With the highest mortality rate of any mental health issue, eating disorders—anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating are recognized as such, and thus diagnosable, in the mental health field—affect up to 24 million people in the United States alone.
But the impact of eating and food issues extends far beyond what people consume (or don’t consume). About half of all people diagnosed with an eating disorder also meet the diagnostic criteria for depression. Self-esteem and body-image issues also are common among men and women alike with eating issues, although women and girls are far more likely to develop them.
Women and girls, especially, are relentlessly targeted in the media and in advertising with unrealistic or even unnatural images and ideals, fueling a $40 billion-a-year dieting industry that rarely results in sustained success. The average height and weight of an American woman is 5-foot-4 and 140 pounds. Female fashion model? Try 5-foot-11 and 110 pounds. About 95% of dieters regain any lost weight within five years, and an estimated 35% of “normal” dieters progress to pathological dieting. Of those, as many as 25% advance to full-blown “disorders” as defined by mental health’s guiding force, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Only 5% to 15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are male. Men and boys, however, are less likely to seek treatment, in part because of stigma.
As with our previous top 10 lists (including anxiety websites, relationships and marriage websites, depression websites, ADHD websites, and grief and loss websites), we selected the 10 best resources on the web for 2012 related to eating issues—GoodTherapy.org excluded. Among the criteria we used to select our top 10 websites are quality and depth of content, presentation, and functionality.
- National Eating Disorders Association: The nonprofit National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is an excellent resource for people struggling with an eating issue or who care about someone who does. NEDA offers an information and referral helpline to direct people to treatment and support groups while also offering comprehensive information on understanding eating issues.
- Proud2BeMe.org: A product of the National Eating Disorders Association and designed to be a resource for teens by teens, Proud2BeMe.org is an interactive social community that encourages healthy attitudes about food, weight, and body image. Visitors can access a chat forum as well as expert information and advice with a teen-friendly, pop-culture twist.
- The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness: The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness works to empower individuals struggling with various eating issues by promoting education and awareness. Through nationwide programs and services, The Alliance sends an important message that recovery from eating issues is possible with the right support and resources. Quality information on eating issues, relevant news, and resources for getting help are offered.
- Something Fishy: An award-winning site with comprehensive information regarding eating issues, Something Fishy offers a broad view of the effects eating issues have, from cultural concerns to associated dangers and recovery options. Interactive online recovery resources, forums, and bulletin boards provide support for people struggling with food issues. Visitors can access a treatment finder and informational section about helping loved ones in addition to up-to-date news and information.
- About-Face: A nonprofit dedicated to changing the way the media influence self-image, About-Face works to empower women and girls to resist unhealthy messages that can negatively affect self-esteem and body image. By offering educational workshops, speaking engagements, and in-depth information about the effect of media messages, About-Face encourages the attitude that health and beauty comes in all shapes, colors, and sizes.
- Eating Disorders Anonymous: Eating Disorders Anonymous is a valuable resource for peer support when coping with an eating issue. Membership is free, and encourages individuals to identify and conquer goals and milestones in recovery. Resources for reading, online and in-person recovery “meetings,” and real-life stories are available for members to promote self-care and empowerment.
- National Association for Males with Eating Disorders, Inc.: The National Association for Males with Eating Disorders works to fill the informational gender gap by promoting research and prevention directed exclusively toward males with eating issues. Visitors can find information about athlete-specific issues, compulsive exercise, and common symptoms and methods of treatment for eating issues.
- National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders: A not-for-profit clearinghouse of information on eating issues, the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders promotes healthy body image, provides up-to-date news and information, and offers a wealth of resources for getting help. Site visitors can connect via a forum, sign up for a newsletter, and access a support group directory.
- Beat: A United Kingdom-based nonprofit that promotes advocacy and raises funds to help eradicate eating issues, Beat challenges the stigma that often surrounds eating issues. It also provides encouragement and support to those seeking help. Site visitors can find a wealth of information regarding eating issues in addition to online and in-person support groups, message boards, and stories of recovery.
- The Eating Disorder Foundation: The Eating Disorder Foundation is a volunteer-run organization that aims to support people seeking help for eating issues while striving to change public misconceptions. The EDF works with individuals to explore treatment options and give support, from treatment to recovery. It offers a treatment directory, support center, and library of information about eating issues.
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