You Are What You Eat (and Don’t Eat)
By Cheyenne Martin
Staying healthy in today’s world takes focus. It means being intentional about exercise and healthy eating. But for some, that focus goes beyond healthy and results in eating disorders rife with shame, guilt and secrecy. Oftentimes, they become a way to cope with depression and anxiety.
Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder, according to The National Institute of Mental Health. This may be because only one out of 10 people are ever treated for eating disorders.
It’s an Alabama thing.
State-by-state statistics are not available for eating disorders, but Nicole Siegfried, who is the clinical director at The Highlands—a treatment center in Birmingham that specializes in eating disorders and related conditions—says Alabamians could be at particular risk. She says the number of people with eating disorders seems to be higher in warmer clients. But even more telling is the state’s infamous status as one of the most obese states in the country. Siegfried says obesity and eating disorders often go hand in hand.
How to deal.
If you are worried about a loved one, simply speaking up can start the recovery process. Siegfried cautions that references to appearance can cause them to focus on their body image and ignore your message. Instead, focus on their actions. Say, for example, “I’m worried that you keep missing dinner with us.”
Many times individuals will rationalize their behavior and not admit the problem. It can take weeks and months of effort, but your consistency and patience could be lifesaving. When the individual enters counseling, the family may want to seek it as well. Siegfried says counseling can help families learn how to cope and aid their loved one through recovery.
Eating disorders are tangled up in fear, guilt and hopelessness, but with the help of counselors, doctors, nutritionists and a strong support network, Siegfried assures that complete recover is possible.