A family doctor with Prevea Health discusses misconceptions of eating disorders

Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 3:39 PM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Eating Disorder Awareness Week is later this month, and one local doctor is trying to change the way people perceive these conditions.

Dr. Samantha Runstrom, a family medicine physician with Prevea Health, said that the public generally tends to think of people with eating disorders as thin when disordered eating also includes binging, purging, and an obsessive need to control food intake.

Runstrom said people struggling with disordered eating may have a compulsion to exercise excessively or repetitively weigh themselves. She also said it’s important to recognize that it’s a mental disorder as well.

“It’s not one life choice or they’re choosing to be this way. This is a distorted view of themselves. So when they look in the mirror, they see someone completely different standing there than what someone looking at them is going to see. And so they’re going to see themselves, you know, excessively overweight or I’m too fat or and it’s just a complete mental block of what the reality is,” Runstrom.

Runstrom said anyone can be affected by an eating disorder, but it’s most prevalent in teens and females.

“Sometimes it’s just this perfect storm of potentially genetic predisposition, biological behavioral scenarios, as well as the social and environmental factors. Adolescents are going to be a much higher risk even into early adulthood. We see a prevalence of this. And then on the other side of it is it’s significantly more common in females compared to males,” Runstrom said.

Runstrom also said the first step to preventing eating disorders is to be aware of the signs and not be afraid to seek help.

If you or someone you know is struggling with disordered eating, you can call or text the National Eating Disorder Association’s helpline for support at (800) 931-2237.