What kind of cover draws you into picking out a book? Is it a bright and flashy look or an old and weathered leather tome look? Is it a thin book or a large volume? Are the pages rough cut or gilded with gold? Is it brand new or one with pages softened and marked? And what does it really matter, once you begin to read the book?
Prejudging ourselves and others from outer appearances alone makes about as much sense as choosing books by their covers. Yet, our cultural obsession with physical appearance has taken our focus away from healthy weight to body ideals that are not only dangerous, but sometimes deadly. Eating disorders have become a silent epidemic in this country that can only be helped first by awareness and then by treatment and a sustainable return to balance.
Identifying an eating disorder requires assessment. Families and friends may become concerned with its signs, but the secrecy accompanying this shame based illness can delay professional treatment for a long time. Besides dramatic weight loss, excessive exercise, obsession with calories and overly strict dietary rules, excessive body checking with mirrors and scales, vomiting after meals, increased withdrawal and personality changes may signal that it is time for professional assessment.
Treatment may include supervised in-patient recovery, with medical, nutritional, and psychological components. Individual and family therapy during and after treatment can address mental health issues that may be underlying this illness.
Rebalancing a lifestyle that not only includes healthy eating and exercise, but mindfulness and a strong support system can make things right once again. Resources that may be helpful are the Missouri Eating Disorders Association (moeatindisorders.org) and the National Eating Disorders Association (800-931-2237).