• Diagnosis of eating disorders spikes around holiday season, experts say


    National surveys estimate 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives.

    Experts in the field say they see a spike in diagnosis this time of year, leading to an added importance on being mindful around friends and family at holiday gatherings throughout the month.

    "The holidays are pretty stressful for everyone," Katherine Craigen, the clinical director of binge eating and bariatric support services at Walden Behavioral Care, said. "One of the things we know about binge eating behavior is it's often one of the ways people cope with stress."

    Craigen said Walden Behavioral Care sees a spike in both admissions and inquiries around the holidays, with people triggered by family interactions and a focus on food.

    "Don't say, 'it's okay to splurge, it's the holidays.'" Fitchburg native Erin Graffam said. "You should be eating what you want to throughout the year. That's a big thing, because when you do deprive yourself, then you'll binge."

    There are as many people struggling with binge eating disorder as all other eating disorders combined.

    Graffam suffered from it for 10 years before she got help.

    "It was getting out of control," Graffam said. "It was encompassing a lot of my time and my mind. It was exhausting, and so it was starting to slowly kill me by putting on the extra weight."

    One in 10 people with an eating disorder is a man, and 40 percent of people with binge eating disorder are also men.

    "People with all different types of backgrounds are struggling with this right now," Craigen said.

    Ethnic minorities and 8-to-12 year olds are the fastest rising populations of people diagnosed with eating disorders.

    Black teenagers are 50 percent more likely thank white teenagers to exhibit bulimic behavior, such as binging and purging. 

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    Graffam's story is more common than many might think, making it vital to be mindful at any holiday events to make sure everyone has a happy holiday.

    "After the program, for Christmas, I had just gotten done with the program. I actually asked my mom, 'I need you to say, what I could have tonight, you'll make other times if I need for you to make it.'" Graffam said. "Don't mention the food. You're there to celebrate people."

    Clinicians say to be mindful with your New Year's Resolutions, too.

    Being too restrictive and then failing to meet the goal can trigger an eating disorder or, at the very least, harmful behavior. 

    Earlier this year, Boston 25 News did a special report about eating disorders, specifically in men of color and athletes, and the surprising lack of resources to treat them.

    >>MORE: Social media, athletic pressure drives surge in male eating disorders

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