What is an eating Disorder?
We are all conscious about how we look and that is great! This makes us aware of what we eat, and watch our weight. Some of us however, are never satisfied. When weight watching is taken to extremes, it can lead to an intense fear of gaining or losing weight and a distorted body image. This means an average-sized person may look in a mirror and see a fat or very thin, ugly person. As a result, one may start to eat very less or more than required. Sometimes we binge (overeat, consuming very large quantities of food) and sometimes purge this food (by self inducing vomiting, over-exercising or using laxatives). Having this kind of relationship with the food we eat is what is called an eating disorder. Eating disorders affect a person’s physical and emotional health. They are an extremely dangerous illness and can be fatal if not treated.
What are some of the common types of eating disorders?
- Anorexia Nervosa
What is Anorexia Nervosa?
A person with anorexia nervosa typically starves herself/himself to be skinny thus experiencing excessive weight loss. They may even take diet pills to control the hunger and convince everyone that they are not hungry.
What is bulimia?
Bulimia is characterized by habitual binge eating and purging. People with Bulimia eat even when they aren’t hungry and feel they have no control over their eating. Eating excessively makes them guilty and ashamed and so they try to get rid of the food by vomiting or exercising.
The continuous vomiting involved in bulimia can cause tears and severe inflammation of the esophagus, in addition to gastric disturbances, blood pressure problems, and erosion of the tooth enamel.
A person who has either anorexia or bulimia can experience dehydration and other medical complications. In more severe cases, it can also affect the brain and cause dizziness, fainting, agitation, confusion, inability to concentrate, and loss of memory.
So how and why is an eating disorder caused?
It’s a combination of many emotional, genetic and social factors. Characterized by feelings of helplessness, low self esteem, sadness and the need to be perfect, perhaps this is the only way some of us feel we can get some control over our lives. The media with its portrayal of skinny unrealistic models as the ‘in’ thing in fashion and beauty doesn’t help either.
The important thing to remember is that eating disorders are treatable and help is available. Physicians, counselors, psychologists and psychotherapist are all trained to address the underlying problems and help someone get better.
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Your best bet against developing an eating disorder
- Identify and respect everything about yourself- the inside and the outside.
- Be yourself; don’t try to look like models in magazines.
- It is OK to talk or think about weight, calories, and food but not excessively when that is all that occupies your mind.
- Try to make eating a positive experience: eating fuels both your body and mind!
- Don’t diet! Try to eat healthy foods and adopt healthy eating habits.
- Work on ways to cope with negative feelings, such as talking to friends or family, listening to music, doing crafts or pick up a totally new hobby. Practicing healthy ways to deal with stress may help you avoid using food to deal with emotions.
I suspect a friend has an eating disorder. How can I help them?
Encourage them to seek help. And be patient. It is likely that someone with an eating disorder will be in denial and may not be very open to you helping them. Your persistence will be important in helping them. Most people who do recover from these disorders do so with the help of their families and friends.
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What is obesity?
Obesity is different from just being overweight. An obese person has excessive body fat, which puts them at a higher risk for serious health related problems.
To determine if someone is obese, doctors and other health care professionals often use a measurement called body mass index (BMI). Body Mass Index (BMI) is a number calculated from a person’s weight and height. BMI is a reliable indicator of the total body mass.
Once the doctor has calculated an individual’s BMI, they plot this number on a specific chart to see how it compares to other people of the same age and gender.
People gain weight when the body takes in more calories than it burns off and these extra calories then in turn get stored as fat. The amount of weight gain that leads to obesity does not happen in a few weeks or months. People who are obese have usually been getting more calories than they need for years. Some factors leading to obesity are genetics, hormonal and emotional challenges and a sedentary lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle is the way to deal with Obesity. You could:
- Take a walk and make it regular, go with friends or family
- Take up a sport
- Eat well. Avoid greasy halwas, kebab’s, parathas and dishes like nihari. Make them only ‘special occasion’ dishes.
- Read books, it actually burns more calories than watching TV!
Eating disorder and Depression.
There also seems to be a direct connection in some people to clinical Depression. The eating disorder sometimes causes the depression or the depression can lead to the eating disorder.
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Lastly, what about comfort eating and dieting?
It is not uncommon for people to eat when they are feeling sad, angry, hopeless, bored or lonely. Eating may make one feel better in the short term. Most of us know how great chocolate feels right after you eat it. This is because it affects the chemicals in the brain responsible for regulating moods. But these effects usually don’t last very long. Eating in response to emotions, particularly if you are not hungry, is known as comfort eating.
Eating your favorite food when something upsets you is OK and everybody is likely to do it from time to time. Comfort eating may be a problem if you are regularly feeling sad, angry, hopeless, bored or lonely and are using food to cope with these feelings. If this is the case, it may be a good idea to talk to someone about your feelings and look at other ways of managing them.
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Most of us think that dieting can take care of the excess pounds that we may have packed on. We usually diet by consuming fewer calories. Eventually, this leads to fewer calories being taken in than the body needs; resulting in the body metabolizing stored body fat. This leads to weight loss.
Some people try to gain weight and go on a high calorie diet which makes them put on pounds.
It is important to understand that adolescents usually do not need to diet in this way. Unlike adults, they are still growing and developing. During this time, they need a variety of healthy foods to keep their bodies growing properly. Some are overweight, but even overweight young adults can improve their health simply by eating nutritious foods and being more active.
Please see the the BMI calculator here : http://www.nutri.info/online_body_mass_index_calculator.htm.
More information on the Depression hot link is found at: