At Dieting.Guru we like to keep most of our articles light hearted and informative. We tend to look at eating trends and evaluate their health benefits and risks involved. However, before we kick off our holiday season we’d like to take a serious look at one thing we want our readers to be aware of this holiday season, eating disorders.
Over 30 million people in the U.S. (10 percent of the total population) think they are fat, even though they are not. An astounding 90 percent of people suffering from eating disorders are female, but a growing number of males are suffering from the illness as well. According to WomensHealth.gov, the factors contributing to eating disorders include:
- Culture – In western cultures, extreme thinness is ideal
- Personality – Feelings of low self-worth and poor self-image
- Life-changing/Stressful Events – Death, divorce, job loss, etc.
- Family Life – Parental attitudes towards nutrition and appearance
- Biology – Chemical imbalances, genetic deficiencies, etc.
- Existing Emotional Disorders – Anxiety, depression, etc.
Types of Eating Disorders
The three types of eating disorders affecting individuals physically and psychologically include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.
A constant fear of becoming fat is the driving force behind anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder where food consumption and weight control become obsessions. Symptoms of anorexia include:
- Extremely low overall body weight
- Restriction of food consumption
- Distorted body image
- Decreased or absence of menstrual cycle in females
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by recurrent and frequent episodes of high food consumption followed by vomiting, fasting, excessive exercising, and high laxative and/or diuretic consumption. People with bulimia have normal weight, so they are hard to identify because of their secret eating rituals. Like anorexia nervosa, people who have bulimia have the same symptoms in addition to immediate feelings of shame and guilt after binging.
Binge Eating Disorder
Similar to bulimia nervosa, losing control over eating is a symptom of binge eating disorder, however, no desire is present to rid the body of the calories consumed. People who suffer from binge eating disorder are often overweight or obese, and use food as compensation for negative feelings. More food is consumed in shorter periods of time, showing a total lack of control and the need to feel a sense of comfort and inner satisfaction.
Effects of Eating Disorders
Physical and emotional problems persist when eating disorders are present, leading to long-term damage to the body and affecting family life, education, employment, and relationships. Physical complications resulting from an eating disorder include all or some of the following:
- Osteopenia or osteoporosis (bone thinning)
- Dry and brittle hair, skin, and nails
- Presence of lanugo (fine body hair)
- Dental problems (tooth loss, enamel erosion)
- Erosion of esophagus and throat
- Low blood pressure and anemia
- Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance
- Organ failure (including brain damage)
During psychological treatment for eating disorders, the emotional cause is treated and identified in conjunction with nutritional support. If another emotional disorder is present, medications are administered to assist in the restoration of hormonal and neurotransmitter levels and psychotherapy is included in treatment also. For more information on eating disorders, visit the National Institute of Mental Health website at NIMH.gov.
If you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, please do not hesitate to reach out for help. Please call the good people at NEDA (The National Eating Disorder Association) at 1-800-931-2237. The call is absolutely confidential and you will be greeted with understanding and compassion.