Weighing In on Eating Disorders

“I’m not hungry.”

This phrase evokes heartache, frustration and fear for families battling anorexia nervosa. Food becomes foe. And the driving force is a need for control.

National Eating Disorders Awareness (NEDA) Week from February 23-March 1 will raise awareness of eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia nervosa and binge eating.

NEDA provides startling facts about eating disorders. Among them:

  • Females with anorexia between ages 15 to 24 are 12 times more likely to die from the illness than all other causes of death.
  • 10 million males in the United States will suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life.
  • 42% of first through third graders want to be thinner.

View common warning signs.

“I’m not hungry.”

The transition from middle school to high school is daunting for most teens. Imagine attending a different school – in a new state – your freshman year. That was my sister’s experience in the 1980s. Back then, eating disorders didn’t receive the media attention that they do today. The warning signs weren’t as easy to detect.

That’s why we didn’t realize at first that my sister was starving herself.

There were rituals. She cut food into tiny pieces (it tricks your mind into becoming full) and obsessively baked (but refused to partake). She only used certain dishes. She said she was eating when she wasn’t. All the while, she poured energy into exercise and academics and maintained a 4.0 GPA (perfectionism is often a sign of anorexia).

It was a long road, but my sister overcame anorexia with the unwavering support of my parents and by realizing that some things in life are out of our control. Today, she’s happy, she’s healthy and she’s an inspiration to me.

There is hope.