Eating Recovery Center Director of Nursing, Carolyn Jones gives insight into the prevalence of eating disorders in adults, in the NextAvenue.org article, “Why Eating Disorders Are a Concern for Adults, Too”. To read the entire article click here, or read below.
Why Eating Disorders Are a Concern for Adults, Too
Research showes anorexia, bulimia and binge eating are on the rise among older people
Few would question the benefit of being able to feel younger than one’s chronological age. And, fortunately, many people in middle age feel exactly that way. In a 2009 Pew Research Center survey, nearly half of all respondents age 50 and older reported feeling at least 10 years younger than their actual age.
But when one doesn’t like what he or she sees in the mirror, because of real or imagined weight gain, it could lead to drastic and dangerous action. While some people in middle age and older take positive steps to change their diets and their fitness regimens to ward off extra pounds, others channel their concerns in an unhealthy, obsessive direction, and fall victim to an eating disorder.
(MORE: The Fiftysomething Diet)
Eating Disorders Develop in Different Ways
There are three main types of eating disorders: Anorexia nervosa, whose sufferers have an extreme fear of gaining weight and a distorted body image, and practice drastically restricted eating habits; bulimia nervosa, whose symptoms include recurrent, frequent episodes of binge eating followed by forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or excessive exercise to compensate for the excess intake; and binge eating disorder, in which a person loses control over his or her eating but does not follow with any type of purging, and can become overweight. Eating disorders can destroy an individual’s health and in some cases be fatal.
Eating disorders affect teenagers more than adults, but their prevalence in older people is on the rise. Studies conducted in Australia in 1995 and 2005 found that while a higher percentage of younger people had eating disorders than adults, the rate of eating disorder incidence rose far more dramatically in older people — the percentage of people 65 and older who engaged in anorexic behavior or binge eating tripled during the 10-year-period.
Among people who suffer from adult-onset eating disorders, says Carolyn Jones, director of nursing at the Eating Recovery Center in Denver, some may have had the disorders all their lives with symptoms either previously undiagnosed or not manifested; others may have had an eating disorder in the past, underwent treatment, and then relapsed in adulthood; and another group experienced their first onset in middle life.
The Causes of Eating Disorders
Eating disorders, whether in teenagers or adults, may be triggered by a variety of factors including low self-esteem, depression, troubled relationships, physical or sexual abuse, cultural pressures to be thin, and a genetic predisposition, according to NationalEatingDisorders.org. Dr. Kathryn Zerbe, a professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health and Science University and the author of Integrated Treatment of Eating Disorders: Beyond the Body Betrayed (2008), says: “The over-50 population differs in that they also have a fear of getting older. Plus, stressful life events, such as loss, difficulty handling transitions, medical problems and other psychiatric issues like depression and anxiety, may also come into play.”
An eating disorder that arises for the first time after age 50 always demands a full medical workup, Zerbe says, “because loss of weight at this age, depression, poor appetite and cognitive changes may represent a manifestation of a physical, not a psychiatric, illness, such as cancer or dementia.”
Symptoms of Eating Disorders
Symptoms of eating disorders may not always be obvious. People with binge-eating disorder or bulimia nervosa may be of normal weight or even overweight. If you’re concerned that a friend or loved one may have an eating disorder, watch for these signs:
- A refusal to eat or a denial of hunger.
- An intense fear of gaining weight.
- A negative or distorted body image.
- Excessive exercise.
- Fear of eating in public.
- A withdrawal from social activities.
- Preoccupation with food.
- Very thin appearance.
- Self-induced vomiting.
- Excessive exercise.
- Going to the bathroom after eating or during meals.
- Damaged teeth or gums.
- Constant dieting or fasting.
- Possible drug or alcohol abuse.
- Frequently eating alone.
- Eating to the point of discomfort or pain.
- Feeling depressed or disgusted over the amount eaten.
If you or a loved one exhibits these symptoms, it’s important that he or she consult with a doctor or psychiatrist who specializes in eating disorders, although it may be difficult to convince the person to go along. “One of the hallmarks of an eating disorder is an ambivalence,” Jones says. “One day they know they need help and the next day they don’t. They’re often in denial.” Expressing your concern and a sincere desire to listen may help.
A friend or relative, Zerbe says, can help the affected individual begin to see the risks in valuing having an “ideal body” more than their health, so that they can get the help they need and make the most of the years ahead of them.
Does Your Child Have an Eating Disorder?
In this article for BlogHer.com, the largest community of engaged, influential and info-savvy woman bloggers, Eating Recovery Center therapist Liza Feilner, Primary Therapist at the Behavioral Hospital for Children and Adolescents shares advice for parents that suspect their children may be suffering from an eating disorder. Below is an excerpt featuring Liza’s insights, or click here to view the article in its entirety on BlogHer.com.
Eating disorders affect five to ten million young and adult women and one million men in the United States. What is a parent to do when we suspect our child may be exhibiting symptoms of disordered eating? Come to think of it — what are symptoms of disordered eating?
To answer these questions, I called up Liza Feilner, a licensed professional counselor and senior therapist at the Eating Recovery Center’s Child and Adolescent Behavioral Hospital who for nine years has been working inpatient with individuals suffering from eating disorders.
A lot of us don’t always have the opportunity to observe our children’s eating behaviors throughout the day, meeting up with them only at dinner time. In the following list, Feilner offers some tell-tale signs that a child may be exhibiting symptoms of an eating disorder.
“Remember, you’re looking for changes to previous patters that they’ve set with their eating,” says Feilner.
Symptoms of disordered eating
Weight loss or weight fluctuation. These are well-known indicators, though Feilner warns that neither of these in themselves are the only determinant that somebody is struggling with an eating disorder.
Significant changes in food behavior. “If suddenly they’re cutting out a particular food group, that may signify a change in food behavior,” warns Feilner. “For example, they may cut out fats or carbs or certain foods and begin getting more rigid with what they are willing to eat.”
Limiting intake. “I already ate.” “I’m not very hungry tonight.” If your child is consistently skipping meals or otherwise trying to limit their food intake by pushing food around the plate or taking really small bites to make it seem like they are eating, watch closely for other symptoms of disordered eating.
Ritualistic behavior. Eating disorders tend to turn the consumption of food into a very rigid ritual. Any peculiar eating behaviors — such as finishing one item on the plate before moving on to another, for example — should signal a parent to become more observant.
Anti-Obesity Ads: How Far is Too Far in Addressing Childhood Obesity?
In her most recent EverydayHealth.com blog posting, Julie Holland examines the issue of campaigns designed to combat childhood obesity rates. While childhood obesity is a serious health concern, are anti-obesity campaigns effective in addressing the issue or do they shame and stigmatize overweight and obese children? Read an excerpt of the article below, or click here to read Julie’s blog post in its entirety.
There’s no argument that childhood obesity is a serious health concern. More than one-third of children ages 10-17 are obese or overweight* and obesity rates among U.S. children grew from 14.8 percent in 2003 to 16.4 percent in 2007.**
Obesity is related to more than 20 major chronic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes, and children who are obese are more than twice as likely to die prematurely before the age of 55 compared to healthy-weight children.***
Education and nutritional intervention is key to combating childhood obesity rates; however, are anti-obesity ads effective in addressing the issue or are they crossing a line into body shaming?
As some of my readers may already know, I struggled with eating disorders from the time I was seven years old through much of high school. From a very young age I battled with negative body image and a low self-esteem; being perceived by my peers as the “fat girl in class” was never easy. This perfect storm of factors triggered an onset of binge eating disorder, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa until I was nearly 20 years old.
Many obesity prevention campaigns promote balance and moderation, practices I agree with and that I think we can all support. However, a recent anti-obesity campaign in Georgia has come under fire for, according to critics, shaming and stigmatizing children who are obese. It probably goes without saying that this anti-obesity campaign hits close to home for me. Although I’ve been in recovery from my eating disorder for 30 years now, maintaining a positive body image and self-esteem is something I work on each and every day. When I see TV ads identifying overweight children as “fat” and placing a negative connotation on that label, I worry about what someone genetically predisposed to an eating disorder might think and feel.
Could Your Weight Loss Resolve have Unintended Consequences?
Could your New Year’s resolution have unintended consequences for your kids? As millions of Americans resolve to lose weight in 2012, parents need to be aware that their new diet and fitness regimens could have a potentially negative outcome – triggering eating disorders or body image issues in their children.
Because children often will mirror their parents, experts urge parents to be mindful with their food- and body-focused words and behaviors while undertaking New Year’s resolutions.
“Children and teens are very susceptible to picking up value judgments about body shape and size,” said Elizabeth Easton, PsyD, clinical director of Child and Adolescent Services at Eating Recovery Center, an international treatment center for anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorders. “If we teach them – through dieting, over-exercise and critiques of our own bodies – that there is a ‘good’ body type, then that is exactly what children will strive for at all costs if they are susceptible to an eating disorder or poor body image.”
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, weight and body consciousness among children begins at very young ages, with research finding that 81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat and 46 percent of 9- to 11-year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets.
More than one-third of “normal dieters,” many of whom begin dieting at young ages, progress to pathological dieting, a condition marked by continual dieting and from which 20 to 25 percent of individuals develop eating disorders. When considered alongside a recent Thomson Reuters and National Public Radio poll, which reveals that one-third of Americans have made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight in the last five years, this research illustrates the perfect storm parents can unknowingly initiate by adopting aggressive or unhealthy weight loss regimens.
Read more here on ModernMom.com.
Parents: Important Advice About Your College Student and Eating Disorders
Elizabeth Easton, PsyD, Clinical Director of Child and Adolescent Services at Eating Recovery Center, recently contributed her insights to Family Goes Strong, a website committed to sharing wisdom, research and information relevant to the so-called Baby Boomers, who are increasingly involved in the care of their aging parents while raising their own children. Dr. Easton shared do’s and don’ts for parents that are concerned their college-aged children may have an eating disorder. Read an excerpt of the article below, or view it in its entirety here.
College students have tremendous pressures on them these days. As parents and grandparents we read, hear and worry a lot about binge drinking and drug use on college campuses. There are quieter but equally destructive – in fact, even deadly – ways college students are harming their health as well: eating disorders.
In Parents: 10 Winter Break Warning Signs of Eating Disorders in Your College Students, I shared expert advice on what parents should look out for while your
college students are home for the holidays. Experts stressed that parents and other family members should be “vigilant,” especially with college freshmen.
Here, I’d like to share more expert advice on what to do and say if you suspect a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder — especially a college student coming home for visits. Maybe they are starving themselves with anorexia or bingeing and purging with bulimia. Or both. Whatever disordered relationship they may have with food, it means they are in crisis, in pain, and need your intervention.
Elizabeth Easton, PsyD, is the clinical director of child and adolescent services at Eating Recovery Center. She offers some “dos and don’ts” for parents or other family members who become concerned about a loved one’s eating habits.
As Dr. Easton explains, there are two possible scenarios as your loved one returns home from college for a visit and you suspect an eating
Weight Loss and Depression: “Your loved one has lost a significant amount of weight, become very isolative or socially withdrawn and appears more pre-occupied with weight and/or food.”
Obsession with Exercise: “Additionally, there’s a significant change in his or her exercise drive and/or compensatory behaviors (vomiting after eating, abuse of diet pills or laxatives, etc…). These behaviors often mean the person is more entrenched in the eating disorder and is relying on eating disorders behaviors to cope with stress, depression and anxiety.”
Eating Little, and in Ritualized Ways: Maybe he or she is eating a small amount but is cutting it into tiny pieces, eating in some private pattern.
Read more about what parents can do if they observe these signs and symptoms here.
Eating Disorders: College Athletes at Increased Risk
Research suggests that at least one-third of female college athletes exhibit some form of disordered eating behaviors. In the byline excerpt below, Enola Gorham, Clinical Director of Adult Services at Eating Recovery Center, explains why this phenomenon is so common among college athletes, outlines significant warning signs of eating disorders and offers strategies for parents to intervene and help their children seek treatment. Read the MomsTeam.com byline in its entirety here.
As college freshmen across the U.S. return home for the holidays, thousands of parents will – for the first time – discover eating disorders that developed during their child’s first semester. Because the transition to college is one of the two most common life stages in which eating disorders develop, parents should be vigilant for symptoms of eating disorders as their teens return home for the mid-year break.
For parents of college athletes, this phenomenon should be of particular concern. At least one-third of female college athletes exhibit some form of disordered eating behaviors, according to a 1999 study published by Craig Johnson, PhD, FAED, CEDS, chief clinical officer of the Eating Recovery Center in Denver, Colorado.
For many young adults, the pressures of the first semester of college can create the perfect storm for eating disorders development, and it’s easy for teens to hide behaviors from their families, particularly if they go to school far away from home. Many parents won’t see the outcome of this devastating development until their children return home for winter break.
Dieting to avoid the “freshman 15,” stress from academic and social pressures and anxiety tied to being away from home for the first time are common triggers of first semester eating disorders development. For college athletes, athletic performance pressures and the stress of juggling a full academic load while playing a sport at the collegiate level can exacerbate an already anxiety-ridden situation.
Eating Recovery Center Urges Parents to be Vigilant for Eating Disorders Signs
As college freshmen across the U.S. return home for the holidays, thousands of parents will – for the first time – discover eating disorders that developed during their child’s first semester. Because the transition to college is one of the two most common life stages in which eating disorders develop, Eating Recovery Center (www.EatingRecoveryCenter.com), an international center for eating disorders recovery providing comprehensive treatment for anorexia, bulimia, EDNOS and binge eating disorder, encourages parents to be vigilant for symptoms of eating disorders as their teens return home for the mid-year break.
“For many young adults, the pressures of the first semester of college can create the perfect storm for eating disorders development, and it’s easy for teens to hide behaviors from their families – particularly if they go to school far away from home,” explains Bonnie Brennan, MA, LPC, NCC, clinical director of Eating Recovery Center’s Adult Partial Hospitalization Program. “Many parents won’t see the outcome of this devastating development until their children return home for winter break.”
Dieting to avoid the “freshman 15,” stress from academic and social pressures and anxiety tied to being away from home for the first time are common triggers of first semester eating disorders development. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the mean age of eating disorders onset in the U.S. is 19. A 2006 poll of U.S. college campuses conducted by the National Eating Disorders Association found that one in five college students believe that at some point they have suffered from an eating disorder.
To help parents recognize eating disorders in college students and appropriately intervene, Eating Recovery Center highlights five winter break warning signs that may indicate their teen has an eating disorder or could be at risk for developing one:
Noticeable weight loss or weight gain since he or she entered college.
Helping with the preparation of holiday meals but not eating them.
Excessive exercise, even outdoors in poor winter weather conditions.
Withdrawal from family and friends and avoidance of gatherings, even if he or she has not seen loved ones for months.
Discussing college in a “stressed out” or obviously anxious manner or altogether avoiding conversations about school.
“Although parents may be tempted to send their young adult back to school, I strongly urge parents noticing any signs of an eating disorder to actively seek treatment,” explains Brennan. “With eating disorders, early intervention saves lives.”
Parents are encouraged to seek an eating disorders assessment if they notice these or other troubling behaviors in their teens while they are home for winter break. Recovery is entirely possible with early intervention and proper treatment from qualified professionals.
“Eating Disorders Treatment for Children and Adolescents”
In the latest installment of his Huffington Post blog, Dr. Weiner welcomes the insights of Elizabeth Easton, PsyD, on treatment for eating disorders in children and adolescents. As Clinical Director of Child and Adolescent Services at Eating Recovery Center’s Behavioral Hospital for Children and Adolescents, Dr. Easton understands that parents seeking eating disorders treatment for their children and teens face a distinctive set of uncertainties. Read an excerpt of Dr. Easton’s insights below, or click here to read the Huffington Post article in its entirety.
How are child and adolescent eating disorders treatment different from treating eating disorders in adults?
The fundamental aspects of eating disorders treatment tend to be fairly consistent between adults and children and/or teens. Because these illnesses affect both mind and body, treatment providers will generally offer medical support, psychiatric stabilization and medication. Therapeutic support is also offered from skilled clinicians, including individual therapists, family
therapists and dietitians. However, key differences between programs designed for adults and those catering to younger patient populations pertain to the use of developmentally appropriate treatment plans and the availability of education services to help patients progress in K-12 studies during the course of treatment.
Developmentally sound care requires that the treatment team take into consideration not only the chronological age of patients, but also their developmental stage and their readiness to assume key responsibilities in the recovery process. Some patients who are either chronologically or developmentally young may require more assistance from parents regarding key
elements of the recovery process, like refeeding, weight maintenance and compliance with the post-discharge plan of care. Furthermore, seeking effective treatment for your child or teen doesn’t mean that a child or teen’s academic functioning must suffer. Unlike programs for adults, child and adolescent eating disorders treatment can involve an educational component to help patients move forward with their studies to support a seamless transition back to school following treatment.
What should parents look for in an eating disorders treatment center or provider?
Comprehensive care from skilled experts is the most important element to look for when seeking eating disorders treatment for your child or adolescent. Eating disorders are incredibly complex illnesses, and it’s critical to identify a provider with experience treating the diseases in young patient populations and a record of successful treatment outcomes.
Another characteristic that parents should look for in a treatment provider is an educational component. By this, I mean two things. First, look for programs that make a point of educating parents and families about eating disorders and how to support the recovery of their young loved ones following discharge from treatment. Lasting eating disorders recovery for your child hinges in large part on you gaining a thorough understanding of the illness, as well as learning about and practicing effective strategies for helping to manage recovery. Secondly, treatment programs should offer a structured educational component with adequate support from licensed educators to help young patients maintain academic functioning while in treatment. Intensive eating disorders treatment can be disruptive in the life of a child or teen, and every effort should be made to support them in this area of their lives.
Read more from Dr. Easton on The Huffington Post.
Too Much of a Good Thing? What You Need to Know About Compulsive Over-Exercising
In the most recent post to his Huffington Post blog, Dr. Weiner discusses compulsive over-exercising, and explains how the behavior often occurs alongside eating disorders, as the motivations underlying the excessive physical activity often stem from food-, body- or weight-related issues. Read an excerpt of his article below, or click here to read the article in its entirety.
Exercise is good for you. This shouldn’t come as shocking news to anyone; the risks of a sedentary lifestyle are abundant and well reported, particularly as the country faces a public health crisis in which one-third of adults and 17 percent of children are obese.*
However, like most things in life, you can get too much of a good thing when it comes to exercise. Compulsive over-exercise is characterized by frequent episodes of excessive physical activity. Individuals will go to great lengths to fit exercise regimens into their schedules, even if it means skipping work, cutting school, avoiding social events with friends and family, even exercising in secret. Instead of supporting health, excessive exercise, inadequate rest and recovery time between physical activities can damage a person’s body and overall health, causing joint injuries, tendonitis, stress fractures, muscle tears, exhaustion, fainting and dehydration.
Compulsive exercise often occurs alongside eating disorders, as the motivations underlying the excessive physical activity often stem from food-, body- or weight-related issues. Many over-exercisers will do so as a result of guilt or shame from just having eaten or binged or to give themselves “permission” to eat. (The latter was recently the target of much scrutiny from the eating disorders awareness community when the idea was used humorously in a Yoplait commercial.) In fact, exercise bulimia is a subset of bulimia nervosa in which an individual is compelled to exercise at an overly excessive level in an effort to burn calories and fat. Just as individuals with bulimia purge calories through vomiting or laxative use, exercise bulimics use physical activity as their compensatory behavior. Over-exercising behaviors can also accompany anorexia nervosa when used in conjunction with severe food and calorie restriction.
Helping Eating Disorders Sufferers Heal
In a recent interview with KUSA-TV Denver (Ch. 9), a local NBC affiliate, Eating Recovery Center’s Dr. Ken Weiner discusses warning signs of and treatment options for eating disorders, as well as strategies for minimizing the risk of eating disorders among children and confronting someone you believe may be suffering from an eating disorder.
Read a short article and watch Dr. Weiner’s interview in its entirety here.