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An eating disorder is a mental disorder defined by abnormal eating behaviors that negatively affect a person's physical or mental health. Dietitian and Eating Disorder Practitioner Maria Abi Hanna will explain what eating disorders are and debunk some myths around them! 

What is an Eating Disorder?

Eating Disorders (ED) are serious mental and physical illnesses that involve complex and damaging relationships with food, eating, exercise, and body image. These disorders are found in all populations regardless of age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, sex, gender, etc.

Eating disorders are associated with serious medical and psychological complications. A person with an eating disorder may experience long-term impairment to social and functional roles, and the impact may include psychiatric and behavioral problems, medical complications, social isolation, disability, and an increased risk of death as a result of medical complications or suicide.

There are many more eating disorder diagnoses than the three most commonly heard about: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, & Binge Eating Disorder. Each diagnosis has specific criteria differentiating it from other mental illnesses and eating disorders. Recognizing the distinct difference in disorders can help to improve treatment and recovery outcomes.

Eight Truths About Eating Disorders

The media often glorifies or falsely portrays the reality of a situation especially when it comes to body image. Here are eight truths you did not know about eating disorders:

Truth #1

A person suffering from an eating disorder may look healthy but might be extremely ill. In fact, many ED happen in secret.

Truth #2

Families are not to blame. Families can actually be a great support system.

Truth #3

ED are not a lifestyle choice and a person suffering from ED can’t “just get over it”. You can’t expect them to eat more or eat less or go cold turkey. It’s a severe mental illness that requires proper care, attention, and treatment.

Truth #4

ED are a health crisis that cause both personal and familial disruptions. “I have seen firsthand how much stress my clients suffer through because of ED,” says Maria, “many of my clients had to delay going to university for a year or two because they are struggling with an eating disorder.”

Truth #5

ED put individuals at a higher risk of medical complications and suicide. So they are definitely not to be taken lightly.

Truth #6

ED affect people of all ages, genders, nationalities, and body shape. ED is more common in women, but that does not mean that men are not severely affected as well. ED typically have their onset during adolescence or young adulthood. “ED can also start at different ages in life, I have personally counseled women in their 40s or 50s who had just started suffering from ED,” continues Maria.

Truth #7

Genes and heritability play a part in why some people are at higher risk for an eating disorder, but these disorders can also afflict those with no family history of the condition. The environment of the individual also plays a big role. If a mother, a sibling, a cousin, a father suffer from ED, you might develop one as well, but it is not necessarily the case.

Truth #8

ED is treatable. Getting a diagnosis is only the first step towards recovery from an eating disorder. Eating disorder treatment depends on your particular disorder and your symptoms. It typically includes a combination of psychological therapy (psychotherapy), nutrition education, medical monitoring, and sometimes medications. Generally, treatment is more effective before the disorder becomes chronic, but even people with long-standing eating disorders can and do recover.

If you or anyone you know may suffer from eating disorders, please reach out to a medical professional to help you overcome them and live a healthier fuller life.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Mint Basil Market team.

February 23, 2022 — Mint Basil Team

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