It’s common knowledge that there is an obsession with dieting and weight loss in our culture. We glorify models and celebrities not based on their talent or intelligence, but instead on their weight and appearance. While some people and places are fighting back, it’s vital that we still have open discussions about the harmful effects of a society where being thin trumps all.
This year, National Eating Disorders Awareness week is from February 22-28, and it’s the perfect time to bust some truly harmful myths about the disease that will impact 30 million people in the United States at some point in their lifetime.
Myth #1: Anorexia and bulimia are the only types of eating disorders.
For some, it’s hard to believe that someone has a real disease unless their symptoms are physically observable. The logic is that if it’s invisible, it can’t be that bad. This misperception is apparent when it comes to depression, migraines and headaches, diabetes, and yes, even eating disorders.
While the media and pop culture would lead us to believe that eating disorders are limited to severe cases of anorexia where the person suffering is extremely underweight, the disease is as diverse as the people who live with it. And by better understanding the different types of eating disorders, we can ensure that those who are sick can get the care that they need.
About 0.5-1% of American women suffer from anorexia. Its symptoms include inadequate food intake, intense fear of weight gain, and a weak body image. Bulimia Nervosa, on the other hand, is defined by a cycle of binge eating and self-induced vomiting. It affects 1-2% of adolescent and young adult women. Those struggling with bulimia are usually of average body weight.
Binge eating disorder (BED), arguably the most common eating disorder in the US, is characterized by eating a very large amount of food within a relatively short period of time while feeling a loss of control. People who suffer from BED can be of normal or heavier than average weight.
Lastly, the eating disorder we rarely hear about is Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED). A person with OSFED may have many of the symptoms of eating disorders, like anorexia and bulimia, but does not meet the full criteria for diagnosis of them. Someone with OSFED may be of an average body weight or overweight.