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Time to Talk About Eating Disorders

February 25, 2011
Rob Masterson, RD

February 26 marks the end of National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) Week. Although this awareness week is nearly over its purpose of bringing attention and providing accurate information about eating disorders doesn’t have to be.


Eating disorders (EDs) are psychiatric conditions characterized by severe instability in eating behavior that leads to physiological harm and in some cases, death. The American Psychiatric Association recognizes EDs in three distinct categories: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and eating disorder not otherwise specified.

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is commonly characterized by the refusal or inability to maintain the body at or above a normal (body weight >85% expected for a given height and age) weight. Bulimia nervosa (BN) is characterized by recurring episodes of binge eating followed by abnormal or extreme weight-loss measures such as self-induced vomiting or excessive exercise. The third category, eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS), includes behaviors that fail to meet the criteria for defining either AN or BN but do show an unsound eating behavior that can lead to health issues.


EDs are psychiatric illnesses that can lead to serious medical complications and requires an interdisciplinary team of healthcare professionals for treatment. From a RDs perspective, nutrition therapy is only a single, but key component in an ED treatment plan. From physicians to psychiatrists, an ED treatment team can be a powerful and effective tool that can lead to a healthier patient, physically and emotionally.  


EDs are serious and life-threatening. They demand attention not only during this awareness week, but year-round. Many only recognize the stigmas associated with EDs, but there is much more to the disorder than these negative stereotypes. If you or someone you know suffers from an ED please seek help. Here is a link to some online resources for more information and useful contacts. If you have anything you would like to add, please post a comment below.


Nelms, Marcia Nahikian, Kathryn Sucher, and Sara Long. “Energy Balance and Body Weight.” Nutrition Therapy and Pathophysiology . Australia: Wadsworth/Thomson, 2007. 355-56. Print.

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