Eating Disorders Awareness Week

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Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW), which is February 26-March 3, 2024, “is an annual campaign to educate the public about eating disorders and to engage in efforts to provide hope and to engage support for individuals and families affected by eating disorders….Eating disorders are serious illnesses that can be life-threatening. They are also extremely complex illnesses, arising from a variety of biological, psychological, and social factors.” These disorders include “extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues.” They can affect one’s health, productivity, and relationships.

There are three main types of eating disorders with a fourth more general type. They are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder (BED), and other specified feeding or eating disorders (OSFED). In particular with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, prompt, intensive treatment improves chances of recovery. Included here will be an overview of these two illnesses.

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by excessive weight loss and self-starvation. Whole body systems and organs are affected by this disorder: heart, bones, muscles, kidneys, skin, and hair. Women and girls comprise 90-95% of anorexia nervosa sufferers. In the United States, between 0.5-1% of women and 0.3% of men suffer from this disorder.

Warning Signs of Anorexia Nervosa

• Dramatic weight loss

• Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat grams, and dieting

• Refusal to eat certain foods (no carbohydrates etc.)

• Anxiety about gaining weight or being fat

• Denying hunger; avoiding mealtime

• Excessive, rigid exercise regimens

• Withdrawing from usual friends and activities

• Dressing in layers to hide weight loss or to stay warm

Bulimia nervosa is characterized by “a cycle of bingeing and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting designed to undo or compensate for the effects of binge eating.” Recurrent binge-and-purge cycles can damage the digestive system, affect the heart, possibly rupture the esophagus, and cause tooth decay. About 80% of bulimia nervosa patients are female. Overall it affects 1-2% of women and 0.5-0.7% of men in the United States.

Warning signs of Bulimia Nervosa

• Evidence of binge eating (finding wrappers and containers from large amounts of food)

• Evidence of purging behaviors (frequent trips to the bathroom after meals and signs or smells of vomiting)

• Rigid, excessive exercise regimens

• Stained teeth, bleeding gums, eroded tooth enamel, cavities, dry mouth

• Schedules that allow time for binge-and-purge sessions

• Calluses or cuts on knuckles from self-induced vomiting

If anyone you know is suffering from any of the above symptoms or warning signs, seek help immediately. The problem will not go away on its own. For more information, check out the following websites:,,, and