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De-stigmatizing Eating Disorders

Eating Recovery Center co-founder Dr. Ken Weiner talks about the different ways that eating disorders manifest themselves—and how to recognize them.

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Coloradans are considered a generally healthy crowd thanks to the state’s active culture, but the pressure to fit into an athletic and fit image can have negative effects, too. Case in point: The Centennial State has the fifth-highest percentage of kids with eating disorders in the U.S. It also boasts the country’s only privately owned psychiatric hospital exclusively devoted to the treatment of eating disorders. The Denver-based Eating Recovery Center sees an average of 125 patients per day at its Lowry facilities and offers all levels of care starting at age 10.

Last week, during National Eating Disorders Eating Awareness Week (February 22–28), Eating Recovery Center co-founder and CEO Dr. Ken Weiner gave 5280 the rundown on these disorders: what to watch for, how it can manifest itself, and which resources to consult in order to beat it.

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(Read a personal essay about being overweight in Colorado, the nation’s fittest state)


Eating disorders generally fall into the categories of anorexia or bulimia, but there are more nuanced ways to define some versions of the disease. Here are five other conceptions of disordered eating that aren’t as commonly known.*

Binge eating: Eating excessively without purging the food. “A substantial percentage of these patients go to weight-loss clinics, but they clearly benefit from a more psychologically based treatment,” Weiner says. Last month, the FDA approved Vyvanse—a drug used to treat ADD since 2007—as a remedy for binge eating.

Orthorexia: Extreme obsession with avoiding foods that a person perceives to be unhealthy. In this case, the fixation focuses on quality versus quantity (as seen in the case of anorexia and bulimia) of food.

Pregorexia: A condition that affects women who can’t allow themselves to gain weight during pregnancy. This malnutrition puts both the mom and baby at risk.

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Drunkorexia: Not eating enough or binging and purging combined with alcoholic behaviors.

Diabulimia: Simultaneous bulimia and diabetes. “Diabetes is tough, especially for kids and young adults. Their bodies have—for all intents and purposes—betrayed them, and they have to do things other kids don’t have to do,” Weiner says. “If they restrict their insulin and raise their blood sugar, they urinate more and lose weight.”

*Note: Other than binge eating, none of these disorders have been recognized as clinical diagnoses.


If you notice several signs of an eating disorder—unexplainable weight loss, compulsive exercising, dehydration, disparaging remarks about being fat—in a friend of family member, here are some resources to turn to:

The Eating Disorder Center of Denver, the Eating Disorder Foundation, and eating disorder therapy organization Positive Pathways all offer eating disorder support groups. The Eating Disorder Foundation, in particular, provides a wide variety of meetings, each geared toward a certain demographic. These include male-specific, women over 30, and even friends and family support groups, which all happen at A Place Of Our Own, a drop-in support center and offshoot of the Eating Disorder Foundation (self-awareness, meditation, and nutrition classes are also offered here).

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If your loved one’s eating disorder is at a more advanced stage, the Eating Recovery Center provides a free comprehensive assessment and then intensive treatment plan for multiple levels of care—ranging from outpatient to partial hospitalization to inpatient—all of which include psychiatric, psychological, and nutritional elements that can be customized to each patient’s needs.

“Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness, so it’s really important that people take the disease seriously,” Weiner says. “But it’s not a disorder of choice. Someone might choose to restrict their diet or compulsively exercise, but no one chooses to have an eating disorder.”

Follow editorial assistant Mary Clare Fischer on Twitter at @mc_fischer.

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