By Lori Hanson
Do you know what NEDAW is? Are you familiar with the cause that is focused on in the last week of February? National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.
When I first realized I might be bulimic, I read about it in a magazine. I had never heard about bulimia before, but everything described in that article was exactly what I did except one thing, I didn’t throw up. But I was diagnosed with bulimia—a non-purging bulimic. I was one of many who used other methods such as diet and excessive exercise, laxatives and more to control the weight gain from inhaling a horrific amount of food at one time. I typically put on ten pounds in 2-3 days and then frantically, vigorously dieted and exercised to get it off until the next episode occurred. All the while hoping that no one noticed the change in my body weight.
That was the early eighties. I knew only too well about the tragic death and loss of the incredible silken-voiced Karen Carpenter. I had heard about anorexia. But I had no idea there was a name for what I did, or that it was an eating disorder. I only knew that I would get so upset, the only thing I could do to relive it—to deal with it was to eat as much food as I could as quickly as I could. That way I could be in so much pain, I was numb to what was happening.
This was my perfect little way to deal with the stress of life that was at that point in my life far beyond my control. I had been practicing this behavior since I was fourteen and was now out of college and climbing the corporate ladder to success, or demise, whichever happened first.
My path to recovery was a long one, over thirty years. I, like many others subscribed to what I call the “Whack-a-Mole Syndrome.” I used numerous forms of abuse to help me numb out to stress and uncomfortable things. My second choice was much more socially acceptable, I just drank too much.
I’ve since left the corporate world to help raise awareness about the devastating effect of eating disorders and to help individuals, parents and their children understand that there is hope for a better quality of life. Recovery is possible. And in the process of offering national support calls, writing on the topic and coaching clients back to health, what I continue to see is the lack of knowledge about the topic.
Young girls are surprised to find out that they can die from their behavior of anorexia and bulimia. Parents, friends and loved one are astonished to find out that this is more than telling their teen or adult child that they should just eat, or exercise and “get over it.” By the time someone is deep into this behavioral addiction it isn’t that easy. And unfortunately much of what people do when they try to help only triggers the individuals farther into their behavior.
Eating disorders now have more flavors. In addition to the clinical diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating disorder, there are many individuals who don’t fit the mold of the clinical description and are labeled with EDNOS (eating disorders not otherwise specified). Simply put, if you have an unhealthy relationship with food and your body—it’s called “disordered eating.”
It’s time for people to understand more about eating disorders. It’s time for people to understand that an eating disorder isn’t leprosy and that this people need love and understanding. They aren’t frail, they are fighters. They fight with their denial, they fight with the control they’ve found and they fight the stigma society places on them. And the harder they fight, the farther they go into the rabbit hole to hide.
If you haven’t made any plans for NEDAW, you can start by following this blog. We’ll be publishing a number of articles between now and the end of February. If you know someone who has an eating disorder and needs support, you can help them by referring them to our online community where they can get encouragement and support. www.FindingHopeEDSupport.com. But above all, find a place in your heart to understand these individuals and stop judging them.