Eating disorder behaviors increase during the holidays

WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- More than 30 million people in the U.S. live with an eating disorder. The main ones are anorexia, bulimia and binge eating.

Anorexia has shows restrictive behaviors.

"Skipping meals, reducing calories, eating very, very little..overexercising," explained Rachel Zentner from Behavioral Health Clinic.

She said bulimia is the elimination of food that's already in the system and binge eating is when a person overeats a certain amount of food in a short period of time. But during the holidays, Zentner said things feel very much out of control for the person living with an eating disorder.

"For people that struggle with eating disorder behaviors or eating disorder thinking patterns, there tends to be an increase in desire to reduce their stress with their eating disorder behaviors," Zentner said.

A big reason why, is because of many conversations that bring up weight during the holidays. And for the person suffering, Zentner said the focus is on self-determination.

"This is how this day is going to go from beginning to end and I'm going to focus on what I'm putting in my body."

She said there's added stress when there's more people around for parties and gatherings and a need to control how people view them.

"There's a lot of secret-keeping that's going on and the stress to keep those secrets is high."

But in the extreme form, Zentner said denial is the best-kept secret from yourself.

"About the severity of the condition. That it's 'in my control. I'm fine.' People are often sicker than they know."

What's not a secret is the help that's available, that often starts with a concerned loved one.

"Have the conversation in the most open, curious, loving way that you can," Zentner said.