DES MOINES, Iowa — Every February, there’s an effort to educate and advocate during “Eating Disorder Awareness Week.”
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 30 million Americans will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives.
The Eating Disorder Coalition of Iowa has noticed an increase in people seeking help during the pandemic, especially those who are binging or purging.
Vice President Kim Pontius said that’s because telehealth services have expanded access, but also because of phrases like “Quarantine 15” which can be a trigger to some.
“Anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, atypical anorexia, orthorexia – there’s all some sort of obsession with what I’m eating and what my body looks like,” Pontius explains. “There’s so much overlap that sometimes we get so caught up in the weeds of which one it is that we lose sight that we are dealing with people that are struggling and need help.”
This week, EDCI is hosting a (Not a) Walk Fundraiser to encourage people to rest and combat exercise shame with exercise compassion. To get involved, click here.
“Exercise is often used to restrict. We think of restriction more in terms of restricting the amount of food we eat, but we can restrict and we can purge through exercise or we try to,” Pontius explains. “So if I eat X number of calories I have to work out a certain amount of time at a certain level of intensity to make up for it, and there’s this sense of I need to earn the right to eat. That’s where exercise can play in in a really unhelpful destructive way.”
Pontius said many still have preconceived notions of what someone with an eating disorder looks like, meaning there’s a lot of people who aren’t getting the help they need. That’s why EDCI wants people to look past someone’s physical appearance.
“Just because of our body size, we cannot look at a person to determine whether or not they have a healthy relationship with food with exercise or with their body,” Pontius said.
There are warning signs you can be on the lookout for: someone constantly talking about food or their eating/exercise habits, as well as withdrawing from social situations.
For more information on resources, click here.