16 Feb 2010
It’s Time to Talk About Eating Disorders in the Chicago Community
February 16, 2010 – It’s well known an eating disorder can be life-threatening. But you may not know eating disorders cause more deaths annually than all other mental and emotional health conditions combined. That’s one important reason February 21 – 27 has been designated National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, with the 2010 theme “It’s Time To Talk About It.” Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, together with the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), plans to turn the country’s attention to this life threatening disorder.
According to Dr. Kim Dennis, medical director at Timberline Knolls, a residential treatment center focusing on helping women and adolescent girls deal with such complex problems as eating disorders, self-injury behavior and substance abuse, “Eating disorders are more common now than they have been in the past. We’re not sure exactly why that is, whether we’re simply more proficient at identifying them or whether they actually are increasing in frequency,” she explained. “But it means there are more opportunities for women to conquer their disease and live healthy lives if we reach out and let them know help is available.”
Timberline Knolls has issued a “Chat Challenge” for Thursday, February 25, urging everyone in the Chicago community to set aside 30 minutes to learn more about eating disorders and to reach out to loved ones – daughters, sisters, nieces, mothers, friends – to talk about what can be done to help others. Timberline Knolls has information on its Web site about the warning signs and effects of eating disorders, which can be a good starting point in your conversation and NEDA also provides extensive information at www.neda.org.
In light of news from the First Lady on fighting obesity, Timberline Knolls encourages the community to recognize the pressures, attitudes and behaviors that shape the illness. “NEDA Week is just one way to wage the war on unrealistic, body-perfect expectations,” said Dr. Dennis. “Our goal is to work to prevent eating disorders and body image issues, and improve access to treatment.”
Activities during NEDA Week across the country will encourage positive body image, including among the residents and staff of Timberline Knolls. Opening day ceremonies kick-off with a “Declaration of Independence” signing by the entire Timberline Knolls community and residents. The oversized document declares that “the beauty within ourselves is hidden but soon will be found,” calling for “a happy life” because “struggles make us stronger.” Featured speakers include Dr. Dennis and Timberline Knolls alumni returning from as far as New York.
Local students from Oak Park River Forest High School also have the chance to participate in the “Chat Challenge” when Timberline Knolls program coordinator Loreta Stavskiene visits their campus on Thursday, February 25, from 3 – 4 p.m. to discuss the challenges of teen life and the prevalence of eating disorders, much in part due to unrealistic body images.
Other activities at Timberline Knolls throughout the week include a music performance by recording artist Todd Warren, a unique kitchen tour and scavenger hunt and dance activities such as Nia dance and hip-hop. Closing ceremonies will feature an alumni performance.
“It’s vital that people everywhere become aware of how severe and common eating disorders have become,” said Dr. Dennis. “It is only through awareness that we can begin to see the warning signs in loved ones and intervene early in order to stop the deadly cycle of this disease. Believe you can help someone and do just one thing. It can make a difference.”