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Everybody Knows Somebody | February 27, 2013

In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men have suffered from an eating disorder at some time in their life. Feb. 24-March 2 is National Eating Disorders Awareness week. Changing our society’s unrealistic views on body image is critical. Early diagnosis and intervention is the key.

I was in the grocery store one day and overheard a preschooler tell his mom that she needed to buy some diet soda because “he” was fat. I was so stunned by that comment and the fact that it came from a little boy, but even more shocked to see the mom acknowledge the comment and add the diet soda to the shopping cart. Parents, please talk to your children about their concerns about weight and dieting. Set a good example yourself about body image and self-acceptance.

By age 6, girls especially start to develop concerns about their own weight or shape. Children are more worried about becoming fat than about other handicapping conditions, including blindness. Forty to sixty percent of elementary school girls (ages 6-12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat. This concern endures throughout life. Over half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives.

The average Miss America winner is 5-feet 7-inches and weighs 121 pounds.  Most fashion models, our beauty role models, are thinner than 98 percent of American women. For females between 15- and 24-years-old who suffer from anorexia nervosa, the mortality rate associated with the illness is 12 times higher than the death rate of all other causes of death.

Here are the 10 signs of an eating disorder.
1. Drastic weight loss
2. Preoccupation with counting calories
3. The need to weigh yourself several times a day
4. Excessive exercise
5. Binge eating or purging
6. Food rituals, like taking tiny bites, skipping food groups or re-arranging food on the plate
7. Avoiding meals or only wanting to eat alone
8. Taking laxatives or diuretics
9. Smoking to curb appetite
10. Persistent view of yourself as fat that worsens despite weight loss

Eating disorders are serious business and they need to be treated. Everybody knows somebody with an eating disorder and I encourage you to help them seek help. For more information on eating disorders, guidance, support and encouragement, check out: http://proud2bme.org.