Recognizing the signs of bulimia

September 4, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Andrea Smeltzer was a vibrant, talented, and beautiful young woman, just starting college with hopes of getting a degree in international business. But after a one-year struggle with bulimia, Andrea died in her sleep. She was only 19 years old. Her mother, Doris Smeltzer, is now spreading awareness, including through the book, "Andrea's Voice: Silenced by Bulimia."

To help parents become a part of the solution, The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) offers the following guidelines:

1. Do not promote the erroneous belief that thinness and weight loss are great, while being large, having body fat, and/or weight gain is horrible or indicates laziness or sickness.

2. Avoid categorizing foods as "good/safe" vs. "bad/dangerous" or using language such as, "I can't afford to eat that, I've been bad all day!"

3. Avoid overemphasizing beauty and body shape and conveying an attitude that says, "I will like you better if you lose weight; don't eat so much; look more like slender models; or fit into slimmer clothes."

4. Learn about and discuss with our families the genetic basis of differences in body types. Link respect for diversity in weight and shape with respect for diversity in race, gender, ethnicity, and intelligence.

5. Help children appreciate the ways in which television, magazines, and other media distort the true diversity of human body types and imply that a slender body means beauty, power, excitement, and sexuality. [to share with your child an excellent example of the manipulations of appearance made by the media go to www.campaignforrealbeauty.com Find the "Evolution Film" box and press on "watch the film."]

6. Learn about and discuss with our children?the dangers of trying to alter our body shape through dieting. Dieting is not a harmless pursuit or a necessary accompaniment to a healthy life. It is associated with irritability, depression, fatigue, excessive self-consciousness, and, paradoxically, binge eating and long-term weight gain. There is also increasing evidence that long-term dieting is a risk factor for such things as coronary heart disease. [Many of those in the Eating Disorder field refer to diets as "the gate-way drug" to an eating disorder: dieting and excessive exercise can be dangerous to our health. Check out the Health At Every Size Movement at ]

7. Accept our children no matter what they weigh. Help them to understand the uniqueness of everyone's body build and the importance of the person, not the appearance.

8. Avoid rewarding or punishing children with food. This adds to the emotional meaning that food can assume.

9. Trust our children's appetites. Do not limit their caloric intake unless a physician requests that we do this because of a medical problem. [Relearn for ourselves how to eat intuitively and then guide our children to do the same (see www.intuitiveeating.com)

10. We can set an example of balance and moderation for our children by:

  • Eating a well-balanced diet that is positive and flexible and depends on internal cues [hunger, fullness] for regulation
  • Exercising moderately for pleasure and health
  • Accepting our own shape and weight [NEVER making disparaging remarks about anyone's body, including our own]
  • Engaging in and enjoying a variety of activities regardless of our size or shape
  • Enjoying the creative aspects of fashion while rejecting the limiting and constricting aspects

Other valuable websites:

AndreasVoice (www.andreasvoice.org): Helpful web site for those who suffer with eating disorders and their families.

National Eating Disorders Association (www.nationaleatingdisorders.org): The gold standard for information on eating disorders.

Gürze Books (www.gurze.com): The go-to site for books having to do with eating disorders and other weight related issues.

The Body Positive (www.thebodypositive.org): One of the best resources for information on how to deal with body image issues for youth and adults.

Dads and Daughters (www.dadsanddaughters.org): An important resource for fathers of daughters.

Andrea's Voice Foundation presents The Northern California Premiere Screening of "AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL: IS AMERICA OBSESSED WITH BEAUTY?" .
7PM, Saturday, September 13th
Copia, The American Center for Wine, Food & The Arts, 500 First Street, Napa, CA

This exclusive, one-night only screening of the award winning groundbreaking documentary, "America The Beautiful: Is America Obsessed With Beauty?" explores the issues surrounding this country's obsession with beauty. The screening will take place at 7 p.m. Saturday, September 13 at Copia, The American Center for Wine, Food & The Arts, 500 First Street, Napa.

The benefit, sponsored by Andrea's Voice Foundation, includes a community forum with award winning director, writer, and producer Darryl Roberts and other experts in the field of eating disorders and body image issues.

"We hope this event prompts needed dialog about the ways we can help our children and each other redefine our concepts of beauty," said Doris Smeltzer, co-founder with husband Tom of the non-profit Andrea's Voice Foundation which was established to honor their 19-year-old daughter, Andrea, who died after one year of bulimic behaviors. The foundation's mission is to lead conversation about the cause and prevention of eating disorders and weight-related issues.

The Smeltzers appear briefly in this film, sharing the devastation caused from the death of their daughter and the ways they may have contributed to that death.

Other event highlights include a wine social and raffle. Proceeds will help create a Napa-based eating disorder/body image issues resource and support center Tax-deductible tickets for this R rated movie (language/sexual references) are $30 advance, $40/door. For tickets, visit www.TicketAlternative.com (Napa) or call 1-877-725-8849. For more information about Andrea's Voice Foundation, visit www.andreasvoice.org.


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