Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dying to be thin

Thanks to my Amazon Prime membership, I watched a documentary called “Thin” about women with eating disorders and it was sad and disturbing.  For me this movie brought back memories of my years working in eating disorder treatment programs. 

This documentary did a good job of describing the challenging journey these women go through and the incredible hardship and frustration of eating disorders.
While working as a recreational therapist, I had the privilege to work at a treatment center for women with eating disorders.  Although it was difficult at times, I do consider working there a privilege.  I was able to meet and work with some of the most amazing women that you could ever hope to meet.  They were bright and funny and creative and talented and they were struggling with a severe eating disorder that was making their life awful. 
When someone would ask what my job was, I explained where I worked and often people would jokingly say, “I wish I had a little Anorexia.”   To me and to these women struggling, this was no laughing matter. 

Do you all remember the huge controversy over the biggest loser contestant Rachel?  Her shocking appearance brought eating disorders into mainstream discussions, at least for a few days.  We have a society hyper-focused on being the ‘thin’ ideal, but we are ashamed and appalled when someone goes too far in their search for thin and becomes anorexic or bulimic.   The contestant Rachel was a perfect example of our society's out of control obsession over weight, rather than a focus on health. 
We have such unrealistic airbrushed & unhealthy beauty standards. What’s worse, we are passing these ideals along to young girls, and eating disorders are being diagnosed in younger and younger girls each day.  My former employer has added a special unit for girls from 8-12 years old, and they are not alone. 

Here are some shocking and sad facts about eating disorders


·        Approximately 11 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder
·        Nearly half of all Americans personally know someone with an eating disorder
·        Anorexia is the 3rd most common chronic illness among adolescents
·        Eating disorders kill.  Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, upwards of 20%.
·        Eating disorders can lead to major medical complications, including cardiac arrhythmia, cognitive impairment, osteoporosis, infertility, and most seriously death.
·        Suicide, depression, and severe anxiety are common during the active illness and treatment.
·        Eating disorders can be successfully and fully treated to complete remission, but only 1 in 10 people with eating disorders receive treatment.
·        Eating Disorders  have Doubled since  the 1960s 
·        Eating Disorders  are increasing in younger age groups, as young as 7 years 
·        Eating Disorders  are occurring increasingly in diverse ethnic and sociocultural groups 
·        40-60% of high school girls diet 
·        13% of high school girls purge 
·        30-40% of junior high girls worry about weight 
·        40% of 9-year-old girls have dieted 
·        As young as 5-year-old girls are concerned about diet 
Eating disorders are a serious issue, and we all share in the responsibility to combat unhealthy stereotypes and work toward a future where these young girls and women won’t have to struggle every minute with an eating disorder.  Eating disorders are cheating all of us out of the chance to see these young women thrive. 


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