When you picture someone who has an eating disorder, you probably think of someone who is dangerously underweight. But, in fact, the majority of eating disorders occur in people of “normal” or “overweight” body sizes. The classic portrayal of a drastically underweight white female who has anorexia represents a very small fraction of eating disorders.
Why does this matter? Well, when we assume that eating disorders always result in underweight, we fail to notice the millions of people who never become underweight from a BMI standpoint and yet are suffering greatly from an eating disorder. As parents, we need to know that even if our children are in a healthy BMI range, they still may be suffering from an eating disorder.
Here are some statistics about anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder:
U.S. Population: 323 million
National surveys estimate that 6.1% of women (20,000,000) and 3% of men (10,000,000) in America will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives.
30,000,000 Americans have experienced an eating disorder during their lifetime.
Almost 10% of all Americans have experienced an eating disorder.
Anorexia Nervosa: 4.5 million
0.9% (.009) of women (2,907,000) and 0.3% (.003) of men (1,453,500) experiences anorexia during their life.
4,460,000 Americans have experienced anorexia during their lifetime.
Anorexia comprises 14.5% of all eating disorders.
Bulimia Nervosa: 6.5 million
1.5% (.015) of women (4,845,000) and 0.5% (.05) of men (1,615,000) experiences bulimia during their life.
6,460,000 Americans have experienced bulimia during their lifetime.
Bulimia comprises 21.5% of all eating disorders.
Binge Eating Disorder
3.5% (.035) of women (11,305,000) and 2.0% (.02) of men (6,460,000) experiences binge eating disorder during their life.
17,765,000 Americans have experienced binge eating disorder during their lifetime.
Binge eating disorder comprises 59% of all eating disorders.
There is incredible diversity in the eating disorder community, and it’s important for parents, healthcare providers and others to recognize that we come in many shapes, sizes, colors and genders.