Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! As the COVID-19 pandemic progressed, healthcare professionals reported an increase in eating disorders, primarily anorexia nervosa which involves self-starvation, extreme weight loss and associated psychological problems. In many ways, the pandemic conditions have represented a “perfect storm” to drive this rise in eating disorders. Question: How has the pandemic favored anorexia nervosa? Responnse: The pandemic has led to isolation and loneliness for many of us, with the internet and television as the main sources of interaction and influence. Online content typically promotes a vegan lifestyle, and TV ads for food, weight control programs, and exercise options are ubiquitous. Put them all together and you have the perfect conditions to trigger a body image obsession. Amid the chaos and crisis of the pandemic, controlling food and weight can provide a sense of overall control in life. Q: What are the signs that a person is developing anorexia? A: Weight loss is an obvious sign. People with anorexia can be extremely thin and perceive themselves as too fat. Changes in their eating habits may be less noticeable at first, but avoiding certain foods, losing their appetite, and not wanting to eat with others are common. Another common trait of people with anorexia is to focus only on high fiber foods and eat mostly fruit, or add lemon to water in an attempt to lose weight with water. Consuming such small volumes of food often leads to constipation problems. Obsessive exercise routines are also common. Q: How to treat anorexic eating disorders? A: Preventing an eating disorder starts with not focusing on someone or making fun of their weight (or recent pandemic weight gain). This can be a common trigger for an eating disorder. Instead, develop a family plan to increase physical activity and eat a healthy diet that includes all types of foods in reasonable amounts and on a consistent eating schedule. Anorexia is very difficult to treat. Starting treatment early greatly increases the chance of reversing the condition. Eating disorders are self-perpetuating conditions that rarely improve without ongoing treatment that helps a patient return to normal eating habits, nutritional status, and psychology. Normal brain function requires an adequate supply of essential nutrients, and it takes time and ongoing support for a person with an eating disorder to regain regular eating habits and the adequate supply of nutrients necessary for normal functioning. normal and healthy functioning of the brain. Some experts believe that it is not possible to treat the psychological problems of a person with an eating disorder until their nutritional status has returned to normal. This can take months or even years. If you see early signs of eating disorders, speak up and have a safe discussion about your body image and dietary concerns. Alan Titchenal, Ph.D., CNS, and Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., CNS, are nutritionists in the Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences at the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at the University from Hawaii to Manoa. Dobbs also works with University Health Services.