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Title/Topic: Association Helps People Learn About Eating Disorders in Colorado
Posted On: 1/30/2008
Salida, Colorado, Jan 30 2008 (The Mountain Mail) – As many as 24 million people in the U.S. struggle with an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia or binge eating, according to the National Eating Disorder Association.

To help with education about the problem, February is National Eating Disorder Awareness Month.

“I believe almost anywhere in the U.S. there are people struggling with this,” Jeannine Aberg-Maes, a Salida psychotherapist, said.

She worked with eating disorder patients for 20 years in the Denver and Winter Park areas before moving to Chaffee County in August.

“We live in a culture that outrageously esteems thinness – skinniness even.

That’s always the thing we have to fight when someone is pursuing recovery – the whole notion that they are probably going to have to gain weight, yet they have received so much attention and esteem for being thin.

“They get seduced by the cultural norm, it is so powerful. Colorado has been named the fittest state in the nation. That ‘fittest state in the nation’ label can also come with a ruminatory compulsive/obsessive nature.

“That’s why Porter Care Hospital (in Denver) has an outpatient eating disorders clinic.”

Other National Eating Disorder Association statistics reveal one in five women struggle with an eating disorder or disordered eating; 90 percent of those who have eating disorders are between 12 and 25 years old.

In addition, about 11 percent of high school students have been diagnosed with an eating disorder.

Aberg-Maes will conduct an Eating Disorders Awareness information meeting at 7 p.m. Feb 6 in the community room at Bongo Billy’s Salida CafĂ©.

She encourages anyone struggling with an eating disorder or anyone worried about someone who is struggling, to attend.

“I have done a lot of work in terms of educating parents about what to say and what not to say,” she said. “If I was a family member and worried about someone, I would go to an information meeting.”

People with eating disorders often use food or control of food as an attempt to control emotions or situations that seem over-whelming, she said.

“The control factor is huge,” she said. “When there is upset or distress in someone’s life, especially when there is a sense of no control over the issues – the drama of peer pressure, the drama of popularity or academic achievement – it’s very easy, especially for girls, to begin to focus on their bodies.

“They can channel their distress in that direction.”

She said she has seen a rise in the number of younger children struggling with eating disorders.

“If we were to unpack women who struggle with an eating disorder early in life, we’d find they are the ones who are involved in everything, get excellent grades, are high achievers,” she said.

“There are certain kinds of family systems in which there is a high focus on control and achievement, and a belief you have to be a certain kind of weight.”

What can start out as simple dieting can become a deadly disease, she cautioned.

“In the majority of cases it starts out harmless – they never intend to get an eating disorder. They may say, ‘I want to lose five pounds, I want to lose 10 pounds,’ which in most cases is not a horrifying amount.

“But then it feels good and they get lost in it. A simple little weight loss goal turns into a compulsive-obsessive goal in their life.”

Aberg-Maes said she wants to start a support group for eating disorder sufferers. She said even though consciousness has been raised about eating disorders, it remains difficult for a person to come forward and seek help.

“I know it’s very difficult for someone to come to a group like this,” she said.

She added it’s important for sufferers “to go and hear the voice of health, and get reinforced that the dieting, the over-exercising, the starving is killing them.”

For more information about the Feb. 6 information meeting, or about an eating disorder support group call Aberg-Maes at (719) 239-0940. For more information about eating disorders visit

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