Recovery Month: taking your power back from eating disorders

Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 6:53 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Almost one in ten people in the U.S. are impacted by an eating disorder, according to ANAD.

Anorexia and Bulimia are the most-known disorders, but there are other kinds. Pica, orthorexia, Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, Rumination Disorder, Diabulimia and exercise addiction all tie back to a person’s intake of food.

Recovery from eating disorders differ depending on a person’s symptoms, but recovery often lasts for years. For many people, recovery is a lifelong process. They may have safe foods or fear foods, and they may continue to struggle with body image.

“Recovery is more of a process than a destination,” said Andrea Kendall, Licensed Clinical Social Worker for Augusta Health. “We think of recovery as getting to a more stable place with whatever it was you were coping with, where you can function more safely. Perhaps you’re more able to work, support yourself, to take care of yourself, but it’s not necessarily an end point where you’re completely done with whatever it is you’re struggling with.”

Often, a person dealing with disordered eating will struggle with more than one eating disorder. Symptoms rarely fit in one box.

“Eating disorders are really any form of feeding or eating that is disordered to the point that it causes you debilitating distress, either physically, emotionally or both,” said Kendall.

The first step to recovery, like with many disorders, is recognizing there’s a problem. In some cases, a person may not know they have a problem. Dieting and exercise are often healthy, but, when taken too far, can be life threatening.

Eating disorders have the second highest death rate of mental disorders, behind opioid use disorder.

“A lot of disordered eating kind of centers around the theme of control and wanting to feel in-control and feeling very out of control, and that causes a tremendous amount of distress and anxiety, in addition to all of the health problems that you can have,” said Kendall.

Eating disorders can cause significant weight loss or weight gain, but that’s not always the case. A person with an eating disorder may look thin, they may be of average stature, or they may be overweight.

Eating disorders can put stress on the cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal system, neurological system and endocrine system. Hair may fall out or become brittle. A person may experience fatigue or shortness of breath.

In recovery, those things will change.

“Perhaps in some situations, my weight is more stable, my labs look better, those kinds of things. I feel like I can focus on my work, my partner, my children, without constantly thinking about food and weight and calories and all of those things,” said Kendall.

Not every person dieting or exercising has an eating disorder. It’s the obsession with it that reflects a problem.

After recovery begins, the negative thoughts don’t go away.

If you are struggling, you do not have to do it alone. Talk to a doctor or a trusted loved one. You can also call a hotline, like the one through the National Eating Disorder Association at (800) 931-2237.