How do you see yourself when you look in the mirror? No matter how few calories you eat or how much you exercise in a day, do you tell yourself you need to lose weight? Do you feel guilty about what you just ate and immediately go to the bathroom to purge? Do you find comfort in overeating? If you’ve answered yes to any of these, you, my friend, may have an eating disorder. Eating disorders are very serious conditions in which you are so preoccupied with food and weight, you often focus on nothing else.
Of the three main types of eating disorders; Bulimia Nervosa, Anorexia Nervosa and Binge Eating, binge eating is considered the most common. Eating disorders cause serious physical problems and are life-threatening if left untreated.
Bulimics suffer from episodes of binging and purging. During these episodes, a person typically eats a large amount of food in a short time, then vomits it back up to rid themselves of the calories. Bulimics are also known to use laxatives frequently and exercise excessively. Bulimics can often have sores or ulcers in their mouth and esophagus. Frequent vomiting can also lead to extensive damage to their teeth. Poor nutrition eventually leads to thinning hair, nails, and skin issues. Commonly, overuse of laxatives leads to bowel problems and irregularity.
A person suffering from anorexia nervosa is often obsessed with food and being thin. It is considered to be self-starvation. Common signs that a person may be suffering from anorexia are refusing to eat, exercising excessively, and having a thin appearance. Typically someone suffering from anorexia maintain a diet of lettuce, sometimes yogurt, maybe fruits and vegetables, diet pills to help prevent hunger, and water. Anorexics eventually quit having periods which can lead to other health problems.
Binge eating is a little different in that binge eaters eat an unusually large amount of food, even past the point of feeling full, but do not go through the purging cycle. Binge eaters are often overweight and obese or could be a normal weight. There may not be any signs that someone has a binge eating disorder. Binge eaters commonly use food to cope with depression, stress, and anxiety. These are people who have not learned how to cope with uncomfortable feelings and they find it soothing and comforting to overeat.
If you are female, particularly a teenage girl or young woman, you are more at risk than teen boys or young men. Eating disorders can occur across a broad age range, however, they are mostly seen in girls in their teens and early 20’s. Family history, family influences, and emotional disorders can also put someone at risk for an eating disorders. Most often this behavior is learned from a close friend or family member.
Eating disorders, in general, can be very devastating. They can be very hard on your body and if not treated properly can lead to heart disease, digestive problems and bowel irregularities, kidney damage, severe tooth decay, type 2 diabetes, substance abuse and even death. If your life is at risk, you may need immediate hospitalization to stabilize your health.
Eating disorders are considered an addiction. Individual and family psychotherapy, in addition to nutritional education and counseling, are part of most treatment programs. Learning how your body processes food as well as the nutrients that are needed to sustain life are a very important process in healing and recovery. If you are one of the millions of Americans suffering from an eating disorder, don’t hesitate to get help. Your life depends on it!