About 30 million people in the United States have an eating disorder, but the research funds are lacking.
In 2011, the National Institutes of Health reported money spent on Alzheimer’s Disease, which more than five million people suffer from, averaged $88 per affected individual. For eating disorders, the average amount of research dollars per affected individual was just $0.93.
“It’s a problem in general,” Dr. James Mitchell of the Neuropsychiatric Research Institution said. “A lot of psychiatric conditions are very grossly underfunded, but it’s particularly true for eating disorders.”
Mitchell is the president and scientific director of the Fargo NRI branch. He said in particular, college students are more likely to have anorexia or bulimia.
Across the U.S. and at North Dakota State, people are addressing these issues during National Eating Disorders Week.
About 60 people were in attendance Monday night during the “I Had No Idea — Did You?” informative seminar. Janet Brown, a dietician at the Wallman Wellness Center, addressed eating disorders at the Prairie Rose room.
Brown said over 20 million females have an eating disorder. Over 10 million males have an eating disorder as well, noting that this number is most likely higher than reported.
Another theme stressed was that most eating disorders are not a phase in a person’s life, but a chronic disorder that needs to be dealt with professionally.
Brittney Stevenson, a graduate student in the psychology discipline, had a few ways to build a positive self image.
“Avoid fat talks with yourself and others,” Stevenson said.
Body image is of the essence, Mitchell said.
“It’s, unfortunately, very common to have this cultural discontent in women in our society,” he said. “It’s very hard to change that. Basically, the emphasis has to be on girls and women having better body acceptance.”
He reiterated Brown, saying people should stop comparing themselves to professional models.
Media can skew body image negatively. Brown noted the number one reason for eating disorders was a dissatisfied body image.
Comparisons were made between an average American female and professional models. The average American female is 5-foot-4-inches and weighs around 165 pounds. This female also has a healthy Body Mass Index, or BMI of 18-25. The average Miss America contestant had a BMI of 16.
“Models’ jobs are to be models,” Brown said. “They are not the standard.”
Some tips Brown had were to exercise five to seven times a week for only 30 minutes a day. Eat small and frequent meals about three to four times a day. Make sure that your diet has a variety, and always drink a lot of water.
Also noting that to be healthy, women should not consume under 1,200 calories a day. Men should not consume under 1,500. Once calorie consumption drops too low, the body goes into shutdown mode.
Although stigmatized and difficult to handle, Mitchell said treatments for eating disorders have gotten better over the past decade. Eating disorder prevalence, he continued, is leveling.
Concerned students can contact the NDSU Student Health Services or NDSU Counseling Center for self-help or to assist friends who may be in trouble.