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Colorado Ranks High In Adolescent Eating Disorders, Stereotypes Still Persist

DENVER (CBS4) - Colorado still leads the nation as the most-fit state. However, all the news surrounding health and fitness is not always good. Colorado also has the fifth-highest rate of eating disorders in the country among adolescents.

Eating disorders are not a choice. They are a mental illness, and Dr. Ken Weiner with the Eating Recovery Center has been fighting stereotypes surrounding anorexia for a long time.

"It has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness; highest death rate," Weiner said.

The alarming number of cases of eating disorders among adolescents in Colorado has many surprised because they still think it's a choice.

"The whole misconception is that eating disorders are this fat thing, or she just wants attention, or she or he wants to just look a certain way," said Robyn Cruze, National Recovery Advocate.

"What the eating disorder does is it hijacks their brain and they get excessive in what they're doing," Weiner said.

Robyn Cruze
Robyn Cruze talks with CBS4's Gloria Neal (credit: CBS)

Cruze knows about that hijacking all too well. She was 11 years old when it happened to her.

"I always say that if an eating disorder had a voice, it would be like, 'Shhhh, It's okay honey. It's okay. Everything is going to be just okay,' " Cruze said.

But it wasn't okay until she reached the age of 29 and living in Los Angeles.

"I remember just thinking, 'This is my life, this is my life; and I'm either going to die or I'm going to reach within with every part of the fight that's left in me,' " Cruze said.

Now she shares her recovery and survival with those who are going through therapy.

"Pease don't compare your insides with my outsides," she said.

Weiner understands why Colorado has the fifth-highest rate of eating disorders among adolescents. He's been treating the illness for years and says eating disorders are very tricky to treat.

Dr. Ken Weiner
CBS4's Gloria Neal talks with Dr. Ken Weiner (credit: CBS)

"They require a combination of dietary, therapy, medical and psychiatric, because there's a lot of psychiatric comorbidity; depression, anxiety, addictions, substance abuse, trauma, ADD that go with these illnesses," Weiner said.

What's even more complicated is that Colorado is a fitness state.

"While anorexia and nervosa and most eating disorders are biologically based, dieting over exercising are triggering behaviors," Weiner said.

So why does the stereotype persist?

"I think because you can't see it, it doesn't make it real," Cruze said.

Cruze has been in recovery for more than 12 years. Now she dedicates her life to helping others who are still suffering from an eating disorder. For more information about the Eating Recovery Center, visit

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