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Signs Of An Eating Disorder

March 10, 2014, 6:13 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Signs Of An Eating Disorder

Millions of Americans struggle with eating disorders. Many of them wait years before getting help. That's important to know because the sooner a person receives treatment, the better their chances of recovery.

Kris Clark focuses on eating a healthy diet and maintaining her weight, but the Harrisburg woman hasn't always had a healthy outlook on food.

"I remember reading a book that was just part of a reading assignment and it was basically a how-to guide on being bulimic," Clark said.

She first started battling bulimia when she was just 11 years old.

"I first sought help when I first got caught. I was forced because I was a minor. I went to outpatient when I was probably 12 or 13," Clark said.

Clark met with counselors on and off throughout middle and high school.

"I could convince my family that I was doing better and I really wasn't, but I'd get out of it for a while. Then I'd end up back in," Clark said.

When Clark was in college, she weighed less than 100 pounds.

"I went to Nebraska, so I was a ways away from home, which made it easy to hide it. You don't see your family every week, so they don't notice any weight shifts," Clark said.

When she was 21 years old, Clark went to an inpatient treatment center in the Twin Cities.

"I got to a point where I was so sick that I was basically told that my heart could stop," Clark said.

While Clark got help for her eating disorder, some people have the disorder for years before being diagnosed.

"It can be a very secretive type of disorder," Sanford Mental Health Counselor Becky Palugyay said.

Here's a list of warning signs to watch out for: dramatic weight loss, seclusion from friends and family, over-exercising and spending a lot of time in the bathroom. A person might also develop more secretive behaviors and become more interested in counting calories.

"Encourage them to get some help and treatment for it. But it's a scary situation for people who have eating disorders. Many times they have to really be ready to want to take those steps to get treatment or change," Palugyay said.

Clark urges anyone struggling with an eating disorder not to be ashamed and to seek help.

"There's a lot of embarrassment around it. It's a disease where you are constantly worried that people are judging you, so they're worried people are going to judge them more if they have it. Don't be embarrassed to ask for help if you need it," Clark said.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, visit Sanford Health, Avera Health or The Emily Program for more information.

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