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Know the symptoms of an eating disorder

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) launched its 27th annual National Eating Disorders Awareness Week this week to bring public attention to the critical needs of people with eating disorders and their families.

Eating disorders are “bio-psycho-social illnesses with often devastating – sometimes life-threatening – consequences,” according to an association news release. “While there is hope and recovery is possible – particularly with early intervention – many people suffer from the long-term effects of these illnesses.”

Many, including doctors, also miss the warning signs.

That’s why the theme for this year’s awareness week is, “I Had No Idea.”

To help promote Awareness Week, the Empire State Building was lit in NEDA’s signature green and blue colors Tuesday night; flipping the switch was Emmy Award- and two-time Tony Award-winning actress Bebe Neuwirth (Broadway’s “Chicago" and “Sweet Charity,” CBS’ “Blue Bloods,” and NBC’s “Frasier” and “Cheers”).

The association enhanced the theme with these thoughts:

“I had no idea … that you can be too thin … that over-exercising can lead to an eating disorder … that 35 percent of ‘normal’ dieters progress to pathological dieting and that, of those, 20 to 25 percent progress to full-blown eating disorders … that an eating disorder can kill you or lead to permanent physical damage … that (I, my daughter, son, sister, brother, friend) had a problem.”

It also included the following warning signs of an eating disorder:

1. Drastic weight loss.

2. Preoccupation with counting calories.

3. The need to weigh yourself several times a day.

4. Excessive exercise.

5. Binge eating or purging.

6. Food rituals, like taking tiny bites, skipping food groups or re-arranging food on the plate.

7. Avoiding meals or only wanting to eat alone.

8. Taking laxatives or diuretics.

9. Smoking to curb appetite.

10. Persistent view of yourself as fat that worsens despite weight loss.

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