Eating Disorders: All Shapes and Sizes

In today’s society, the pressure to look a certain way can be overwhelming. Societal pressures can cause it to be difficult to accept the body we are in, and lead to an unexpected eating disorder.

Fortunately, there are new trends that support the idea of loving your body. For the first time in its history, Sports Illustrated put a “plus-size” model, Ashley Graham, on the cover of its 2016 Swimsuit Issue, telling their readers that “beauty is not cookie cutter” or a “one size fits all” model. Mattel, maker of Barbie®, announced that the iconic doll will now appear in three new body types: tall, petite, and curvy. Mattel has faced criticism in the past for Barbie’s impractical proportions, and hopes these new dolls will have a positive impact on what individuals see when they look in the mirror.

However, we still have ways to go when it comes to understanding eating disorders. When most people hear the term eating disorder, the two most commonly known conditions, anorexia and bulimia, come to mind. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), 30 million Americans struggle with an eating disorder and don’t even recognize it. This is because there are less obvious signs of an eating disorder, such as an overeater, a fitness fanatic, or an extremely healthy eater.

A common misconception about eating disorders is that it is predominantly women who suffer from these conditions. This may not always be the case. According to The National Association for Males with Eating Disorders (NAMED), 40 percent of people with eating disorders are males, and men have shown eating disorder-like behaviors just as often as women.

While symptoms vary with each disorder, there are common red flags to look out for. Signs can include continual changes in weight, depression, isolation, and forming ceremonial eating habits, such as eating alone or cutting food into numerous pieces.

Another common unknown is that quite often people develop an eating disorder as a coping mechanism for another disorder, such as anxiety or depression. At Sierra Tucson, we have an integrated approach to eating disorder treatment and the environment in which a resident receives care. Through our Eating Recovery Program, we evaluate the behaviors of residents and possible co-occurring disorders in an effort to treat core issues.

If you—or someone you know—are battling food, weight, or body-image issues, here are some ways in which you can offer support:

  • Be a positive role model of healthy self-esteem and body image.
  • Express your concerns early on, and do so in a loving and supportive way.
  • Remind yourself and your loved one that beauty is not skin-deep. Focus on positive characteristics like personality, sense of humor, and accomplishments.
  • Ask for help even though it may be difficult.
  • Educate yourself on eating disorders and learn as much as possible about the myths and facts, as well as the signs and symptoms.

According to Gayle Masterson, MD, director of Sierra Tucson’s Eating Recovery Program, “The focus of eating recovery shifts from calories, grams of carbohydrates, portion sizes, etc., to a genuine understanding of the dynamics behind what drives the choices and behaviors, and what can be chosen in place of those behaviors that encourages self-care, self-love, compassion, and ultimately a reduction in suffering.”

If you would like more information on the Eating Recovery Program at Sierra Tucson, please call our Admissions Coordinators today at (800) 842-4487.