Back to Top Skip to main content

Eating disorders, disordered eating: A look into the personal struggle for balance

Eating disorders, which are a mix of psychological, physiological, and behavioral factors, can affect every system in the body. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Staff Sgt. Keith Ballard) Eating disorders, which are a mix of psychological, physiological, and behavioral factors, can affect every system in the body. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Staff Sgt. Keith Ballard)

Recommended Content:

Nutrition

For almost two decades, the spouse of an active duty service member kept a secret from loved ones. No one knew of her guilt after she binged on a bag of cookies or snuck candy when she was alone. She was overweight, and yet remained determined to cut out sugar and treats. Her struggle with food continued for years, but she never expected to hear a psychiatrist diagnose a binge eating disorder.

“Not even my husband knew,” said the spouse, who preferred to remain anonymous. Food was constantly on her mind. She learned she had a disorder after starting the process for gastric bypass, which required an appointment with a psychiatrist before surgery.

“I was in total denial,” said the spouse, who underwent about eight months of treatment. “But when I started going through therapy, I thought, ‘Yeah, you know what, I do have that.’ Therapy has changed my life.”

While most people would have been surprised to learn of her disorder, being overweight had a big impact on her life and her health, she said. In therapy, she talked about why and when she binged, which helped her become more aware of her habits. In just nine weeks, she lost 44 pounds. While it hasn’t been easy, she’s healthier, happier, and able to think of food differently than before treatment.

Despite the name, eating disorders are about more than nutrition. These disorders involve psychological, physiological, and behavioral characteristics. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating, and can often coexist with depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse.

Anorexia nervosa, the most deadly of the disorders, is characterized by extreme thinness and food restriction. People with anorexia have a distorted body view, usually seeing themselves as overweight rather than severely underweight. Bulimia nervosa involves frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food, followed by purging, excessive exercise, or strict food restriction. Binge eating, the most common eating disorder in the United States, occurs when someone loses control over his or her eating and consumes an unusually large amount of food in a single sitting. Unlike bulimia, binge eating isn’t followed by excessive exercise, purging, or food restrictions.

Angela Gray, a licensed clinical psychologist for the Psychological Health Center of Excellence, said eating disorders can affect people of any age and any weight. Both women and men are impacted by eating disorders, but women are more likely to show symptoms and seek treatment, she added.

While no specific causes have been found, risk factors include a mix of biological, environmental, and psychological factors, according to information provided by NIMH. Factors such as trauma, major life changes, or family history can contribute to an individual’s risk for developing an eating disorder.

“Any time you’re looking at large life shifts, that can be a time period where somebody feels a loss of control, and sometimes that loss of control and not being sure how to cope with those emotions will channel into focusing on food,” said Army Maj. Susan Stankorb, a dietitian at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Symptoms include difficulty concentrating, being withdrawn, and looking distressed during group meals, said Gray. Other signs include preoccupation with thoughts of food or meal preparation, over exercising (such as spending three or four hours at a time in the gym), skipping meals, and losing weight, she added.

Treatment for eating disorders is usually geared to meeting individual needs. According to information from NIMH, the goal of treatment is to restore nutrition, maintain a healthy weight, and reduce harmful behaviors, such as excessive exercise and purging. The first line of treatment is psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral health therapy; however, treatment can also include nutritional counseling, medications, and group or family psychotherapy.

“Ultimately, we want to make sure that everyone is operating at their optimal psychological and physical health,” said Gray.

You also may be interested in...

Small changes, big results: Healthy lifestyle choices can make a difference for heart health

Article
4/6/2018
Dr. Jonathan Woodson, director of the Institute for Health System Innovation & Policy at Boston University, provides insight on the importance of heart health. From 2010 to 2016, Woodson served as the assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. He is also a brigadier general in the United States Army Reserve. (Photo courtesy of Boston University)

Risk for heart disease, the number one killer of Americans every year, can be decreased through healthy lifestyle and nutrition choices

Recommended Content:

Heart Health | Nutrition | Physical Activity

Breakfast (and lunch, and dinner) of champions: What this Olympian eats

Article
3/30/2018
Army Sgt. Matt Mortensen, a two-time Olympian, has been competing in doubles luge since 2011 as a member of the Army World Class Athlete Program. (U.S. Army photo)

March may be “cheat month,” but slider sticks close to regular diet

Recommended Content:

Nutrition

Eat an apple a day, but don't keep the dentist away

Article
3/27/2018
A child eats an apple during a Trunk-or-Treat event, which featured a healthy snack station as an alternative to candy, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jimmie D. Pike)

Good oral health takes more than brushing teeth and flossing – it also requires proper nutrition

Recommended Content:

Deployment Health | Health Readiness | Nutrition | Preventive Health

Fuel your body during National Nutrition Month

Article
3/16/2018
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than one-third of adults in the U.S. are obese and obesity-related conditions are one of the leading causes of preventable deaths. Eating healthy can prevent the onset of chronic diseases, reduce inflammation and improve physical recovery time from wounds. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Airman 1st Class Destinee Sweeney)

More than one-third of adults in the U.S. are obese and obesity-related conditions are one of the leading causes of preventable deaths

Recommended Content:

Operation Live Well | Nutrition

Eating's a risky business with water, water everywhere and no power

Article
9/8/2017
A resident of a Hurricane Harvey-flooded neighborhood in Houston gets evacuated. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo by Glenn Fawcett)

If in doubt, throw it out, food safety experts say

Recommended Content:

Nutrition | Emergency Preparedness and Response

Watch out for 'hidden' sugars

Article
7/14/2017
Some sugars occur naturally in fruits and milk products. However, other sugars are added to foods and drinks during preparation, processing, or at your table. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Caleb McDonald)

Some sugars occur naturally in fruits and milk products. However, other sugars are added to foods and drinks during preparation, processing, or at your table.

Recommended Content:

Nutrition | Human Performance Resource Center | Operation Live Well

Shedding light on vitamin D

Article
6/26/2017
Air Force Senior Airman Michael Cossaboom pretends to eat the sun. Unlike other nutrients, vitamin D occurs naturally in very few foods, so it can be difficult to get enough through your diet. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that your body produces when your skin is exposed to sunlight, but there are ways to get it from foods too. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jensen Stidham)

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that your body produces when your skin is exposed to sunlight, but there are ways to get it from foods too

Recommended Content:

Nutrition

Eat a rainbow of colorful produce

Article
6/12/2017
For adults, the current daily recommendation is 2-3 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit. Remember that raw, cooked, steamed, grilled, and broiled varieties all count, so fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables at mealtimes. (U.S. Army photo by Honey Nixon)

Eating colorful fruits and veggies can help reduce your risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes and some cancers too

Recommended Content:

Nutrition | Human Performance Resource Center

Summertime food safety

Article
5/30/2017
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates one in six Americans get sick from foodborne illnesses, including those associated with poorly cooked or stored foods in hot environments. To avoid this, follow good cooking tips. Cook foods thoroughly. Use a food thermometer to check for doneness. Make sure cooked foods have reached a safe internal temperature. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The CDC estimates one in six Americans get sick from foodborne illnesses

Recommended Content:

Summer Safety | Nutrition | Human Performance Resource Center

Army researchers showcase Performance Readiness Bar

Article
5/25/2017
Two Soldiers taste-test the Performance Readiness Bar, a calcium and vitamin D-fortified snack bar developed to optimize bone health in basic trainees, during a bone health field study. (U.S. Army photo by David Kamm)

According to the Military Health System, recruits often arrive to basic training with poor calcium and vitamin D status

Recommended Content:

Nutrition

The scoop on probiotic and prebiotic foods

Article
5/5/2017
Prebiotic foods include bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, and whole grains. (Courtesy photo)

Benefits from eating foods with probiotics and prebiotics occur when they’re part of a diet that includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat sources of dairy and protein

Recommended Content:

Nutrition | Human Performance Resource Center

Daily nutrition strategies for endurance

Article
4/26/2017
Fueling for endurance events starts by eating a balanced diet, high in variety. Consuming carbs from various sources before training and throughout each day will help keep you energized. Protein after your workouts will help you recover from your workout so you can train again tomorrow. (U.S. Army photo)

Performance nutrition really begins during training, when you consistently fuel your body with the proper amounts and kinds of calories and nutrients

Recommended Content:

Nutrition | Physical Activity | Human Performance Resource Center

To salt or not to salt?

Article
4/20/2017
Most Americans get more than 75% of their sodium from prepared and processed foods, including tomato sauce, soups, gravies, canned foods, bread, frozen pizzas, snack foods, and salad dressings. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jesus McCloud)

It’s important to watch your sodium intake because it can increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and some cancers

Recommended Content:

Heart Health | Nutrition | American Medical Association Continuing Medical Education | Procurement

Nutrition centers improve health readiness

Article
4/19/2017
Patient care is at the core of multi-service market nutrition centers. These centers provide a range of services to meet individual patient needs within the military health community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan Byrnes.)

Nutrition centers at MTFs, especially in large multi-service markets like National Capital Region, benefit patients by providing a variety of services; dietitians at these centers contribute to health readiness in many ways, such as teaching classes, providing training, and carefully preparing patient meals

Recommended Content:

Military Hospitals and Clinics | Multi-Service Markets | Nutrition | Health Readiness

5210 campaign fights childhood obesity by encouraging better nutrition, less screen time, more exercise

Article
4/5/2017
5210 Campaign Logo

5210 Healthy Military Children campaign encourages children to get five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day; fewer than two hours of recreational time in front of a TV, tablet, portable video game, or computer screen; one hour of exercise each day; and zero sugary drinks

Recommended Content:

Nutrition | Physical Activity | Children's Health
<< < 1 2 3 4 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 4

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing: Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.