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An Estimated 200,000 Minnesotans Struggle with Eating Disorders

PHOTO: Most people worry about how they look as they head out the door each day, but for thousands of Minnesotans, a distorted body image actually is a serious medical program.
PHOTO: Most people worry about how they look as they head out the door each day, but for thousands of Minnesotans, a distorted body image actually is a serious medical program.
July 2, 2012

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Most people worry about how they look as they head out the door each day, but for thousands of Minnesotans, a distorted body image actually is a serious medical problem. Jillian Lampert, director of communications, research and outreach, with The Emily Program, says it's a misconception that an eating disorder is a lifestyle choice.

"People think people with eating disorders are choosing to starve themselves, or choosing to binge and purge, or choosing to overeat in some vain attempt to look a certain way, but it is a diagnosable mental illness."

Another myth about eating disorders, says Lampert, is that it's limited to skinny white girls from upper-class families.

"Eating disorders don't discriminate on race or ethnicity or income or political party or gender or really anything else. So the idea of 'All eating disorders look like somebody with anorexia' is actually quite a bit of a myth."

Lampert says up to three percent of men have eating disorders, while the figure for women is double that. She also notes that, without treatment, eating disorders can be deadly.

"The tricky part is, people think that somebody's not going to die from an eating disorder unless they have it for a really long time. And that's just not true. We know of cases of people who have had eating disorders for six months or a year and they end up dying because they're binging and purging and their electrolytes get off and their heart stops or they die of starvation or they die of cardiac arrest. They're really, really serious illnesses."

Lampert says it's likely that around 200,000 Minnesotans suffer from some type of such disorder. The most common are bulemia and anorexia.

More information is at www.emilyprogram.com.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN