ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — February 26 to March 4 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. The pandemic has been causing a rise in eating disorders.

“It started as, I just wanted to be the best athlete I can, so I’m gonna eat super healthy. I ended up losing weight and that just got addictive really, and that’s where I kinda got stuck,” explained Holly Machabee, who was diagnosed with an eating disorder a few years ago.

She is not alone. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 28.8 million people are struggling with eating disorders, with less than 6 percent being medically underweight. “Gone are the days of thinking that you can see someone walking down the street and guess whether or not they have an eating disorder,” explained Dr. Julie Morrison, owner and director of HPA/LiveWell.

Dr. Julie Morrison said eating disorders are on a large spectrum, but the big three are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. During the pandemic, she’s seen an increase in patients seeking help. 

“We are getting calls about kids that are in earlier adolescence, 12,13,14,15 years-old who are struggling. A lot of time spent alone. A lot of social media influences,” explained Dr. Morrison.

Eating disorders are the most deadly of all mental illnesses and warning signs can include large weight fluctuations, negative comments about food and body image, as well as no longer eating in front of others, or disappearing after eating.

“There is this idea, that if you have an eating disorder, you’re gonna have it forever. And it doesn’t have to be that way,” stated Dr. Morrison. There is hope, there is treatment, and that in our community, we can help people get better.”

Helping people such as Holly, who credits HPA/LiveWell for saving her life and inspiring her to get her degree in Public Health and a minor in Psychology. 

“The goal is to help people who went through something similar to me so I definitely want to give back,” said Machabee.

If you or a loved one are struggling with an eating disorder, you can contact a local organization such as HPA/LiveWell or you can contact the National Eating Disorders Association’s hotline at 1-800-931-2237.