FACTS AND MYTHS ABOUT EATING DISORDERS, THE USNA, AND SERVICE ASSIGNMENT
MYTH: "Midshipmen should be built the same since we are all going after the same physical mission."
FACT: Everybody is unique. Efforts to achieve our culture’s body ideal combined with USNA pressures, culture, and lifestyle put midshipmen at risk for developing eating disorders.
MYTH: "If I'm thinking about food all the time and drastically changing my eating habits, I must have developed an eating disorder."
FACT: Having disordered eating attitudes and behaviors does not necessarily mean that one’s symptoms meet the clinical diagnosis of an eating disorder.
FACT: Disordered eating attitudes and behaviors become a diagnosable eating disorder when there is a persistent disturbance of eating behavior or when there is behavior intended to control weight that significantly impairs physical health and psychosocial functioning.
MYTH: "I need to lose weight fast for this PRT, so I'll just do what I need to do for a few weeks, and then go back to eating normal. So what if I have to puke up what little I do allow myself to eat? It's better than failing."
FACT: Failing the PRT is not worse than damaging your health. Purging and severe calorie restriction can lead to decreased metabolism, loss of muscular strength and endurance, stress fractures, dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, fainting, weakness and slow heart rates, decreased concentration, and slowed reaction times.
FACT: Untreated, disordered eating behaviors can be progressive and are often socially, psychologically, professionally, and physically damaging.
MYTH: "Now that I'm stuck in a disordered eating cycle, I've started eating like this, I can't seem to stop."
FACT: Disordered eating behaviors are quite responsive to treatment…especially with early intervention. USNA resources include an Eating Disorder Specialist and a Dietitian specially trained in treating eating disorders located in the Midshipmen Development Center. They also work closely with a physician when needed.
MYTH: "The Academy probably doesn't care how we get into 'shape', as long as we do it."
FACT: In reality, the academy does care. USNA Policy on Eating Disorders is “to encourage midshipmen experiencing COMDTMIDNINST 6100.1B disorder eating symptoms to use available services at the Naval Academy to minimize the progression of their symptoms and to fully prepare them for service in the fleet and fleet Marine force.”
FACT: According to COMDTMIDNINST Instruction 6100.1B, “the medical diagnosis of an eating disorder shall not, in and of itself be cause for a recommendation for separation."
MYTH: "If I tell MDC about my disordered eating, they won't let me commission."
FACT: Midshipmen Development Center records are NOT medical records and therefore can offer a high degree of confidentiality. However, eating disorder symptoms sometimes require a referral to Brigade Medical to ensure the midshipman’s health is not in danger.
FACT: It is very rare that someone does not commission because of an eating disorder. Where that has happened in the past, that is because the person's physical health/safety is very compromised or they waited so long to get treatment that there is not enough time to resolve the issue. BLUF: Seek help early as early intervention works best!
FACT: Dr. Ann Judge, Midshipmen Development Center Eating Disorder Specialist, is available for informal, confidential consultations regarding the above. To make a consultation appointment send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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