Eating disorders are not a laughing matter

By Postie Editors

You all heard the joke. Some of you may have even laughed.

At Sunday’s Oscar ceremony, host Seth McFarlane congratulated the actresses who had “given themselves the flu” to fit into their dresses.

It was a cheap joke, and we’re not laughing. This kind of flippant attitude exemplifies the misperceptions that often surround eating disorders.

An eating disorder is defined as the “extreme emotions, attitudes and behaviours” that surround weight and the issues with food, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.

Twenty million women and 10 million men in the U.S. suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, according to the site for the National Eating Disorders Association.

Ten to 20 percent of women and 4 to 10 percent of men in college suffer from eating disorders, NEDA also said on their site. Fully developed conditions typically appear between the ages of 18 and 21.

“Everyone Knows Someone,” a simple yet profound truth, is this year’s theme for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which is observed until March 4.

Not everyone fully understands the issue though, and the general reaction to McFarlane’s quip is proof.

It’s Seth McFarlane, we understand, but making light of the issue is both insensitive and inappropriate.

A serious problem

Eating disorders are a mental illness with physical effects. They are not a phase or a choice — they start at a psychological level and eventually wreak havoc on an individual’s emotional and physical health.

When the body is denied nutrients, it’s forced to slow down all processes to conserve energy, resulting in a slew of serious, potentially life-threatening health consequences that vary depending on disorder.

In fact, eating disorders are the form of mental illness with the highest mortality rate, according to the NEDA’s site.

Knowing signs and options

There are psychological, interpersonal, social and biological factors that can lead to eating disorders. Because of their complex nature, both medical doctors and professional nutritionists often treat eating disorders.

In accordance with awareness week, Graham Counseling Center has sponsored on campus events, including yoga, a discussion of media messages and a free screening with on-the-spot feedback.

Eight percent of the cases reported to the GCC last year were eating and weight-related, according to the annual report.

The GCC offers help for all stages of eating disorders — from concerns with eating, to help recovering and assistance for those currently struggling with a specific condition, said psychologist and GCC Director David Schwartz.

If the situation deems it necessary, the GCC can also make a referral to one of the several professional nutrionists and other medical doctors in the local community with whom they work on a regular basis.

Eating disorders are not a laughing matter — they are a serious mental health issue.

Appointments can be made at the GCC by made by walk-in or by calling the office at (248) 370-3465.

If you or someone you know suffers from an eating disorder, call the confidential helpline at 1-800-931-2237 or visit to chat with a specialist.

The staff editorial is written weekly by members of The Oakland Post’s editorial board.