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Is Food Really the Foe?

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One of these people might have an eating disorder. Who's your pick?

National Eating Disorder Week

Maggie Baumann, MA: The truth is, any one of them could have an eating disorder, because eating disorders show no discrimination. They affect males and females; children, teens and adults; people of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities and economic levels.

The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) has named this week National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. This year's theme is "It's Time to Talk About It!"

According to NEDA, close to 10 million females and 1 million males in the U.S. struggle with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Even more suffer from binge eating disorder. Although many may think people choose to have eating disorders, experts agree that eating disorders are not lifestyle choices.

Whitney Thompson (pictured above), winner of season 10 of "America's Next Top Model" -- and the show's first "full-figured" model winner -- is an official ambassador for NEDA, aligning with other supporters to fight the war against eating disorders and unrealistic "body-perfect" ideals. This is an issue close to her heart. "People always say you have to be stick-skinny, emaciated and unhealthy, and I've kind of stood up for [being full-figured] my whole life," she says. "I've already heard online from boys and girls all over the world who are dealing with eating disorders. They're thanking me for standing up and saying, 'I am a plus-size model and I am beautiful.' This is what people should look like, rather than skin-and-bones -- which is disgusting and sends a bad message to people everywhere."

Think you or someone you love has an eating disorder? Here are some possible signs:

•Dieting obsessively when not overweight
•Claiming to feel fat when not overweight
•Preoccupation with food, calories, nutrition and/or cooking
•Denial of hunger
•Excessive exercise
•Loss of menstrual period
•Rapid weight loss
•Hair loss
•Constant thoughts about weight
•Eating to relieve stress or depression
•Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
•Lying to others about how much you eat
•Dizzy spells, fainting, blackouts or feeling cold
•Self-induced vomiting
•Feeling guilty after eating
•Laxative abuse
•Avoiding eating with family and friends
•Swollen puffy cheeks

There is hope, however. According to the Academy for Eating Disorders, it is estimated that nearly 50 percent of patients with anorexia recover. If you think you are in trouble, reach out. You can call NEDA's information-and-referral helpline at 800-931-2237.

Recovery is possible; you can regain your health and life. Seeking treatment from qualified eating-disorder professionals is your first step.

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