Rise in eating disorder diagnoses, cases gain extra attention

How can we collectively help those who are hurting feel supportive and engaged during the holidays?
Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 12:34 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - With holiday comes food, and unfortunately, food and the often negative attention we give it makes a lasting impact.

Talking about carbs, special holiday treats, diet plans, and more can impact those struggling with eating disorders this time of year, making it difficult to stay mindful and supported through the season. Disordered eating cases are rising among teenagers, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. How can we collectively help those who are hurting feel supported and engaged during the holidays?

Loretta Mueffelman, clinical director at NotMyKid, spoke on Good Morning, Arizona, to give you some ideas. “When we see teens hyperfocus on what their body looks like and hyperfocus on food, calories, and carbs--that’s when we should pay attention or when they start going away during mealtimes or say they’re ‘too busy to eat.’ that’s when we should start paying attention,” she said.

According to SingleCare’s research, around 30 million Americans have an eating disorder, and the disorders themselves are the third most common chronic illness among young women in the U.S. Ten million men in the U.S. will also suffer from disordered eating in their lives. Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the U.S., and approximately one person dies each hour across the globe as a direct result of an eating disorder.

Mueffelman believes that being present with your teens and children can make the biggest difference. “If we can be there for our children and be the support that they need, the likelihood is that they’ll look to us when they need our help,” she said. “It really kind of goes to a place where these kids are trying to find their footing and if we can meet them where they’re at, it’s simple but when you can sit and listen and not offer ways to fix it...it’s important,” Mueffelman said.

Some common symptoms you may recognize in someone struggling with an eating disorder are as follows:

  • Skipping meals or taking small portions at meals
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Refusal to eat certain foods, restrictions against categories of food
  • Stomach cramps, acid reflux, etc.
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Dental troubles
  • Frequent illness
  • Excessive, rigid exercise regimes despite any illness, weather, injury, exhaustion, or more

These symptoms are by no means expansive as there are many different diagnoses that concentrated on disordered eating such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, rumination disorder, avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, orthorexia, compulsive exercise, and others.

“Kids pick up on everything that we do and if we shift and change the way we treat ourselves and see food as fuel and something that helps us re-energize throughout the day, it makes a difference,” she said. “Kids see how we treat ourselves and can interpret that as ‘Maybe that’s how my parents see me,’ etc. Finding self-acceptance despite not being perfect... that makes the difference.”

If you, your teen, or another loved one are struggling with an eating disorder, you can reach out to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) with the information below.

Approximately one person dies each hour across the global as a direct result of an eating...
Approximately one person dies each hour across the global as a direct result of an eating disorder, according to SingleCare statistics.(Arizona's Family)