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Eating Disorder Awareness Week (February)

During the month of February, the week of the 21st–27th represents National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. This year's theme is "It's Time to Talk About it". For many people, understanding the cause and existence of eating disorders is difficult. Taking that a step forward and discussing them is even harder. We live in a culture saturated with unrealistic body-image messages. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, the average American woman is 5 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs 140 pounds. The average American model is 5 feet, 11 inches tall and weighs 117 pounds. In the United States, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life and death battle with eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.

Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder are all types of eating disorders. Over-exercising and an obsession with healthy eating can also be seen as disordered behaviors. Eating healthy and being active is part of a healthy lifestyle, which is done for the purpose of improving health, not for an obsession of body appearance. When a person is unhappy with their body, it can affect how they think and feel about themselves as a person. A poor body image can lead to emotional distress, low self-esteem, unhealthy dieting habits, anxiety, depression, and eating disorders.

While not as common, boys are also at risk of developing unhealthy eating habits and eating disorders. Body image becomes an important issue for teenage boys as they struggle with body changes and pay more attention to media images of the "ideal" muscular male.

No single known cause of eating disorders exists, but several things may contribute to the development of these disorders:

  • Culture. The U.S. has a social and cultural ideal of extreme thinness. Women partially define themselves by how physically attractive they are.
  • Personal characteristics. Feelings of helplessness, worthlessness, and poor self-image often accompany eating disorders.
  • Other emotional disorders. Other mental health problems, like depression or anxiety, occur along with eating disorders.
  • Stressful events or life changes. Things like starting a new school or job or being teased and traumatic events like rape can lead to the onset of eating disorders.
  • Biology. Studies are being done to look at genes, hormones, and chemicals in the brain that may have an effect on the development of, and recovery from eating disorders.
  • Families. The attitude of parents about appearance and diet affects their kids' attitudes. Also, if your mother or sister has bulimia, you are more likely to have it.

If you or anyone you know suffers from an eating disorder, contact Behavioral Heath Services at Augusta Health: 213-2525. The National Helpline is (800) 931-2237. Information in this article was found at, the National Eating Disorder Association and at the National Women's Health Information Center at

This article is provided by Dana H. Breeding, RN Health Educator from Community Wellness, at Augusta Health. To contact her related to the above information, please call 332-4988 or 932-4988.

Some interesting media news

In late September, French legislators introduced a law requiring airbrushed photos of models to be labeled with a health warning: Photograph retouched to modify physical appearance of a person. "These images make people believe in a reality that often does not exist," said Valerie Boyer, member of President Sarkozy's UMP party.

Glamour Commits to Body Diversity – Following the resounding, positive response to a photo of size 12-14 model Lizzi Miller, Cindi Leive, Editor-in-Chief of Glamour has committed to featuring a greater range of body types in its upcoming issues. Leive said, "In real life, women of all shapes and sizes have crazy sex appeal and killer confidence. Why should our own pages look any different?"

Meantime, here in the United States, Ralph Lauren has come under fire for terminating the contract of Filippa Hamilton. Hamilton, size 4, claims her termination was due to her being "too fat."