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National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

February 24, 2011

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

As a clinician who works with eating disorders, on the occasion of national eating disorders week,  my heart goes out to the many patients and their families who are struggling with an eating disorder.   For the general public’s behalf, I’d like to point your attention to the following Promo for the movie THIN.  It captures the devastation and despair of a struggle with eating disorders.

Eating disorders can be misleading.  People think that they  are a disease about food and weight, and the pursuit of beauty.  In reality, the obsession with food and weight is merely a manifestation of  underlying feelings, feelings as complex as  self-hatred, lack of control, obsession with perfection, fear of dependence and independence, and unresolved anger towards self and others.   The focus on food and weight is actually the attempt to COPE with complicated feelings.  Yes, the focusing on eating is actually the COPING MECHANISM.  I will try to explain: the person struggling with an eating disorder does not know how to deal with her feelings and instead she focuses her attention on food and weight.  Why? unlike emotions, food and weight are concrete and can be reduced to numbers.  A person who struggles with anorexia nervosa, for example, devises a simple system whereby she feels better if she is in control of  her appetite.  The scale then becomes a gauge of her level of control- seeing her weight go down gives her a self-esteem boost.  Recovering from an eating disorder involves learning new ways of coping with feelings and relationships, and new ways of building self-esteem, mastery, and pleasure.  Confronting previously avoided feelings is the reason recovery is so difficult.  At times it feels like opening Pandora’s box, many patients prefer to keep the lid on.  They’d rather obsess in the mirror than go open that box.

As you’ll see in the movie clip, those diagnosed with anorexia or bulimia do not perceive their bodies accurately.  There’s something heart-wrenching about listening to a woman complain about how fat she is, when she appears skeletal to you.  How do you say to her: my perception of your body is more accurate than yours, when in actuality you are trying to help her trust herself more.  Unfortunately, one of the problems with patients who are underweight/malnourished is that they suffer from cognitive deficits; they are not thinking clearly.  Also, family members often notice personality changes that accompany weight loss.  This adds another order of complexity to the disease, and makes weight restoration even more critical.

If  you or a family member suffer from an eating disorder, contact a clinician near you and get acquainted with local and national resources.

http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/information-resources/audio-video.php

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