National Nutrition Month is an annual campaign in March, created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and was implemented to emphasize the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. This campaign is in alignment with and supports the Secretary of the Navy's 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative.
The Navy’s goal of recognizing National Nutrition Month is to increase awareness of healthy eating practices and activity habits as well as transform Navy-wide food environments to facilitate and maintain better food and beverage options. Better food choices will ultimately enhance physical performance and contribute to the Navy's efforts to achieve and maintain a fit and ready force. NAS Lemoore’s Operations Galley and Main Side Spuds Restaurant offer healthy food choices every month and reinforce a culture where “the healthy choice is the easy choice.”
Just as important as it is to highlight the importance of making healthy food choices, I would also like to take a moment to point out eating disorders, how to recognized them and offer resources to combat this insidious breakdown in your overall wellbeing or that of someone close to you.
There is a commonly held misconception that eating disorders are a lifestyle choice. Eating disorders are actually serious and often fatal illnesses that are associated with severe disturbances in people’s eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions. Preoccupation with food, body weight, and shape may also signal an eating disorder. Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.
People with anorexia nervosa may see themselves as overweight, even when they are dangerously underweight. People with anorexia nervosa typically weigh themselves repeatedly, severely restrict the amount of food they eat, often exercise excessively, and/or may force themselves to vomit or use laxatives to lose weight. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder. While many people with this disorder die from complications associated with starvation, others die of suicide.
• Extremely restricted eating
• Extreme thinness (emaciation)
• A relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a normal or healthy weight
• Intense fear of gaining weight
• Distorted body image, a self-esteem that is heavily influenced by perceptions of body weight and shape, or a denial of the seriousness of low body weight
People with bulimia nervosa have recurrent and frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food and feeling a lack of control over these episodes. This binge-eating is followed by behavior that compensates for the overeating such as forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, or a combination of these behaviors. People with bulimia nervosa may be slightly underweight, normal weight, or over overweight.
• Chronically inflamed and sore throat
• Swollen salivary glands in the neck and jaw area
• Worn tooth enamel and increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth as a result of exposure to stomach acid
• Acid reflux disorder and other gastrointestinal problems
• Intestinal distress and irritation from laxative abuse
• Severe dehydration from purging of fluids
• Electrolyte imbalance (too low or too high levels of sodium, calcium, potassium, and other minerals) which can lead to stroke or heart attack
People with binge-eating disorder lose control over his or her eating. Unlike bulimia nervosa, periods of binge-eating are not followed by purging, excessive exercise, or fasting. As a result, people with binge-eating disorder often are overweight or obese. Binge-eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the U.S.
• Eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time, such as a 2-hour period
• Eating even when you're full or not hungry
• Eating fast during binge episodes
• Eating until you're uncomfortably full
• Eating alone or in secret to avoid embarrassment
• Feeling distressed, ashamed, or guilty about your eating
• Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss
Eating disorders can affect people of all ages, racial/ethnic backgrounds, body weights, and genders. Eating disorders frequently appear during the teen years or young adulthood but may also develop during childhood or later in life. These disorders affect both genders, although rates among women are higher than among men. Like women who have eating disorders, men also have a distorted sense of body image.
Treatments and Therapies
It is important to seek treatment early for eating disorders. People with eating disorders are at higher risk for suicide and medical complications. People with eating disorders can often have other mental disorders (such as depression or anxiety) or problems with substance use. Complete recovery is possible.
Treatment plans are tailored to individual needs and may include one or more of the following:
• Individual, group, and/or family psychotherapy
• Medical care and monitoring
• Nutritional counseling
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate help, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Healthy food and exercise choices aren’t limited to the month of March. It is something we should practice throughout the year. Additionally, the Navy has numerous resources that support making healthy choices every day. Visit Navy Nutrition and Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center information for tips on incorporating the nutrients you need to stay fit ready.
Additional resources are available through the Fitness Centers as well as the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center at http://www.med.navy.mil/sites/nmcphc/health-promotion and Navy Fitness at www.navyfitness.org