Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Talking about eating

Who is on a diet right now?

Are you shunning carbs? Going meatless? Avoiding gluten like the plague? Downing weird maple syrup and cayenne pepper concoctions? The University of Colorado at Boulder estimates that one in three women and one in four men are on a diet on any given day.

But when do diets and second thoughts about food and weight turn serious, and how can friends and family help?

About 10 percent of adolescent and adult women will exhibit symptoms of eating disorders at some point in their lives, according to the Academy of Eating Disorders. All those women will not develop a full eating disorder, but still may experience symptoms that impact their lives. Furthermore, a survey conducted by SELF Magazine in 2008 found that 6 in 10 women fall into a group called “disordered eaters,” which is not a full-blown clinical eating disorder but can still affect emotional and physical health. Eating habits that women think are normal—such as banishing carbs, skipping meals and, in some cases, even dieting itself—may actually be symptoms of disordered eating.

“Many times friends and family notice disordered eating patterns before the individual recognizes that it is a problem,” said Barbara Alderete, LCSW, LPC, LMFT, coordinator of Texas Health Springwood Center Southlake. “Oftentimes friends and family are concerned about upsetting an individual or being wrong. But reaching out a helping hand can help an individual seek help before the patterns become extreme.”

So what should you look for? Symptoms of eating disorders may include:
•         Expressing comments about feeling fat;
•         Denying being hungry;
•         Limiting eating in public;
•         Developing strong food rituals;
•         Developing binge eating or purging patterns; and
•         Hiding body with baggy clothes.
If you are concerned about a loved one’s eating patterns, the National Eating Disorders Association recommends individuals:
•         Set up a private time to speak with the person;
•         Share your concerns;
•         Focus on your concerns rather than offering simple solutions;
•         Share that you will continue to support the person;
•         Compliment the person’s attributes beyond beauty and weight; and
•         Tell someone else if you fear for the person’s health.

Telling someone you are concerned about their well-being is never an easy topic to bring up, particularly when it’s something they probably don’t want to hear. But given the statistics it can be the most important thing you do in a day.

For more information, visit www.TexasHealth.org/Springwood or www.NationalEatingDisorders.org. If you feel a loved one needs help, you can get more information or schedule a free assessment by calling 817-355-7777.

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