Published on September 6th, 2014 | by Lesley Paul0
Anorexia vs. Healthy Eating
“Put your make-up on
Get your nails done
Curl your hair
Run the extra mile
Keep it slim so they like you, do they like you?”*
We look in the mirror and wish we were skinnier, more beautiful, fitter or smaller. The media bombards us from all angles with touched-up images of models that epitomize human perfection. And this summer, the fashion industry hit us one more time when retailer J. Crew came out with the size 000 clothes.
By adolescence, more than half of teenage girls (and even boys) feel the pressure to be thin and beautiful. This pressure erodes our self-esteem, increases anxiety and in some cases leads to eating disorders.
According to the National Eating Disorder Information Centre, approximately one percent of the adult population suffers from an eating disorder. Although more common in women, men are not immune as the fashion industry focuses on male models that appear slimmer and more androgynous. Mainstream attitudes towards food and weight begin at a very young age. Sadly, the earlier a child begins obsessing about his/her weight through strict dieting the more likely they are to develop an eating disorder.
There are three main types of eating disorders: Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. Although they have different symptoms, they all have one thing in common; an unhealthy obsession with body image that affects the person’s self-esteem. They often feel that they are out of control and being able to manage one’s weight to what they feel is acceptable helps them to feel in control.
Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by inadequate food intake leading to dangerously low weight and an intense fear of weight gain. There is often an inability to truly appreciate the severity of the disorder. Obviously, such restriction can have serious consequences such as heart and kidney problems, bone loss, digestive problems and even fertility problems. Sadly, up to ten percent of those with anorexia nervosa will die from complications or suicide.
On the other hand, those with Bulimia Nervosafrequently consume very large amounts of food and then purge by self-induced vomiting or extensive laxative use. Long-term, these habits can also lead to kidney and digestive problems as well as dehydration and damage to the mouth, teeth and throat due to vomiting. Those with Binge-eating disorder have similar behaviours, however they do not find ways to prevent weight gain. They often feel ashamed or guilty about their habits that can lead to weight gain, Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
While it seems that those with an eating disorder are focused on food and body image, the roots run much deeper. Eating disorders are complex conditions involving behavioural, biological, emotional, psychological and social factors. To say that the media is solely responsible for causing an eating disorder is wrong, although it certainly contributes to the low self-esteem of many.
Eating disorders can be treated. Actually seeking treatment is probably the most challenging aspects of healing. Not only will they have to face their worst fear of gaining weight but there is also the discussion of the guilt and shame felt with the illness. Treatment of an eating disorder will often involve many health professionals. It may include hospitalization to treat the physical symptoms, counseling (cognitive-behavioural therapy and interpersonal therapy), support groups, stress management, and in some cases medication to help with mood problems that often accompany eating disorders. It is common for the entire family or even friends to be involved in treatment especially when it involves a young person. Treatment will take time and may be ongoing, but a full recovery is possible.
“You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing.
.…Take a breath
Look into the mirror, at yourself
Don’t you like you?
‘Cause I like you.”*
For more information on eating disorders:
- National Eating Disorders Information Centre (nedic.ca)
- Canadian Mental Health Association (cmha.ca)
- National Eating Disorders Association (nationaleatingdisorders.org)
*Caillat, Colbie. “Try.” “Gypsy Heart”, 2014 Republic Records
Lesley Paul, Pharmacist