Serious Food Issues Abound in the US

We need to pay much better attention to eating issues, according to sources in the know. This doesn’t just apply to the national epidemic of obesity, but to eating disorders. Eating disorders can cause death or severe and lasting health problems with astronomical costs. Last week was National Eating Disorders Week, highlighting that eating disorders, like obesity, are a major problem in the US. According to statistics listed by the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 0.5 percent to 3.7 percent of females suffer from anorexia, and 1.1 percent to 4.2 percent suffer from bulimia in their lifetimes (2008). They quote an estimated 12 times of women from age 15 to 24 with anorexia die as a result of the disorder than of all other causes of death. Males suffer a lower rate of anorexia, but they too are sometimes afflicted, and have a higher rate of bulimia and binge-eating disorders than anorexia.

These disorders involve complicated issues and affect more people than the rich and famous, according to an article by Koman (2009), released by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. The article says that while obesity was found among the population of 2006 at a rate of 20% in all states except four, binge eating is the next most common eating problem. It’s counted as an actual disorder. Bulimia nervosa, often called just bulimia, is the next most prevalent eating disorder. This includes binging and purging, whether by purposely vomiting food before digestion or using laxatives to lose weight. Anorexia is the least prevalent, but still at a sobering level.

Komen suggests that, “As adults, we need to model healthy attitudes and habits, ignore fad diets and educate our children better” (2009). He says not enough national research funds have gone to study these disorders and the public doesn’t have enough good information on them. He also says that if an eating disorder develops, people shouldn’t hesitate to seek help for themselves or others because these disorders can be successfully treated, but to be careful of any “quick fix” (2009).

Some signs of anorexia nervosa include obsessiveness about food or exercise, low blood pressure, distorted body image, restrictions on eating certain types of food and a yellow-orange color in the skin, particularly on the palms.


Komen, S. As you were saying . . . ; Facing a silent epidemic, APA –, Feb 21, 2009; Internet source at
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The numbers count: Mental disorders in America, National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 2008; Internet source at http://www.nimh.nih.gove/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtml#Eating

© Copyright 2009 by Jolyn Wells-Moran, PhD, MSW, therapist in Seattle, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Allie


    March 3rd, 2009 at 2:16 PM

    From what I have read in the past eating disorders are sometimes about having something in your life that you feel you have control over. Is that true? I always thought it had more to do with the unrealistic expectations that we place upon people about what they have to look like in order to be more acceptable to society but maybe I am way off the mark. Does anyone have any insight into this? I tend to think that the control issue seems a little strange but this is something that I have never had to deal with before so I do not want to pass judgement in any way.

  • Hollis


    March 5th, 2009 at 3:47 AM

    It is agonizing to see people going through their issues with food when I see so much waste here. Wasted food, wasted lives. Who would have ever thought that this basic energy source could bring so many problems to so many?

  • Bob


    March 5th, 2009 at 3:55 AM

    I never knew binge eating is so serious. I think all of us go through that sometime in our teens. I do know that schools are doing their part by altering school lunches to healthier options. It’s nice to see some celebrities think differently about size 0. It’s not wrong to be size 0 naturally especially if you belong to the Asian race where women have a smaller skeletal structure. I think the awareness is catching up. It’s the attitude of people in most cases which needs to change. Most people who are alone, going through a lot of stress, chronic illness or depression have eating disorders. Families and friends need to lend that helping hand. If your friend is too fat pick her along for a morning or evening walk. If your partner is too thin make a romantic dinner at home and dont forget the chocolate mousse.

  • Catherine


    March 6th, 2009 at 3:45 AM

    Having watched a close friend almost kill herself with an eating disorder I can honestly say that it is just not that easy to change their lives. They may eat that piece of chocolate but then they are in the bathroom the next minute trying to throw it up. She has numerous health problems now that all stem from years of traumatizing her body and who knows what kinds of mental and emotional scars that she will carry with her for years. It is scary that eating disorders are so often wrongly diagnosed and that there seems to be very little care for those who have them in their lives.

  • Eliza


    March 8th, 2009 at 6:12 AM

    We are such a wasteful country in general and it makes me sad to think about how many are out there who would kill for the amounts of food that we have so readily available to us and yet there are still those who do not appreciate food for what it is. For many people food is the enemy and i guess it is just kind of difficult for me to wrap my mind around that whole concept. Food should be appreciated and enjoyed, not looked at as something evil yet this is how those with eating disorders perceive it. How does that happen? What happens to people who have this way of thinking about food? Food should be nourishment and we should all be way more appreciative than we are for its plentiful abundance here in the United States.

  • Braden


    March 9th, 2009 at 1:32 AM

    It is very sad that people have to go through life hating the way they feel and look and blaming the food that they eat. It’s no wonder that many people have bulimia or are anorexic from all the junk food they advertise and the way they make it easy to just grab up and eat and all the skinny models in magazines and tv, where a lot of teens and young adults look up to and use as role models to be just like them.

  • Savannah


    March 9th, 2009 at 2:01 PM

    And the more we buy into it the more serious the problems are going to continue to be.

  • Ray


    March 10th, 2009 at 3:02 AM

    It is important to point out too that this can happen to both young men and women too. I have for years had terrible self esteem and issues with my own body image and nobody ever took me seriously I guess because I am a guy. I mean what kind of guy really even cares about that kind of stuff? Well I did and still do and this has caused me and my family both a great deal of pain. There never seems to be the right kind of treatment geared toward helping men overcome these issues so for a long time now I have felt at a loss as to where to turn for help. I have a fantastic therapist now who is helping me to wrestle with many of my own inner demons but it is still a struggle every day.

  • Joe


    March 11th, 2009 at 10:16 AM

    Are the symptoms of bulimia the same as anorexia as far as some of the physical problems?

  • Jordan


    March 13th, 2009 at 2:20 AM

    Ray made a good comment… it’s not just girls who go thru this, men do as well… It’s very common to see girls get caught up in this and don’t realize that men do too.. This is a serious problem and we need more people, therapist to help with this and be understanding.

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