With celebrities like actress Portia de Rossi coming out to share their personal struggles with an eating disorder, once again the spotlight is on terms like “anorexia” and “bulimia.” De Rossi’s new personal memoir, Unbearable Lightness, chronicles a time in her life when she survived on 300 calories a day before finally collapsing on a movie set and being diagnosed with osteoporosis, liver cirrhosis and lupus at the ripe old age of 28. De Rossi is the latest in a long line of famous actors, models and other celebrities to admit to starving themselves or binging and purging combined with excessive exercise.
But the trend is hardly confined to the Hollywood circuit. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recently revealed that hospitalizations for eating disorders jumped 119 percent between 1999 and 2006 for kids under 12. Increasingly, young boys are succumbing as well, representing five to 10 percent of those with an eating disorder. The image of the eating disorder sufferer as an affluent white female no longer holds true as not only boys, but children, people of color and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds begin to exhibit symptoms in increasing numbers.
Experts advise that parents be on the lookout for early warning signs, including sudden changes in their child’s growth, restrictive eating, compulsive exercising, vomiting, disappearing after meals and the use of laxatives and diet pills.
Following are some health resources for those looking to learn more about identifying the symptoms of an eating disorder and to get help for a loved one who may be in trouble.
National Eating Disorders Association: provides information and resources for families, treatment professionals and eating disorder sufferers as well as research efforts underway
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Part of the National Institutes of Health, the NIMH website includes a dedicated section to understanding eating disorders, information on how men and boys are affected and treatment for the disease.
WomensHealth.gov: The federal government’s source for women’s health information, Womenshealth.gov provides tips for parents of young children to help them develop a healthy body image. It also touches on pregnancy and body image and the negative consequences of eating disorders on pregnancy and the unborn child.
National Eating Disorder Information Center: a Canadian website with a resource library on such topics as breaking the diet habit and intuitive eating.