In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder. Eating disorders seriously affect a person’s emotional and physical health and can be life-threatening if not recognized and treated. Eating disorders involve an unhealthy relationship with food.
Eating disorders affect the whole family, not just the sufferer. The child’s whole personality can change when they don’t get the nourishment they need, becoming irritable and causing tension between family members. Children with eating disorders feel ashamed, and will try to hide the disorder. Having the whole family acknowledge and support the child in recovery is important because it takes away the secrecy and encourages them to get better. When a child suffers from an eating disorder, parents need to work with a nutritionist to help get guidance on how to plan meals and snacks, until the child is able to make his or her own positive decisions.
Early intervention and treatment is key, because the longer it goes untreated, the more damage is done to the body. The National Eating Disorders Association has a parent toolkit on their website that is a great place to start for parents and Greensboro’s “Space For All” is an alliance in the community to local professionals that can help. Cone Health has an exceptional network of behavioral health specialists, dietitians, primary care physicians and other related healthcare providers who are dedicated to providing proper treatment to individuals in the community dealing with eating disorders.
Laura Reavis is a registered dietician specializing in pediatric nutrition at the Cone Health Nutrition and Diabetes Management Center. Reavis received a Bachelor of Science in public health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2007 and earned a Master of Science in nutrition from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2009.