As You Are” pledge this week
Send me an email with “Accept” in the subject line:

  • Make the Pledge to accept everyone you meet, just the way they are
  • Make the Pledge to stop judging people by how they look
  • Make the Pledge to stop making fun of people who are obese or thin, or look different from you
  • Make the Pledge to stop complimenting people who have lost weight – or commenting to those who gained
  • Make the Pledge to remember that someone else’s physical appearance is none of your business
  • Make the pledge to evaluate your own health and be the best you can be – so you too can accept yourself, just as you are

Together we can make a difference and eliminate the negativity that contributes to eating disorders and create a happier, healthier, world where everyone feels comfortable.

If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, take action today  for a radically different alternative treatment that will break the chain of eating disorder behavior, calm the chaos, bring hope, inspiration and empowerment to your life.


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