The True Cost of Eating Disorders
With a society obsessing about looking perfect, more and more women are pursuing strange diets or simply not eating to get the body that the media and our society craves. As this idea of being so thin is appealing in our society there is a societal shunning of those who are fat and obese. While being thin is considered to be beautiful and a sign of health, those who are obese are said to not care about themselves, many consider having extra weight ugly, and everybody starts naming off negative health effects on being heavier.
This is not going to be an article to discuss weight or to tell a person to lose or gain weight. Personally, there is no real universal definition of pretty, no one size is right, people may be gorgeous at a size zero but can be just as gorgeous as a size twenty-six.
It is important to remember, this is talking about eating disorders and the problems they can cause. The reason for this is to put it in perspective that it is not just obesity that we as a society has to deal with and that we should be pushing health instead of pushing weight.
Overview of Eating Disorder
Eating Disorders are when a person has an unhealthy relationship with food in where they either overeat or they do not eat enough to be healthy. There are four main types of eating disorders in the DSM (Diagnosis Statistic Manual), and this includes:
- EDNOS (eating disorders not otherwise specified)
Each category will be explored as well as the health risk of each of the disorders to give an outline of how every single one of the disorders are very bad for a person and how important it is if the person is suffering from any of these disorders, they get help.
Anorexia is probably the most popular eating disorder in which a person, more commonly female than man, believes that they have to lose weight. They have a fear of gaining weight and may have an obsession with a a body feature (like ribs showing through skin, shoulder blades sticking out, hip bones, thigh gaps) and make it a goal to reach. Although they know they are skinny, they still believe that they need to lose weight to get to the body feature that they crave. Their self-esteem is usually focused on their body and how skinny they are.
There are two main types: purging Anorexia in which they will also throw up any food they do eat and than the restricted which is that they usually throw away food or eat only baby bites to get the least amount of calorie intake.
Binge eating disorder is basically when a person, either due to stress or boredom, just get into fits of consuming huge amounts of food. Usually this follows by the feeling of shame and regret as well as a lack of control when a person is eating. Usually they just cannot stop even if they feel full, they just eat and eat and eat. Many will eat until they feel uncomfortable or will eat when not even hungry.
This is different than a person who just loves to eat and gains weight because they eat too much and do not exercise, this is a eating disorder where they may not even want to eat but feel a drive to eat and cannot help themselves.
Like those suffering from binge eating disorder, Bulimics will also consume a large amount of food. What makes this disorder different is that afterwards, Bulimics will then proceed to throw up what they have just consumed. Thus, keeping their weight down. Usually Bulimics by themselves are not as thin as Anorexics so it is harder to notice when somebody is suffering from this unless you happen to hear them throwing up or see them binge eating.
This is a category for eating disorders that do not fit into the other three category. This includes excessive exercising, anorexic behavior without being underweight, bulimia syndromes in lesser qualities.
Health Effects of Anorexa
The health effects of Anorexa on the body is terrifying. Anorexia has the highest death rate of all the eating disorders and the chance of relapsing to Anorexia is very high. There are many reasons for this, mostly it is hard to change this mindset once you have it, it makes it even harder being in a society completely obsessed with being thin. The main health effects found with Anorexa includes:
- Abnormally slow heartrate and blood pressure-the lower the heart rate is, the higher the chance of it failing. Also the heart is a muscle and so when a person stops eating and the body starves, instead of attacking the fat cells in the body, it attacks muscle including the heart.
- Early osteoporosis and brittle bones leading to higher chance of bones breaking (however there is good news, since most Anorexics start in their teenage years when the bones are still growing and developing. If they stop in their early twenties there is a chance that the bones will heal (Zanker 2011).
- Lack of Estrogen meaning lack of menstrual cycle leading to a low chance of conceiving children and lower drives
- Weakening muscles including those around internal organs
- Kidney Failure
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Lanugo or a small fuzzy growth of hair that grows all over the body
- Brittle hair or hair loss (hair on your head)
Information got from NEDA 2014
Health Effects of Binge Eating
The negative side effects are the same for binge eaters as well as those who are obese and overweight. Unlike the problems that Anorexics have with starving the body, people with this eating disorder struggle with having too much fat in their body. So you will see an opposite effect on many of the problems that Anorexics have including blood pressure and cholesterol. The negative health effects include:
- High blood pressure
- High Cholesterol
- Heart Disease
- Type II Diabetes
- Gallbladder Disease
- Sleep Apnea
- Cancer (being overweight itself does not equal cancer however fat cells in large quality can distribute hormones that may increase the chance of certain cancers)
Information got from NEDA 2014 and WIN 2014
Health Effects of Bulimia
Due to the consent throwing up, individuals in this group mostly deals with electrolyte and chemical imbalances in the body(NEDA 2014). This can lead to not only problems in the digestive system but can also affect all other organs in the body. The list includes:
- Electrolyte imbalance-caused usually by dehydration which will put a strain on the heart and make it have irregular heartbeats with a high possibility of death resulting from it.
- Gastric rupturing-remember the stomach has natural acid in it and when you throw it up, even if there is food in your stomach, you still throw up the acid as well. By continuously doing so, the acid can start eating away at the esophagus which could end up rupturing. It can also happen in your stomach lining as well in constant throwing up
- Tooth decay-once again caused by the stomach acid
- Irregular bowels or constipation (most Bulimics also take laxatives)
- Peptic Ulsers and Pancreasitis
Information got from NEDA 2014
There are many types of EDNOS but the major one I want to focus on is excessive exercise. Exercise is very important for not only to keep weight down but to keep the blood flowing throughout the body. In fact it is found that between thirty and ninety minutes is the prefer timespan to exercise (this includes both cardio and weights). For most individuals, thirty minutes a day is the magical number but if a person is exercising thirty minutes a day and is still gaining weight or if their blood pressure is high, they may need to move up to an hour or a hour and a half to see results (webmd 2014).
Although exercise is great and help a person of any size keep healthy, too much exercise can cause serious problems for an individual. Before I continue, to fit into this category, a person must exercise daily for four or more hours a day:
- Be affected by weather change (possibly of getting heat stroke or hypothermia is higher than people who do not exercise so excessively
- Depression and anxiety
- Muscular atropy (basically this means that the muscles start to waste away)
- Skeletal injuries (including broken spines, broken bones, cut ligaments and cartilage)
- Release of excessive radicals. Radicals are formed by weak bond molecules splitting and are very unstable and can affect cells around them(HealthCheck 2014). They are linked to an increase chance of cancer and cellular mutations
- Females may suffer from amenorrhea
Information got from EatingDisordersOnline 2014
Eating disorders do a lot of damage on a body, fortunately if a person is able to stop their eating disorder early enough, they stand a good chance of not having any of the more severe side effects and can mostly heal the damage that they have done on their body. Regardless if a person starves themselves or overeats, their body is getting more and more damaged. Most of the time, they have both physical and emotional issues that need to be dealt with before they will be ready to get better.
EatingDisorders(2014) Negative Effects of Over Exercising, EatingDisordersOnline, http://www.eatingdisordersonline.com/explain/negative-effects-exercise.php
HealthCheck (2014) Understanding Free Radicals and Antioxidants, Health Check Systems,http://www.healthchecksystems.com/antioxid.htm
NEDA (2014), Health Consequences of Eating Disorders, NEDA,https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/health-consequences-eating-disorders
Webmd (2014) Your Exercise Routine, How Much is Enough, Wedmd, http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/guide/your-exercise-routine-how-much-is-enough
Win (2014) Do You Know Some of the Health Risk of Being Overweight, WIN, http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/health_risks.htm
Zanker (2011) Osteoporosis in Eating Disorders, F.E.A.S.T, http://feast-ed.org/Osteoporosisandeatingdisorders.aspx