Your Health: Telltale signs and common myths about eating disorders

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COLUMBIA - KOMU 8's Landon Burke sat down with a registered nurse, and an eating disorder survivor to separate the fact from the fiction about eating disorders.

Danielle Woods, a registered nurse and spokesperson for the McCallum Place Eating Disorder Treatment Center, said some of the more obvious signs of an eating disorder are sudden, drastic weight gain or weight loss. 

However, an eating disorder can still be present, even if there is no noticeable change in body weight.

Woods said many signs of the illness are better identified through a person's behavior, rather than their appearance.

If someone is avoiding eating meals with loved ones, avoiding meals in public or consistently using the bathroom right after eating, there may be cause for concern.

Woods said even a person's attitude about food can be a red flag.

"The way they are referring to themselves, their bodies, their food," Woods said. "Often times these people are saying things about their bodies, or other people's bodies. That can help clue us in as well."

Shanda Weathers, an eating disorder survivor, said often times people who have the disorder also suffer from depression or loneliness.

"You're constantly at war with yourself," Weathers said. "You have this voice inside that's telling you you're never good enough."

Woods said one of the most common misconceptions about eating disorders is that people have to appear emaciated to be ill.

"Eating disorders are a wide spectrum," She said. "We see a wide variety of eating disorders, and a wide variety of body types."

Woods also said eating disorders are much more common than people think. 

"In Columbia, about one quarter of college-age girls have a diagnosable eating disorder," she said. "That's a huge number."

Weathers said people need to understand that having an eating disorder is not a choice. She said the public needs to become better educated about what it means to struggle with a mental illness.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, McCallum Place in Columbia offers a free support group. The group meets on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month, from 6:15 p.m. to 7:15 pm. Each meeting is held at the McCallum Place's Columbia branch on 3215 Wingate Court, Suite 100. No registration is required.