I stared at the picture in dismay. My friend was sickly thin; I could see, and count, her ribs. Her shoulder blades stuck out like razor wire, and her skin seemed papery. The picture caption read “Just ten more pounds to go until I’m at my goal weight!” Three days later, she was in the hospital.
Eating disorders are serious, and sometimes fatal. Contrary to popular belief, they are not a lifestyle choice, but rather an illness. According to ANAD (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders), eating disorders affect 9% of the worldwide population. 28.8 million Americans have had an eating disorder within their lifetime. About 26% of people with eating disorders attempt suicide.
There are three major types of eating disorder. Anorexia Nervosa is diagnosed when people have a severe preoccupation with losing weight. They will often take laxatives, or overexercise in order to force themselves to lose weight. Sufferers will severely restrict their food intake, and risk death by starvation or suicide.
Bulimia Nervosa is diagnosed when people overeat, and then force themselves to vomit. They may also overuse laxatives, overexercise, or purge in some other manner, or any combination therein. Bulimia sufferers can be underweight, normal weight, or overweight.
Binge eating is diagnosed when people uncontrollably overeat. It is the most common type of eating disorder in the United States. People who are diagnosed as binge eaters are typically overweight or obese.
If this is you or a loved one, there is hope. Texting “NEDA” to 741741 will put you in touch with a trained crisis counselor from Crisis Textline. You can also visit NEDA, the National Eating Disorder Association. They run a chatting, texting, and phone helpline service available during business hours. There is hope, and help available.