This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness week and I felt compelled to add to this very important conversation as I have personally seen the affects first hand; as I am sure, sadly, that nearly every 20-something girl has either experienced it themselves or come across someone who has. Like any disease it can put everyone involved in a very tricky and dangerous situation. It is hard to deal with because you know that those involved are simply just trying to better themselves, however this obsession is not a healthy one.
To start off I think the entire concept of eating disorders is grossly misunderstood and have many stigmas attached to them, so here’s a few facts. Eating disorders come in all shapes in sizes, but generally boils down to ‘extreme emotions, attitudes, and behavior surrounding weight and food issues’ as defined by http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org. The biggest threat that eating disorders pose to those it affects is that if gone untreated it can severely jeopardize their health.
-‘The best solution is to just tell someone who isn’t eating just to eat!’
What many people don’t realize is that people struggling with an eating disorder have a deeply emotional connection to food and see it not as a nutrient but rather in a strict calorie and fat mindset. Telling someone to eat is like telling someone who is wheelchair bound to simply walk.
-‘Only women can suffer from eating disorders!’
Although 80% of people struggling with bulimia nervosa are females, that leaves a an entire 20% as males, and those are only the reported cases.
-‘Eating disorders are caused by Photoshop in the media’
Such intense media can be part of the cause, however there are much more connections to the biological and genetic and psychological causes. However, that does not mean that such images are anymore acceptable as they do give unrealistic expectations to young girls who are still developing their own opinion of what is considered acceptable.
-‘It is all a cry for attention’
Although at first progress it may bring positive attention, however as it progresses attention can become negative, which could only further the obsession of those affected.
-‘It is a just a teen girl phase’
Besides it being found in also males, they can begin during the teen phase but it is also very common in middle-aged women. Furthermore such habits developed in teen stages can only the further the issues that can be found when older as they can turn into very harmful habits.
What are they exactly?
Anorexia nervosa is a form of self-starvation where someone strictly watches their food intake to the point that their body does not get adequate nutrients. This is extremely dangerous because people often underestimate how well programmed and fit our body’s are. Someone who purposefully keeps food from their body sends their body the message that they are in a dire situation, pushing your body to entire into starvation mode, essentially slowing down its processes in order to conserve energy. The longer such practices are maintained effects can include slow heart rate, low blood pressure, reduction of bone density, severe dehydration, and overall weakness. Although only .5-1% of American women suffers from anorexia nervosa it has one of the highest death rates of any medical health condition.
Bulimia Nervosa is defined as ‘a cycle of bingeing and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting in order to compensate for the effects of binge-eating.’ Symptoms are similar to anorexia nervosa in that there is a severe obsession with body image and feeling the need to control food intake or at least the affects of it. This presents additional harms to the body such as tooth decay, electrolyte imbalances that can lead to irregular heartbeats and possibly heart failure, and inflammation and possible rupture of the esophagus from frequent vomiting.
I hope this has brought some clarifying information as to eating disorders and the importance to their recognition and treatment. It is important to realize that those who are affected by them should not be ashamed because not only is it in your control but they should also not be thought of as weak, but rather that they are simply to better themselves. However, there are much healthier ways to achieve your goals, which is why I like to incorporate healthy tips and motivation in my writing. I fully support anyone who wants to improve their physical fitness and lifestyle, but your happiness is just as crucial! In such a body image obsessed culture it can be easy to become obsessed with what people see on the outside and assume that only drastic measures can help you achieve the exterior you want; or that being skinny is the only way to be happy. On the contrary we were all made as individuals, and if we try to fit into the mold of everyone else, what will happen to what made us so unique and special!
There is healthy way to see the results you purse, while keeping yourself happy. For those who feel that either they or someone they are close to is showing some of these systems do not be afraid to ask for help! Asking for help doesn’t make you weak but makes you strong because it shows that you are ready to take control back of your life! It may feel that at times you are too strong to let hunger or food control you, which makes you win, when on country you should feel strong because you have let yourself win in comfort and confidence in your own skin!
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