All About Eating Disorders

When a person’s life begins to revolve around weight and food, that is when an eating disorder occurs. When people eat too little it is referred to as restrictive eating and when people eat too much it is called binge eating. Some people over eat (binge) then vomit or use laxatives to rid themselves of the food they ate (purge).

When a person excessively exercises it called obsessive of compulsive exercise. They usually feel anxious or angry if they miss a day of exercise even when sick or injured.

What Leads To Eating Disorders?

Dieting may be the first step in some cases although many people can diet without developing a disorder. Body image is also a strong factor with society’s focus on thinness having a big impact. A lot of people risk their health in order to fit the paradigm of good looks that is set by models and actors seen in media.

Emotional issues are the cause of most eating disorders with some people using food and exercise as a way to control their lives while others do it in response to stress. Some people may switch between eating too little and eating too much.

Who’s At Risk & What Are The Signs?

Studies have shown that women have the highest risk for eating disorders but can be afflicted as well. Serious risk factors include: low self esteem, depression, family problems, an apparent desire to be ‘perfect’, those who have family or friends who focus on weight, lifestyles that require a certain body type (modeling, weightlifting, et cetera).

Certain signs start to become noticeable. A person might become extremely unhappy with their body and begin to utterly despise the thought of any amount of body fat; begin to exercise excessively in order to burn calories; or begin to abuse substances like steroids, diuretics, and/or stimulants. They may begin to develop strange eating habits by skipping meals often; greatly cut back on the amount of food taken at meal time; eat the same thing every day; get into conflicts with friends or family about what they eat.

A person with an eating disorder may also develop ‘issues’ with food. They may start to think about food all the time, go through secret binge sessions unable to stop, vomit or use laxatives after the consumption of food.

How To Help

First of all, focus on positive things. Show them that you are concerned and rather than talking about the person’s eating behaviors, talk about their overall health and happiness. Be sure to be available, patient, and have a will to listen. Point out their strengths and talents. Finally, if they seem open to ideas, encourage them to seek help from a professional and be willing to go along.

It is very important that while talking with someone who may suffer from an eating disorder, you avoid negative things. Don’t try to give advice unless they want it. Don’t nag, criticize, or focus your talk on food, body image, size, or weight.

Recovery usually happens in steps. First, they notice their problem with eating and body image. Second, they get professional help from a person who is trained in treating eating disorders. Third, they learn about proper nutrition, how to nourish their body with a myriad of foods and what amount of food their bodies really need. Fourth, they become familiar with their feelings and how they used food to cope. With this comes the ability to express and deal with their feelings in other ways. Finally, they accept their body and learn to like themselves for who they are while developing healthful exercise habits.

Types Of Disorders

Not eating enough to keep a healthy body weight. Can be life threatening. Includes weight loss to below 15% of normal weight, extreme fear of gaining weight, loss of menstrual cycle, sensitivity to cold, lethargy and weakness, depression and low self-esteem. Eating and exercise habits may be consumption of too little at one time; denial of hunger; skipping meals; constant thoughts of food and weight; extreme need to exercise every day; may binge and purge.

Eating too much at one time, binging. Then purging by vomiting, taking laxatives or exercising excessively to rid oneself of food. Can be life threatening. Includes being at or near normal body weight, loss of tooth enamel, swollen cheeks, calloused hands and fingers, loss of menstruation, fainting spells, lethargy and weakness, depression and low self-esteem. Eating and exercise habits may be eating too much at one time; eating in secret; purging by vomiting, use of diuretics or laxatives or excessive exercise; thinks a lot about food.

Binge Eating/Compulsive Overeating:
Involves eating too much at one time on a regular basis. Sufferers of this disorder are usually overweight or obese, harbor feelings of losing control, have frequent weight fluctuations, and have depression/low self esteem. Eating and e1xercise habits include food consumption even when not hungry; eating too much or too little at one time; eating late at night; often they go without any exercise.

Female Athlete Triad:
Seen in physically active women. Includes disordered eating, loss of menstrual cycle, and weaker bones. Includes low body weight, tiredness and weakness, decreased athleticism, frequent injuries like stress fractures, and depression. Eating and exercise habits may be restrictive eating; binge eating followed by purging; constant thoughts of food and weight; must exercise every day.

Muscle Dysmorphia:
Distorted body image. Person feels small in despite muscularity. Includes having a muscular build, the use of anabolic steroids, and feelings of shame of body. Eating and exercise habits may include weight lifting becoming the focus of their life; restrictive eating compounded with a high protein diet; need to exercise every day; use of possibly dangerous herbal supplement and/or illegal substances.

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