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Mythbusters: Five common myths about eating disorders

As part of National Eating Disorders Awareness week, Dayton Children’s manager of clinical dietetics and eating disorder specialist, Rachel Riddiford, “busts” some of the most common myths surrounding eating disorders.

  1. Eating disorders are a choice.  If only it were as easy as “just eating more” for someone with anorexia or “just eat earlier in the day” for someone with bulimia nervosa.  No mental illness is about will power, including eating disorders.  Eating disorders develop as a way to deal with uncomfortable feelings and often happen in people with other challenges like depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  2. Appearances don’t tell all.  People suffering from an eating disorder often look like everyone else.  Many are of a normal weight, some underweight, and some overweight.  You might suspect an eating disorder in someone who keeps up exercising even when overly tired, ill, or injured or exercises to make up for something they just ate.  Sometimes a person with an eating disorder will make foods for family and friends and read recipes for fun but mostly eats alone.
  3. Only teen girls get eating disorders.  I see children as young as 8 or 9 and increasingly numbers of boys.  I regularly hear adults talking about 5 or 6 year old girls wonder if they are “fat”.
  4. Eating disorders are a great way to get attention. Most people with an eating disorder keep it a secret.  In fact, many patients come to me for help before they can admit that they have an eating disorder and talking about what they do to keep the disorder is one of the hardest things they’ve every done.
  5. Recovery is pretty much impossible.  While anorexia nervosa has the highest death rate of any mental illness, recovery is quite possible.  The sooner treatment begins, the better chances of full recovery.

Where to Get Help:
If you have an eating disorder or suspect someone in your life does, talk to a personal physician, counselor, dietitian skilled in this diagnosis, school nurse or counselor, or trusted adult.

More resources:
http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/

http://www.something-fishy.org/

http://www.feast-ed.org/
(Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders)

http://www.bulimia.com/

By: Rachel Riddiford, MS, RD, LD.
Rachel has been an employee of Dayton Children’s since 2004. She is currently the Manager of Clinical Dietetics and works as an eating disorder specialist in the Nutrition Clinic. Rachel completed her BS in Dietetics at Western Michigan University, Master’s degree at University of Dayton, and dietetic internship at Indiana University/Purdue University. She has also completed an American Dietetic Association Pediatric and Adolescent Weight Management Certificate.

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