Entries in Anorexia (23)


Men with Eating Disorders Have Tougher Time Getting Help

Courtesy Victor Avon(NEW YORK) -- Of the estimated 30 million people in the United States with eating disorders, about 10 million of them are men, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. Despite this, many residential treatment facilities don't accept men, and the male diagnosis isn't always on doctors' radars.

The first symptom of anorexia listed on the American Psychiatric Association's website is "menstrual periods cease," illustrating the medical community’s predisposition to treat anorexia as a disease that affects only women.

According to Cynthia Bulik, who directs the University of North Carolina Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders, men with eating disorders face extra hurdles because doctors don't think to diagnose them properly to begin with. They're also ashamed because there's a misconception that eating disorders are women's diseases, and that they are more prevalent among gay men.

"Eating disorders really don't care what your sexual orientation is," Bulik said.

Bulik said she once had a male patient whose mother brought him to a pediatrician because she thought he had an eating disorder, but the pediatrician told her that was impossible because "boys don't get eating disorders." So the doctor gave the boy a battery of tests to find a rare disease he didn't have.

Texas therapist Jacquelyn Ekern said many of her male patients fell into anorexia or bulimia after sports -- such as wrestling -- pushed them to be a certain weight in a hurry. The men who develop eating disorders after crash dieting also have underlying psychological factors that predispose them toward eating disorders, such as depression, anxiety or having a parent with an eating disorder.

To make matters worse, men are less likely to seek help once they realize they have a problem, said Dr. Vicki Berkus, who directs Eating Disorder Programs for CRC Health Group.

"I think for males it's that males don't talk about feeling dizzy," Berkus said. "That old 'pull yourself up by the bootstraps, real men don't have issues,' which is totally false." It also tends to be easier for men to hide the physical symptoms of their anorexia, due to baggier clothes and difference in body type.

Even if they are correctly diagnosed and choose to seek treatment, men with eating disorders face additional challenges. Many treatment facilities only accept women. If Victor Avon, a recovered anorexic and spokesman for the National Eating Disorders Association, hadn't found the Center for Eating Disorders Care at University Medical Center of Princeton, an hour from his home in New Jersey, he would have had to travel to Colorado, Utah or Nevada to find a place that accepted him.

Bulik said the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual published by the American Psychiatric Association this spring is expected to exclude the missing menstrual cycle from its anorexia description. That's a step toward destroying the misconception that only women can get it.

"This is not something that is rare," she said. "I think we need to get past the misperception that this is something that's rare, because it does a huge disservice to boys and men."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Anorexia Can Strike and Kill as Early as Kindergarten

Sophie, shown here as a preschooler. (Family Handout)(NEW YORK) -- Sophie started starving herself in kindergarten, giving up sweets at first, then taking smaller and smaller portions of food.  She exercised compulsively on the monkey bars.

But her parents had no idea she was developing anorexia nervosa because the active girl's height and weight looked normal on the pediatrician's growth chart.

"She was slim, but not skeletal," said her mother Anne, a college professor from Washington State, who did not want to use real names to protect their privacy.

Sophie complained of being dizzy, having "itchy skin" and constipation, all symptoms of malnutrition.  She later confessed that she had been throwing out her school snacks and lunches.

One night when her mother was tucking her into bed, she blurted out, "Mommy, I have a problem …I am hungry all the time and I can't eat," remembers Anne.  "A voice in my head is telling me not to eat."

When Sophie was finally diagnosed in first grade, she hadn't gained a pound for 10 months and had dropped from the 60th to the 19th percentile on the weight charts.

Anorexia nervosa is a relatively rare and chronic brain disorder with no known causes.  Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate -- about 10 percent -- of any psychiatric illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Anorexia is rare among young children, but the number of hospitalizations is on the rise.  According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the rate jumped 119 percent between 1999 and 2006, the last year for which there are statistics.

Highly inheritable, it is estimated that 56 to 70 percent of those who are anorexic have a family member with an eating disorder or a co-morbidity like anxiety, according to the Kartini Clinic, a Portland, Ore., facility that exclusively treats children and young adults with eating disorders.

Sophie was adopted, so there was no family medical history to turn to.

"No one knows what triggers it," said Dr. Julie O'Toole, founder and medical director of the Kartini Clinic.  "The science isn't there yet."

"But it's not caused by the media or by pressure to be thin, though people like to blame that," she said.  "Parents don't cause eating disorders and children don't choose to have them."

"You can't cause it even if you wanted to," said O'Toole.  "It has nothing to do with fashion magazines.  We see farm kids, religiously-raised kids who are homeschooled and have no access to television ... who developed anorexia nervosa."

The disorder affects girls 10 times more often than boys in all age groups, but the true numbers may not be known because boys "conceal their illness better," said O'Toole, who is a pediatrician.

Early onset anorexia, under the age of 12, can look different from the adult illness.

"In the classic adult form, they are afraid of getting fat and believe themselves to be fat and quit eating on that basis," she said.  "But there are some children 10 and under who refuse to eat and can't tell you why.  And it's not kids who never did eat much or picky eaters -- that's a whole different field."

Weight restoration is the key to treatment.  "If you do not do this, you do nothing," said O'Toole.  

Every organ is affected by starvation, including the brain. Children who are anorexic show slow cognition.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


EDNOS: Deadliest Eating Disorder Is Quietly the Most Common

Goodshoot/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Taylor wants to like herself, but she can't turn off the voice inside her head that tells her she's not good enough and that the way she looks isn't perfect.

"It really feels like it is a second person inside of you," she said.  "It's like your best friend but your enemy at the same time.  It's hard to distinguish sometimes the ED talking and what's Taylor talking."

"ED" is the nickname Taylor, 20, gives to her eating disorder diagnosis, which, as she puts it, was "switched all over the place."

"Originally I was diagnosed with bulimia," she said.  "Then my symptoms didn't match bulimia.  So then they diagnosed me as anorexia, binge/purge type, because there are two different types.  And then I didn't meet the weight criteria for anorexia.  So then they said, 'OK, you have EDNOS.'  And I was like, 'Well, what is that?'"

EDNOS stands for "eating disorder not otherwise specified," and up to 70 percent of all eating disorders come under the EDNOS banner.  According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 24 million people in the U.S. of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder.

Many of the EDNOS symptoms are the same as other eating disorders, such as bulimia or anorexia, but don't fully meet the criteria of those disorders.  On the other hand, EDNOS sufferers might exhibit a combination of eating disorders, such as being severely strict with counting calories but then still purging after eating.

The issues lie as much in the mind as in the meal, said Dr. Douglas Bunnell, a clinical psychologist and vice president of The Renfrew Center, a renowned eating disorder treatment program with 11 locations in nine states.

"It's still a misperception out there that these are relatively benign sorts of disorders or diets gone bad," Bunnell said.  "These are life-threatening, serious illnesses.  They have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric diagnosis."


After receiving an EDNOS diagnosis, Taylor said she felt a little disappointed, as if her condition wasn't as serious as the more well-known eating disorders.

"Because you only hear about bulimia and anorexia," she said.  "A lot of people don't think -- just because you don't meet the weight criteria, 'Oh, you don't have an eating disorder.'"

But EDNOS is a deadly condition, with a morality rate of 5.2 percent -- higher than both anorexia and bulimia -- despite the fact its sufferers often look healthy.

Watch Nightline's full report on EDNOS and those who suffer from it Wednesday at 11:35 p.m. ET.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Anorexic Takes Up Baking to Gain Control Over Food

ABC News(SEATTLE) -- Camilla Kuhns of Kirkland, Wash., makes the best cookies in the world.  Ask anyone but her.

Kuhns is a 29-year-old anorexic with a penchant for baking.  She has never tasted one of her own confections.  Her younger brother, Seth, samples dough and final products to let her know if anything is off, and her mother, Ilene, tastes the frosting.

"Yeah, my mom's my angel when it comes to the frosting," Kuhns told ABC News' Seattle affiliate KOMO-TV right before she entered an inpatient treatment program for her eating disorder two weeks ago.  "I don't know what it is, but it makes me very anxious."

On her blog, Kuhns said she is 5'8" and weighs 104 pounds with her shoes and clothes on and while holding her purse.  She baked challah breads, cakes and pastries for others to enjoy while her own daily intake amounted to a head of cauliflower with hot sauce and a tablespoon of nuts.  To ensure she burned off every single calorie consumed, she exercised for three to four hours a day.

Her best friend, Amber "Nic" Poppe, said that Kuhns has suffered from various eating disorders since she was 11.  Both her anorexia and the baking escalated recently after a tough year that included the death of a friend and a messy divorce.

"Baking became therapeutic for her.  I know it sounds strange but it seems like her way of overcoming her issues with food," Poppe said.

Actually, it isn't so strange.  Experts have long noted the connection between eating disorders and baking, as well as cooking, watching cooking shows and collecting recipes.

In a famous 1943 study known as the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, men put on a semi-starvation diet for six months developed such an intense obsession with food, they daydreamed, read and talked about it constantly.  The fixation was so persistent that more than 40 percent of them mentioned cooking as part of their post-experiment plans.  After they left the study and regained their weight, three of the men changed their occupations to become chefs.

"I see it a lot in my practice," said Jennifer Thomas, an assistant psychologist at the Klarman Eating Disorders Center at McLean Hospital in Boston.  "Patients will prepare elaborate meals for friends and family while they themselves go hungry.  They get a vicarious joy and a sense of superiority from watching others indulge while they don't allow themselves to eat."

Using her blog, Milla the Night Baker, which she started because she often turned to the kitchen when she couldn't sleep, Kuhns used her baking to help raise money for treatment.

One cookie at a time, she raised $7,000, enough for one week at the eating disorder clinic, Utah's Center for Change, where she is now a patient.  Thomas said she usually asks her patients to avoid cooking and baking until their disorder is more manageable but she thinks Kuhns' approach could serve as part of her healing process.

"Normally, I worry about this kind of behavior but if she used it to help pay for treatment, it could be viewed as constructive," Thomas said.

But it will take a lot more than a bake sale to pay for the full six months of in-patient counseling Kuhns needs to get well.  Her father, David Kuhns, put the cost for his daughter's intensive psychological counseling program at more than $100,000.

"We'll pay for the rest of it by taking loans, applying for grants and asking for donations," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


"What Not to Wear" Star Stacy London Reveals Eating Disorder Past

Soul Brother/FilmMagic(NEW YORK) -- What Not to Wear star Stacy London spends her days making over other people’s lives, but now the star is opening up about her own makeover past.  In her early 20s, London battled anorexia and compulsive overeating.

With extreme dieting that led to anorexia, London whittled her 5-foot-7 frame down to 90 pounds.

“I felt like I’d never had a serious boyfriend and I really wanted to be attractive,” she told People magazine.

London’s weight struggles shifted after a brief hospitalization.  The TLC star turned to binge eating, which brought her to 180 pounds a year later.

London, 43, chronicles her weight struggles in her new book, The Truth About Style, out Oct. 2.  She hopes her story will help others who battle eating disorders.

“When you can talk about something and shine light on it, you’re obliterating shame,” London said.  “And that to me was always the really hard part, to feel so filled with shame and having no recourse to thinking it could get better.”

London is no longer trying to make over her body.  She is just happy being herself.

“My value doesn’t simply come from [being thin],” she said.  “It comes from me and solely from me. It took me a long time to recognize that.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Anorexia Patients Overestimate Their Own Sizes in Study

Goodshoot/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Now there's more proof to show that patients with anorexia can't tell how thin they've actually become.

Researchers from the University Hospital of Lille in France took a new approach to asking anorexic patients about how they perceived their body size. They used a projector to shine the outlines of doors of different widths on a wall and asked participants whether they would be able to fit through them. Then, researchers asked patients whether someone standing nearby would be able to fit through the same openings.

Although the 25 women without anorexia nervosa were able to answer correctly in both scenarios, the 25 women who had anorexia were only able to answer correctly when they were deciding whether someone else could fit, according to the study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

"I think it's really fabulous that these researchers are able to provide scientific proof of what people who have worked with these patients have known for a very long time," said Dr. Elizabeth Frenkel, a supervising psychologist at the Princeton HealthCare System's eating disorder program. "They're trying to demonstrate that you can show a clinical and statistically significant difference between people who have these disorders and people who don't."

Psychologists said it isn't "new news" that anorexia patients have body dysmorphic disorder -- a preoccupation with "defects" in their body shape that aren't really there -- but it sheds light on an interesting piece of the anorexia puzzle.

"It's one of those compelling phenomena where you have a person who appears to be completely cognitively intact," said Phillip Levindowsky, a psychology professor at Harvard Medical School. "How could they be so off in their ability to make these judgments?"

Although this study proves what doctors have been seeing for years, the research is still in its early stages. Dr. Cynthia Bulik, who directs the University of North Carolina's Eating Disorders Program, said a study of only 25 anorexic patients and 25 controls is not enough to draw conclusions, so the researchers' work will have to be replicated.

The researchers in France who authored the study were not available for comment.

Dr. Susan Albers, a therapist and spokeswoman for the Academy for Eating Disorders, said no matter how many times a patient hears how thin she (or he) has become, the patient doesn't believe it. In fact, hearing that they don't see their body accurately is often frightening and causes the patient to become defensive.

Albers said anorexic patients are often intelligent high-achievers.

"They genuinely know what they feel," she said.

Bulik said she generally has to "agree to disagree" with her patients on the subject because they just don't experience their size the way outsiders do.

"A good example is that we all have different pain thresholds, and it is impossible to experience someone else's experience of a pain level," Bulik said. "Someone might find a needle stick to be extremely painful. If you say to them, 'Ah, c'mon, that doesn't hurt,' you are trying to impose your experience on them and you are not validating the fact that they are feeling things differently than you."

So she and Albers remind patients that they do not share the same perception as everyone else. Albers added that the study will be helpful to hand to patients and their family to explain body dysmorphia in "black and white."

Frenkel said it's difficult to alter a patient's body image, so she teaches patients coping mechanisms, which help with recovery. Over time, patients can regain a healthier body image.

The disorder can last six months or a lifetime, Bulik said, adding that anorexia has the highest mortality rate of a psychiatric disorder. A quarter of all patients relapse or have chronic anorexia, she said.

Although some professionals suggest that eating disorders may stem from serotonin problems in the brain, there is no "gold standard" of care known to produce a cure, Frenkel said. Part of that is because research on eating disorders is still in its early stages.

Although 10 million people suffer from anorexia nervosa, only $7 million has gone toward research, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. That's compared with 4.5 million people who have Alzheimer's disease and 2.2 million people who have schizophrenia, which get $412 million and $249 million toward research, respectively.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Kate Upton Fires Back Against Body Critics

Tony Barson/FilmMagic(NEW YORK) -- In the midst of a very public battle over her body image, model Kate Upton has fired back against those who have been attacking her weight.

A pro-anorexia website called Upton “thick” and “vulgar” while criticizing her appearance in raunchy burger commercials.

But 20-year-old Upton has had enough and finally fired back.

Upton said, “I’m not going to starve just to be thin. I want to enjoy life and I can’t if I’m not eating and miserable,” The Sun reported Monday.   

A spokesman for the model added, “It’s absurd. Kate is gorgeous and very healthy.”

The unnamed female blogger who sparked the Upton uproar acknowledges preferring the “skinny aesthetic,” wrote in a July 8 post on the website “Skinny Gurl” that she has been deluged with angry emails and threatened with rape and death.

The controversy first began back in June when the blogger wrote that Upton was, “confidently lumbering up the runway like there’s a buffet at the end of it,” and also called her a “little piggie” with “huge thighs, NO waist, big fat floppy boobs, terrible body definition….”

She continued: “Did you know that humans are 80% genetically identical to cows? Well, allow me to prove it to you….” That line was followed by an unflattering photo of the back of Upton’s lingerie-clad body on the runway.

Since then, the fashion world’s most influential insiders have denounced the blogger and risen to Upton’s defense.

“Running this site where you actually praise women for staying emaciated and skinny and then to go out there and then track someone who has a normal body, I mean, she’s got issues,” said Lesley Jane Seymour, editor-in-chief of MORE magazine.

“She’s laughing all the way to the bank,” supermodel and author Carol Alt said of Upton. “I would just say keep your end up and keep moving forward.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Eating Disorders in Older Women on the Rise

David De Lossy/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While many attribute eating disorders to teen girls and young women, experts say there may be a growing number of older people who experience the same struggles.  Whether there is more awareness and diagnoses remains unclear, but many clinical experts said they have seen a spike in women over 40 seeking treatment in recent years.

The triggers may be different among different age groups, but traumatic life events tend to trigger or contribute to eating disorders, no matter the age, said Susie Roman, program coordinator at the National Eating Disorders Association.  When older women experience eating disorders, most of the time it is due to an earlier eating disorder that has resurfaced, but not always.  New cases and those that resurface can be triggered by divorce, death of a loved one or children moving away.

"Older women who have eating disorders that return can often have a harder time changing since the behaviors are so a part of them but whether the eating disorder is different is not clear," said Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University at St. Louis.

"A common perception of eating disorders is that it's all about food and weight," said Sarah Parker, director of anxiety and eating disorders at the Reeds Treatment Center in New York.  "On the surface, they are, but it is issues related to significant interpersonal stressors, and they end up coping with these stressors by controlling what they eat or how they look."

More than 10 million Americans suffer from bulimia, anorexia or other types of eating disorders, according to the National Eating Disorders Association, and millions more suffer from binge eating.

Older women often fly under the radar with their disorders, though.  Doctors are much more apt to notice eating disorders in teens who have lost an excessive amount of weight, or, if a young woman stops menstruating -- a telltale sign of anorexia -- a doctor will investigate further.  Parents are usually involved with the feeding and care of teens, and because of this, family, friends and physicians are more likely to become skeptical of a change in eating and exercise habits.

While the health risks of an eating disorder are damaging at any age, older women are at an even increased risk because their bodies have aged more, said Parker.

"There can be significant damage to the heart and heart muscles," said Parker.  "In really severe cases, the heart can stop functioning.  Fat stores in the brain can become depleted and affect cognitive and neurological functioning.  It can also result in osteoporosis and organ failure."

If friends or family do suspect a person is suffering from an eating disorder, Parker encouraged people to remember that the illness is an "expression of pain."

"Families and friends tend to say, 'you should eat more,' or 'you need to exercise less,' but that can turn into a negative cycle very quickly," said Parker.  "Try to respond to the pain over the behavior by saying something like 'it seems like you're not doing very well, can we help you speak with a therapist or minister?'"

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Internet Crackdown on Pro-Anorexia Sites YORK) -- Two years ago, when Madeleine Bowman began treatment for anorexia, she stopped looking at a pro-anorexia website that for years had served as her community and her source for ideas to nurture her secret illness.

But on Tuesday, she was curious and decided to take a look.  Fortunately, her login had expired.

Bowman 26, of New York, is in recovery from a decade-long battle with anorexia, she said.

She'd stumbled upon the website in eighth grade, after googling "eating disorders."  Bowman had been skipping meals to lose weight and she wanted to find out if she was anorexic.  She then visited the site often to find new ways to hide her condition from friends and family.

Given the many social aggregators that spread information to wider and wider audiences, Bowman says that today it would be even easier for someone to find their way to a pro-anorexia site.

However, that might not be the case for much longer.  In March, social sites like Tumblr, Facebook and Pinterest announced they will remove posts and website information that could promote eating disorders.

This move is one of many efforts that signal a shift in how the public views eating disorders, according to Claire Mysko, project manager of, a website that promotes awareness of eating disorders.

Mysko, who has worked in the field of eating disorders for more than a decade, said the stigma surrounding the disorder is decreasing.  More people are willing to talk about their problem, and more are willing to speak up against the unhealthy behavior, she said.

"There aren't as many who are feeling that ashamed," said Mysko.  "We're making progress in that area."

The shift in how eating disorders are viewed suggests that prevention and treatment efforts may be working.  Hospitalizations for people with eating disorders dropped 23 percent between 2007 and 2008, according to the latest findings from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.  This decline was the first ever noted by the federal agency since it began tracking hospitalizations in 1999.

The drop, though, some experts say, may largely be due to the lack of insurance coverage on designated treatments for eating disorders, particularly hospitalizations.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Lady Gaga Criticized for ‘Pop Singers Don’t Eat’ Twitter Post

PRNewsFoto/Interscope Records(NEW YORK) -- Lady Gaga was likely joking when she tweeted on Tuesday about eating a salad while secretly craving a cheeseburger, and added the hashtag “#PopSingersDontEat.”  But now, the singer, who’s famous for preaching a message of self-acceptance, finds herself under fire for making that comment.

Many fans reacted negatively to Gaga’s hashtag.  One wrote, “Why would you even promote a message like that? Disgusting that you’d joke about such a serious illness.”  Another added, “I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not, but if not… Wow, that’s an awful example you’re setting.”  Yet another wrote, “what a terrible example your setting miss gaga, RT if you regret saying that!”

There was so much reaction to Gaga’s comment that the National Eating Disorder Association even took notice, posting on its Twitter account, “Huh? This is the same person who recently implored girls to stop dieting?”  Indeed, at a conference held in February at a California school, Gaga confessed to being bulimic in high school, and told the teen audience, “I’m gonna say this about girls: The dieting wars have got to stop.  Everyone just knock it off.  Because at the end of the day, it’s affecting kids your age -- and it’s making girls sick.”

While some have pointed out that Gaga has expressed the “pop singers don’t eat” idea before in a past interview, others say that Gaga’s frequent tweets about getting drunk probably set a worse example and nobody seems to be getting upset about those.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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