Eating Disorder Stats: Why Are They Not Better ?

"We have to admit what we are doing is not working.

I heard that statement at a symposium on eating disorders from Emmett Bishop, medical doctor and a specialist who has been treating and working in the eating disorder field for over 25 years.

He is correct. The eating disorder stats and personal stories confirm it. In fact, eating disorder stats are getting worse.

Eating Disorder stats

While some people find healing and recovery, it is disturbing that eating disorder stats largely have not changed in the 25 years I have been a therapist and in most categories increasing in numbers including more men who are now struggling.

America spends 78 billion dollars every year on the ‘diet’ industry yet eight million men and women struggle with eating disorders and/or obesity (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, compulsive over eating). Of those, 10-25% with Anorexia Nervosa will die as a direct result of their struggle. According to The Eating Resource Center fact sheet, young people 15-24 with anorexia have 10 times the risk of dying compared to their same-aged peers.

Even more alarming, according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention, is not one state has a prevalence of obesity less than 24%. Twenty-three states have a frequency of 30-35%. Incredibly, now 12 states lead the country with an obesity prevalence of 35% or more (Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia).

Look around you for eating disorder stats

So, try this--look around you right now. Look at faces, bodies, young and old. While not all thin or fat people have disordered eating or are even unhealthy, the fact is more and more of us are in a troubled place. And, it has been that way for years and years.

More children and adults are fat. More people are obese even though there are more products, more programs, more information, and more education to help combat this. More people continue to die as a result of their chosen lifestyle. The eating disorder stats and obesity stats do not lie.

End the trend

How do we end this trend? How do we get more of you to change? How do we lower the eating disorder stats and obesity percentages?

This is an interesting discussion topic in light of that fact what we are doing is NOT working. All that money spent ‘dieting’ and on ‘diet’ products and programs has not reversed the trend of eating disorders, body image problems, and obesity.

Many experts believe if we solve the obesity issue in this country we solve the health care problem. I tend to agree based on what I see and what I have witnessed in my office during the past two decades. And, if we do not change the trend, this country is in trouble. In fact, if this nation continues on this trajectory, then everyone will be overweight or obese in a few generations.

Attempts to lower eating disorder stats

Get educated about the perils of eating disorders and obesity. The highly acclaimed HBO’s Weight of the Nation documentary series which came out in 2012 is still worth the view. It highlights personal stories of challenge and the difficulty overweight and obese kids and adults face. Both Amazon Prime and Netflix also have notable documentaries highlighting the devastation the food industry is having on our society.

Another attempt at educating people about the consequences of obesity has drawn fire since it came out in 2012. The controversy centers on an anti-obesity campaign in Georgia. Some see this campaign ‘shaming’ kids and adults about their weight and the resulting struggles. The visuals are of young overweight and obese kids with firm messages about the negative mental and physical impact of carrying too much fat.

Reality is, however, sometimes 'shame' is really 'conviction' or 'guilt'. There is a need to understand the difference. 'Conviction' and 'guilt' are feelings we experience when we do something wrong. Obesity due to overindulging and/or eating unhealthy foods & drinks is wrong. 'Shame' is a painful emotion associated with being perceived as inferior or somehow unworthy. No kid or adult should be treated with disrespect or a lack of care and love due their weight issues or struggles.

I will grant you, sometimes kids do not have the emotional or cognitive development to handle such messages and know the difference between shame and guilt. Adults do, or should be able to handle the difference. Regardless, it is vital kids and parents alike know the health and mental risks of obesity and work with their doctors to change.

Think objectively not emotionally

Maybe you cave at the slightest hint of shame or guilt. Yes, adults, it hurts. Move through it and make changes. Yes, you may hate the fat on your body. Think logically, however, and see it as not as shame but conviction or guilt, a natural consequence of doing wrong. If you overeat and do not work out, you will more than likely be fat and out of shape. Guilt is a normal feeling with this experience.

What about medical issues? Ok, I am not talking to you if you have a true medical reason causing your obesity. What about genetics? Well, I for one, am not gifted in the naturally skinny department. I do not complain and neither should you. All that generates is misery for you and the people around you. I know I have to work twice as hard to maintain my healthy and fit body while someone else can do half as much and be golden.

Final thoughts on eating disorder stats

Face it adults, ‘diets’ do not work! You may temporarily lose the weight but if you are not committed to a lifestyle of doing that ‘diet’ the rest of your life, expect the weight to come back on and more.

Likewise, coddling kids and allowing obesity to continue is not okay. Eating disorders are lifestyle choices influenced by a variety of things such as parental role modeling.

Realize the solution to most weight and body image issues lies in three LIFESTYLE areas: 1. the right belief system 2. healthy clean eating 3. regular fitness.

Kip Rodgers, LPC-S

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