Mental Health Awareness: Eating Disorders

Our Mental Health Awareness series continues with a focus on eating disorders.

Mental health problems often have a negative effect on one's physical health, and perhaps none more so than an eating disorder. 

Some people may think an eating disorder is "just a phase" one goes through. Or they think that a person with an eating disorder is just a "picky eater." It can be difficult for some people to understand that a person with eating disorder behaviors has a very real, serious health problem that can cause severe physical illness or death. 

How does someone develop an eating disorder? There are a variety of answers to that question, but here are some reasons:

  • We feel like food is the enemy.
  • We feel that the more we eat, the more substantial and safe we are. 
  • We feel shame about the way we look. 
  • We feel like the only friend we can depend on is food.
  • We feel that extreme stress has taken over our lives, and the only thing we can control is the food we eat.

While people of any age can develop an eating disorder, statistics show that young people are more likely to be at risk, as seen in this chartopens a new window from CNN and the National Eating Disorders Associationopens a new window. For more statistics about eating disorders in the U.S., see this fact sheetopens a new window from the Eating Disorders Coalitionopens a new window

Eating disorders are treatable. Typically a treatment plan for a person with an eating disorder is customized for that person’s individual needs. Treatment can involve regular visits to a physician, medication, nutritional counseling, and psychological therapy. Sometimes, if a person with an eating disorder is suffering from malnutrition, he or she will need to be hospitalized. Overcoming an eating disorder can be a slow and difficult process. Unfortunately, for these and other reasons, some people with an eating disorder feel unable or unwilling to get help.

Please note: this discussion of eating disorders is for informational purposes only, and is not meant to take the place of a visit to or advice from a healthcare professional. If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, please talk to a healthcare professional. It will not be easy at first, but it can make all the difference.

We have compiled a list of St. Tammany Parish Library materials and external websites that may be helpful for those of us who are experiencing an eating disorder:

Eating Disorders

"Eating disorders are illnesses in which the people experience severe disturbances in their eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions. People with eating disorders typically become preoccupied with food and their body weight." - American Psychiatric Association

"Laymon writes eloquently and honestly about the physical manifestations of violence, grief, trauma, and abuse on his own body. He writes of his own eating disorder and gambling addiction as well as similar issues that run throughout his family. Through self-exploration, storytelling, and honest conversation with family and friends, 'Heavy' seeks to bring what has been hidden into the light and to reckon with all of its myriad sources, from the most intimate--a mother-child relationship--to the most universal--a society that has undervalued and abused black bodies for centuries."

"A guide to overcoming compulsive overeating by understanding the root psychological causes. Describes coping strategies such as developing mindful awareness of emotions and bodily sensations, practicing self-validation, and re-framing self-defeating thoughts."

"A candid memoir by folk legend Judy Collins of her lifelong struggle with compulsive overeating . . . For decades she thought her food issues were moral issues--lack of self-will, lack of discipline--and she worked hard at controlling what she thought of as her shameful inclinations, employing measures that led to serious health complications. Today she knows she was born with an addiction to sugar and grains, flour and wheat."

"Roxane Gay addresses the experience of living in a body that she calls 'wildly undisciplined.' She casts an insightful and critical eye over her childhood, teens, and twenties . . . and brings readers into the present and the realities, pains, and joys of her daily life . . . Roxane explores what it means to be overweight in a time when the bigger you are, the less you are seen."

"Even though we know better, we often eat too much. Why does our behavior betray our own intentions to be lean and healthy? No one wants to overeat. And certainly no one wants to overeat for years, become overweight, and end up with a high risk of diabetes or heart disease--yet two-thirds of Americans do precisely that. The problem, argues obesity and neuroscience researcher Stephan J. Guyenet, is not necessarily a lack of willpower or an incorrect understanding of what to eat. Rather, our appetites and food choices are led astray by ancient, instinctive brain circuits that play by the rules of a survival game that no longer exists."

View Full List

If you are interested in reading some of our previous blog posts in this Mental Health Awareness series, please follow these links:

Mental Health Awareness 2019opens a new window                          
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