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Weekly Reflection

July 31, 2014

I just want to feel good about myself

Yesterday, I attended a day long workshop on Eating Disorders sponsored by the Eating Disorder Network of Maryland (). As I sat in a room primarily filled with social workers, dieticians, and therapists, a participant leaned over and said: “So why are you here?” (I had my collar on!). I thought symbolically what a great question. I responded very simply “to educate myself for members of our congregation whose lives are touched by this disease either directly or indirectly.” She seemed satisfied with that but I could tell she was still a bit puzzled about the intersection of faith and eating disorders.  

It was a fascinating day as the focus was primarily on 2 of the lesser known subgroups that suffer from the disease. First, eating disorders in middle aged women. A couple of facts worth sharing in this category:

  • The average number of years a person has chronic ED (Eating Disorder) is 22 years.
  • If you have had ED as a young person, there are many midlife triggers that can revive the illness, most due to the normal physical and emotional issues associated with aging.
  • There are very few middle aged women who develop ED for the first time.
  • From 2001-2011 there has been a 42% increase in diagnosis in women 35 and up.
  • Bingeing/purging is the number one eating disorder in this age group.
  • There are now a broad spectrum of treatments available.

The second category we heard about was Eating Disorders in men. This subgroup does not fit the typical stereotype yet data is now revealing that 1/3 of all eating disorders are with men. (There are an estimated 30 million people dealing with eating disorder and 10 million are men.) Treatment facilities have not caught up to this data….there are only 10 inpatient beds in the United States dedicated to males.

When I asked about the root cause of Eating Disorder, I was told that it is about a 50/50 combination of our environment and genetics. As one speaker said: “Genetics loads the gun and the environment pulls the trigger.”

The value of the day was coming away not only better informed about the many complexities of eating disorders but also with a number of resources, both local and national. I want to share the following with you:
Books about Eating Disorder in men:
            “Shattered Image” by Brian Coban
            “Man Up to Eating Disorders” by Andrew Wallen (he was one of the speakers.)

I, along with Bob and Cristina, are always eager to be of pastoral support to members in our congregation who have been or are being impacted by such illnesses as eating disorders, addiction, mental illness and other diseases that are sometimes relegated to the “I am fine thank you very much’ closet. We invite you to reach out to us if we can partner with you to provide prayer, support and resources. As one patient said, “I just want to feel good about myself.” And that is what we want for you as well!