We need to have more conversations about eating disorders

A look into eating disorders in Minnesota, and how I’ve dealt with my own.


With all the trend diets that are popular in the media right now, it can be difficult to know where I stand when it comes to my own body image. I am bombarded by social media posts about if I just gave up most fats, I could live a better life, while others insist that I need to restrict sugars to the point where I should even be wary of fruits. While I know that there needs to be a nutritional balance, it’s hard to navigate my own health in this climate. 

Nine percent of Minnesotans will have an eating disorder (ED) in their lifetime, according to Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders (STRIPED), a public health incubator funded by Harvard Medical School. This represents over 490,000 people. An ED is defined as serious conditions related to persistent eating behaviors that negatively impact your health, your emotions, and your ability to function in important areas of life. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. 

My ED started when I first entered high school. I compared my body to other girls in my class, and I felt pressure to look like the women I saw on Instagram. I saw comments critiquing how they looked and wondered what people thought of me if they could be so critical of women who were already being Photoshopped to be perfect. It took a very long time to have the courage to reach out for help about my struggling relationship with food.  

ED can affect anyone starting as young as five years old to more than 80 years old. While it impacts all races, people of color with ED are half as likely to be diagnosed or receive treatment, according to STRIPED. 

Reaching out for help was one of the best things I ever did even though I am still on my journey to have a healthy relationship with food. I work on mindful eating and seeing a health journey as a way to feel better, instead of feeling guilty over my weight. However, each ED and the path to healing is very individualistic. 

ED treatment in the Southwest area can be found at Melrose Center - St. Louis Park (325 Monterey Dr.), and The Emily Program - Anna Westin House West (3012 W 44th St. Minneapolis). 

The Mayo Clinic lists some tactics to help with prevention of ED in kids and teens for parents:

• Avoid dieting around your child

• Talk to your child about their mental health and the risks of unhealthy eating choices

• Cultivate and reinforce a healthy body image

• Enlist the help of your child’s doctor

I still feel twinges of guilt when I eat, and I have definitely fallen off the track of gaining a better relationship with food more than a few times. I tug at my clothes because they never seem to fit right on my body. On the rare occurrence that I feel good in an outfit, it is bombarded by thoughts like: “If I just ate less, I could fit into something better.” I would never wish this on anyone, and yet, more than 490,000 Minnesotans will suffer in their lifetime. In my opinion, we do not talk about this enough. 

Those with ED spend 80-90 percent of their day thinking about food or their bodies. Research has shown that weight stigma is still a large problem in the healthcare system where healthcare workers may overlook a patient’s symptoms due to being over or underweight. While I agree that it is very important to focus on getting to a healthy weight where the patient feels their best, largely focusing on that can cause missing an important diagnosis. 

And these stigmas do not stop there. In high school, I would eat crackers for lunch and yogurt for dinner even though I had worked out for hours on end to have a ‘fit body,’ and people told me that I needed to go eat some burgers as if that would help anything. Now, I am overweight, and I have been told that me sweating is just ‘another gross symptom of being overweight’ even though I know it is a side effect from the medication that’s helping with my ED. 

Open discussions need to be had. In my mind, there is no other way to help ED. I know that we’ve come a long way even since I was a teen with recognizing different body types as good and beautiful, but there’s still more steps to be taken. If you or someone you know is struggling with and ED, please reach out for help. The National Eating Disorders Association has a hotline that is available through phone, text, or online chat. These, and their hours, can be found at https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support/contact-helpline. 


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