Eating Disorders: Dying to Be Thin

Tormented by an irrational fear of being fat

A tortured relationship with food

In a society which places excessive values on being slim, many women have a tortured relationship with food and their bodies. Sadly, eating disorders are rife, particularly among teenage girls, however, women and men of all ages can be afflicted by eating disorders.


Official figures talk about 1 % of young women being afflicted by anorexia, 2% suffering from bulimia and 2% suffering from a binge-eating disorder. Of course, figures do not count unreported cases, nor the hidden, nor borderline cases; for instance, women who follow very strict diets by periods of bingeing, for whom this kind of eating pattern is so common that they consider it normal or at least inevitable.


Eating disorders are usually onset in adolescence and affect more women than men.

Anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, exercise addictions . . . these disorders can be devastating, but they are in no way unbeatable.

The Eating Disorders Sourcebook: A Comprehensive Guide to the Causes, Treatments, and Prevention of Eating Disorders (Sourcebooks)
The Eating Disorders Sourcebook: A Comprehensive Guide to the Causes, Treatments, and Prevention of Eating Disorders (Sourcebooks)

The Eating Disorder Sourcebook will help you:

* Recognize and identify eating disorders

* Discover and work with the underlying causes of an eating disorder

* Make the right choices when comparing treatment options

* Understand what is expected in individual, group, and family therapy

* Know when outpatient treatment is not enough and what else can be done

 

Anorexia is a life-threatening disorder, with mortality over 10%.


Diagnosis criteria for eating disorders

If you want to help yourself or someone who you know and suspect of being afflicted by an eating disorder, identifying the early signs of the condition is very important in order to look for professional help as soon as possible.

  • Early signs of eating disorders may include:
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Increased sensitivity to criticism
  • Sudden increased interest in physical activity
  • Anxiety
  • Depressive symptoms.
  • Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height
  • Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight
  • Distorted self image
  • Denial of the seriousness of current low body weight
  • In women, the absence of three consecutive menstrual cycles

What Causes Eating Disorders?

Pointing at the exact cause of eating disorders is impossible. A person’s obsession with food may start at any time. Obsession with body image can occur at primary school, during adolescence, after pregnancy, and even when aging. The onset of eating disorders in men has more to do with sports performance and body image, therefore a man at any age is also a candidate for suffering from an eating disorder.

In general, people who suffer from eating disorders tend to be perfectionists and at the same time suffer from low self esteem.

Eating disorders may be a symptom of other emotional problems or strained relationships and food might feel like the only thing they can control in their life.

Often women use their bodies as a focus of their unhappiness and the fact that slim often equals beautiful in our society certainly encourages the problem.

Medical tests to diagnose and eating disorder


Unfortunately there are no specific tests to pinpoint eating disorders. No single laboratory test helps with the diagnosis of an ED. However, a group of tests of tests should be performed to rule out medical complications. For example a general screen which includes checking for levels of electrolytes, glucose, calcium, phosphate, BUN, and Cr, Mg are useful for a diagnosis. Liver and thyroid function tests, are also important to discard any other disease.

Anorexia: The worst problem is that people who suffer from it, don't see...

Treatment Options


People afflicted by Eating disorders generally have two options for treatment, either as an inpatient or an outpatient.


Inpatient treatment is often reserved for extreme cases where a patient weights less than 70% his ideal body weight and outpatient treatment has already failed.

Outpatient treatment usually concentrates in treating the complications of living with and eating disorder.


Outpatient treatment includes nutritional counselling; behavioural therapy to change patterns of behaviour towards food, cognitive therapy to alter anorexic attitudes and improve self esteem.

Eating Disorder awareness

The sad reality of eating disorders

Bulimia


Sadly bulimics who binge then purge by vomiting or taking handfuls of laxatives destroy their health and their looks.  Constant vomiting erodes the enamel on their teeth and makes the glands swell, making their faces look chubbier. 

The worst part is that while handfuls of laxatives might cause stomach cramps, and constant visits to the toilet, they have no big effect on calorie intake.  Calories are absorbed higher in the gut, while laxatives affect the lower intestine.  Vomiting can only expel a half to a third of what has been eaten, so bingers still absorb a lot of calories. 

Anorexia

Anorexics who refuse to eat literally starve themselves, some of them until they die; others will get treatment and gain weight, but anorexia is very difficult to treat.

What to do If you have an eating disorder:


  • Don’t keep your problem to yourself.  You might feel ashamed or disgusted but it is important that you seek help.
  • Eating disorders are best helped by a professional therapist, so ask your doctor for a referral.

Self-help for compulsive eating


  • People who binge find that they no longer know how to eat normally. Try to organize three regular meals and two snacks a day. Plan when you are going to eat and stick to your timetable. Regular meals will reduce your urge to binge and gradually normal sensations of hunger and fullness will return.
  • When you feel the urge to binge do something else instead. Take a bath, have a manicure, go for a walk, etc. Continue this activity until the urge to binge passes. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t always succeed.
  • Monitor your problem and try to work out what triggers your urge to binge. Do you binge when you are tired? Bored, or upset? What would be a better way to deal with these feelings? Try to work out through your problems rather than hide them with food.
  • Do you follow very strict diets and then binge when you can’t keep to them? If the answer is yes, stop dieting this way. Try a different regime, one that leaves you satisfied both in terms of quantity and quality of food ingested.
  • Do certain foods trigger binges? Do you binge eat every time you have chocolate or freshly baked bread in front of you? If you have been avoiding those foods to avoid binging, gradually introduce these foods into your diet on days when you feel in control. Focus on the easiest foods for two weeks. Then gradually introduce others. After about eight weeks you should have eaten all your trigger foods. You don’t have to eat these foods regularly, only until the thought of eating them no longer disturbs you.


Recovering from Anorexia


Long-term follow-up shows recovery rates ranging from 44% to 76%, with prolonged recovery time (57 to 59 months).

Mortality (up to 20%) is primarily from cardiac arrest or suicide.



Recovering from Bulimia


Based on the little long term data collected, it can be said that short-term success is 50% to 70%, with relapse rates between 30% and 50% after 6 months.

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Comments 14 comments

soni2006 profile image

soni2006 6 years ago from New Delhi, India

This is a well researched and complete hub on anorexia. I have rated voted bookmarked and shared this hub with my friends via email.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

Princessa, This is an excellent hub on eating disorders especially prevalent in young woman, It is really sad and maybe some will read your hub and seek help.


Princessa profile image

Princessa 6 years ago from France Author

soni: Thank you for the HubLove, I believe in the importance of bringing awareness to the issue.

Pamela: Once involved in an ED circle it is very difficult to understand that you need help. I do hope that this hub helps people afflicted with an ED and their friends and relatives.


Specialk3749 profile image

Specialk3749 6 years ago from Michigan

Eating disorders are terrible for adults, but it really saddens me to see the very young children who are so concerned about their weight. They are worried about their looks at such a young age that they are sure to have a disorder by the time they are a teen. I think our society puts way too much focus on our physical body. Yes, I think we should be healthy, but are we giving our children the wrong impression? You have some very good information here. Thank you for your research.


Princessa profile image

Princessa 6 years ago from France Author

Specialk3749: You are welcome. This is a topic that personally worries me a lot. I found very disturbing to learn that according to eating disorders specialist Barton J. Blinder, M.D. anorexia has been observed in children as young as four. He cites a Mayo Clinic study of 600 patients of all ages, which found that three percent were prepubescent anorexics.

As parents we really need to be aware of the dangers of ED, how to identify them and how to help our children build a "shield" against them.


ocbill profile image

ocbill 6 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

great information. I tend to not gain weight very much so I find it irrational that people, an overwhelming percentage of women, do this. Maybe the public stressing more of a good balanced diet will decrease it. Really, can vegetables w/o dressings) make you gain weight?


jayb23 profile image

jayb23 6 years ago from India

Princessa this is simply amazing hub. Very informative and well researched. Will be sharing this hub with my network. Keep up the good work.


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

I find it so hard that girls and women who are so skinny look in the mirror and see otherwise. It is disturbing that eating disorders are affecting girls at younger and younger ages. I hope parents are able to recognize if their young child has an eating disorder and is able to get their child help right away.


Princessa profile image

Princessa 6 years ago from France Author

ocbill: Every person has a different metabolism, I know I gain weight very, very easily and it is always a struggle to lose it. But I have friends with exactly the opposite problem! In any event, YES, stressing the importance of a balanced diet and natural (instead of processed meals) should help lots of people to achieve a healthier weight.

jayb23: Thank you for your support.

Cari: I find it really scary that children of such an early age can be afflicted by this problem; but I can see it already when I hear my 9 year old talking to her girlfriends, they are already worried about their weight, some of them are starting to diet and others to do more sports to keep slim. The big challenge for me (and many other parents) is to find the right equilibrium between what is "normal" and what is excessive.


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 6 years ago from Sunny Florida

I have a cousin with anorexia and it is painful to watch. It is disturbing to see girls developing eating disorders at a younger and younger age. Excellent information. Great hub.


girly_girl09 profile image

girly_girl09 6 years ago from United States

This is a really great hub, written in a very encouraging tone. Having dealt with an eating disorder as a teen, I can honestly say that it never really goes away. The actions and behaviors might, but the thoughts haunt you.

A few months ago, I realized that I still had an abnormal eating practice; binge eating. It wasn't like 3000 calorie binges, but it was still significant enough to bother me. I think my biggest hatred towards binge eating was that no matter what I tried to do to convince myself I wasn't truly hungry, I couldn't stop it. It was the strangest thing how it would all happen. I wouldn't necessarily be under stress, but I would get these totally bizarre food cravings for specific foods or, I would just feel like I needed to keep eating and eating until I was full, but it took a lot to feel full. This started happening more and more frequently, until it was happening maybe 3+ times a week. I felt I was going down the wrong path but felt helpless. For some reason, I started to research food allergies and started eliminating major allergens such as corn, soy, wheat, gluten, etc. I also started eating all organic food. Miraculously, my bewildering desire to compulsively eat and my inability to not feel full disappeared. I ended permanently cutting out most processed food (ALL fast food), high fructose corn syrup, most corn products, soy, and gluten and have not binged on food for a very long time! I did try to add in each of those foods to see what would happen and the odd cravings would start up again, sometimes within hours of eating. I eventually went to a food allergist for bloodwork, but he said my elimination and rotation diet was enough to determine that I had allergies or at least sensitivities to all of those foods. Sometimes, I wonder if those allergies were present when I was fighting my eating disorder, or if they developed later from lack of nutrition and development during my teen years. I'll never know for sure, but it feels truly empowering to not have to worry about those bizarre cravings anymore!


Cheeky Girl profile image

Cheeky Girl 6 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

What a great hub and on a serious subject. So many women suffer from eating disorders. This ought to be required reading and bookmarked! Cheers!


Christensen Lehman 5 years ago

I wholeheartedly disagree with your assertion that society places excessive values on being thin. Perhaps in France, that is true. In North America, almost everyone is overweight--and they're proud of it. Those of us who do maintain a healthy bodyweight are called "anorexic" undeservedly. Obesity has far-worse health consequences than anorexia does. Over 66% of adult Americans are overweight, and that number is increasing yearly, and rapidly. Here in North America, there is no shame in being fat; the new stigma is against those of us who are thin. It's very sad, but very true.


Princessa profile image

Princessa 5 years ago from France Author

Christensen: thank you for bringing a different and very interesting point of view on eating disorders and obesity.

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