Let’s face it. Getting into a healthy routine of exercising and staying active isn’t easy. If it were, you’d never find an open treadmill at your gym. Everyone would be there. It’s so much easier to go home, drop on your couch, and try to forget the day. But when you have a mental health condition like depression or anxiety, the easy way out isn’t always the better choice.
When we make a concerted effort to eat a healthier, more wholesome diet, we’re often doing so for a physical reason: to maintain or lose weight, or to minimize health risks. But what if doing so could also have a positive impact on your mental health? Nutritional psychiatry is still a relatively new school of thought, but it refers to the connection nutrition plays in preventing and potentially even helping to minimize symptoms of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.
Eating disorders are complex mental health conditions on their own, but when combined with a substance use issue, can become even more serious. Research suggests that nearly half of individuals with an eating disorder are abusing drugs and/or alcohol. To put that into context, those with an eating disorder are five times more likely to have a substance use issue in comparison with the general public.
In a study comprised of nearly 2,500 individuals with an eating disorder, nearly 60% had an anxiety disorder. While it’s common to see a co-occurrence of eating disorders with depression and substance use, anxiety is actually the most common of all the disorders co-occurring with anorexia. These comorbidity findings are beginning to raise important questions about the very nature of eating disorders, and their treatment.
Honoring your body and treating it with respect starts with the understanding that there is a natural diversity of body sizes and shapes. Healthy isn’t “one size fits all.” There isn’t one height, weight, or shape that is healthy.
Imagine a world where you encountered your biggest fear, day in and day out, sometimes for hours on end. If you can do that, you can just start to empathize with someone living with an eating disorder. In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life. Eating disorders are real, complex, conditions that can have devastating consequences for an individual’s health and wellbeing.