‹‹ Colorado Matters

Larger-bodied people can have anorexia, too

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19min 18sec
Elizabeth Shelton
Erin Harrop, 38. assistant professor of social work at the University of Denver, was diagnosed with traditional anorexia nervosa as a teenager and later had what’s known as atypical anorexia. Harrop researches eating disorders.

New research on eating disorders points to a new category of the disease, known as atypical anorexia, that often goes undetected. While people with traditional anorexia often present as extremely thin, this newer category applies to larger-bodied people who similarly restrict their eating, but suffer the same physical and emotional challenges of the disease.

The diagnosis comes as providers in Colorado who treat eating disorders report an increase in the prevalence of the illness and a study released last month in JAMA Pediatrics notes a “significant increase” in both inpatient and outpatient eating disorder treatment since the onset of COVID-19.

We speak with Erin Harrop, of the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Denver, who studies eating disorders, including atypical anorexia. We also hear from Dr. Elizabeth Wassenaar, medical director at the Eating Recovery Center (ERC) of the Mountain and West Region, which has recently added new inpatient beds, and Anna Zaleski, a former patient at ERC who is now a nurse.