CCA recently had Sam Calcaterra, RD, LDN, Director of Regional Outreach in from Alsana; an eating disorder recovery community and treatment provider that helps adult clients of all genders achieve lasting eating disorder recovery and whole health. Alsana’s “Adaptive Care Model” prescribes an individualized and holistic approach. They provide in-person day, residential, and outpatient programs in California, Alabama, Missouri, and virtual programs that serve clients across the U.S. It provided some amazing insight into different forms of eating disorders, signs to help identify, and treatment options.
Sam educated us on a relatively new and lesser known disorder called ARFID (Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder) that Alsana treats. ARFID replaced the DSM-5’s “Selective Eating Disorder (SED)” in 2013. This is an eating or feeding disturbance characterized by extremely selective limitations in the amounts and or types of food consumed. People of all ages can be diagnosed with ARFID, especially when underlying risk factors are present. This is why it is important for healthcare professionals to be aware of ARFID and its symptoms as many may not fully recognize it as an eating disorder.
Unlike dietary restrictions seen in Anorexia Nervosa clients, ARFID clients are compelled to avoid certain types of food for reasons unrelated to body image or weight. Although health risks are similar as seen with Anorexia nervosa, ARFID will show signs of dietary restrictions/ avoidances that tend to be sense-based (texture, smell, color, etc.) or arise out of one’s concern over aversive experiences like choking or vomiting (www.alsana.com).
In general, eating disorders are not commonly or as openly talked about in comparison to other mental health disorders. When an average person thinks of mental health, their mind may jump to depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. However, more than 9% of the American population, or 28.8 million people, will battle an eating disorder in their lifetime and it is the second most deadly mental illness, second only to opioid overdose (https://anad.org).
These staggering statistics bring light to the importance of eating disorder education and awareness. NEDAW is an opportunity to promote the needed education and awareness, as well as support, hope, and visibility to people who are or have been affected.
How can you be involved?
- Being involved in NEDAW can be as simple as educating yourself on the different types of eating disorders and habits of people who struggle with them. It can also entail reading or listening to stories of people who have or are currently suffering.
- Sharing your own story or experience you had with a loved one or friend. Sometimes, it may feel as if a person who is struggling with an eating disorder is alone or as if no one can relate. Sharing your own experience has the potential to resonate with another person, or help someone learn more.
-Many college campuses typically put on events, such as workshops, wellness events, walks, etc. for students. If you are not a college student, you can search ‘National Eating Disorder Awareness Week’ followed by the town and state you live in and be able to find if there are any events held in your area.
-Be open-minded and willing to learn and listen. Eating disorders affect all ages, genders, races/ethnicity, sexual orientations, and economic status. Just how other mental illnesses can be invisible to an outsider looking in, eating disorders can be, too.
Although National Eating Disorders Awareness Week only lasts one week out of the year, it is important to shed light on the topic and spread awareness and resources whenever possible to foster higher visibility and positive change.
Anad: Free eating disorder support groups & services. ANAD National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. (2023, February 27). Retrieved February 28, 2023, from https://anad.org/
Rifatcaner. (2023, February 8). Alsana Eating Disorder Treatment: Home. Alsana®. Retrieved February 28, 2023, from https://www.alsana.com/