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Advocates share stories and resources during Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Hundreds of patients a year receive care from the Eating Recovery Center in Denver. Denver7 spoke to the medical director and a former patient about the impacts of eating disorders.
Posted at 3:55 PM, Feb 27, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-29 16:54:48-05

DENVER — Up to 9% of the US population will experience an eating disorder in their lifetime, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.

February 26 - March 3 is Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

Nearly a thousand patients each year receive care from the Eating Recovery Center in Denver.

"The majority of my childhood, I struggled with body image or just disordered thoughts of eating," said Maddy Miller who is a former patient of ERC.

After trying different types of treatments since we were 14 years old, things finally clicked with the staff at ERC back in 2021.

"Treatments can be hard and stuff. But if you can open up to at least your therapist or your dietitian, it will make it a little bit easier," Miller said.

Asking for help is sometimes the hardest first step for those struggling with an eating disorder.

"It is so important to understand the distinction that an eating disorder is actually a mental illness. People do not have the ability to just eat more, or just interrupt the behavior," said Dr. Elizabeth Wassenaar, the Regional Medical Director of the Eating Recovery Center.

Miller shares another misconception she experienced during her recovery.

"They think it's just about weight or just about food? It's completely not that. It's usually a coping mechanism for something that happened in their lives," she said.

Left untreated, the disorder can be deadly.

"They are malnourished, their body is at great risk for medical complication, cardiac risks, electrolyte risks, that actually can be fatal," said Dr. Wassenaar.

Advocates share stories and resources during Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Early intervention is key, but often times people need support from their loved ones to get to that first step.

"Sit down and just talk to them about what you have been noticing. Don't be like, "I think you're doing this," just be like "I'm noticing these few things," said Miller.

Some signs to look out for when identifying an eating disorder are people becoming very restrictive about what they eat, sudden changes and impacts to their mood, and pulling away from things that used to be important to them in exchange for engaging in those behaviors.

"It's very difficult and very hard, but my worst day in recovery is definitely better than my best day in my eating disorder," said Miller.

If you or a loved one might be struggling with an eating disorder, the Eating Recovery Center offers free, confidential consultations with a masters-level clinician.

You can reach them on their website or call 866-489-1786.

"We have 24-hour care facilities that can take care of people with nursing support, therapy, support, dietary support, all around the clock so that people can get the care they need," said Dr. Wassenaar.

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