Women Veterans Health Care
To kick off the new year, Women’s Health Services is sharing information to support, encourage, and empower women Veterans to improve their health through healthy eating.
One focus is increasing awareness of the risks associated with weight issues. Nearly 80 percent of Veterans receiving VA care are overweight or obese. Some also suffer from eating disorders that can lead to extreme weight issues. Problems with weight increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer in women and men.
Obesity and eating disorders among women Veterans are substantial public health challenges. VA is working to address both through heightened awareness of proper nutrition, fitness plans, mindful eating, and mental health resources.
Women Veterans faced with finding jobs, integrating into new communities, and reconnecting with friends and family after leaving the service, may not focus on health, weight and fitness as they once did. To help address this, VA is working with them to build whole health plans. In addition to clinical care, these plans can include fitness and nutrition as well as integrative health approaches like stress reduction, health coaching, yoga, and mindfulness meditation. VA care teams work with Veterans to support and share their goals for personal health and well-being.
Although some women and men have a few extra pounds and can benefit from improving their diet and program of exercise, others may either experience disordered eating or have an eating disorder. Research suggests that as much as half the population may have an unhealthy relationship with food, their body, or exercise.
What is the Difference between Disordered Eating and an Eating Disorder?
Disordered eating is common and affects all types of people. It can be defined as periods of food avoidance, food restriction, or overeating. An eating disorder is a psychiatric illness that is more frequent, sustained, and severe than disordered eating. The main factors that differentiate disordered eating patterns from eating disorders are the severity and frequency of disordered eating behaviors.
Potential Signs and Risk Factors of Disordered Eating
Disordered eating is a serious health concern that can be difficult to detect. Disordered eating might include any of the following:
- decreased self-esteem based on body shape or weight (being either overweight or underweight)
- obsessive calorie counting
- anxiety about eating only certain foods or food groups
- the inability to control eating habits
- a rigid approach to eating, such as having inflexible meal times
- a refusal to eat in restaurants or outside one’s own home
- an excessive or rigid exercise routine.
Being stressed about your body, measuring what you eat, and frequently weighing yourself could be signs of disordered eating. A person with disordered eating habits and behaviors may also be experiencing significant physical, emotional, and mental stress.
Disordered Eating Can Harm Your Body
Many who suffer with disordered eating patterns deny, minimize, or fail to fully recognize the impact these behaviors can have on their mental and physical well-being. Consequences can include a greater risk for obesity, bone loss, gastrointestinal disturbances, electrolyte and fluid imbalances, low heart rate and blood pressure, increased anxiety and depression, and social isolation.
Talk to VA about Your Eating Habits and Your Health
Women Veterans are encouraged to talk to their health care provider to learn more about how VA can help with nutrition, body image concerns, and disordered eating.
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