Dealing with Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are a very serious problem not only in America, but all across the globe. It is estimated that an eating disorder affects up to 24 million Americans and 70 million people worldwide. (Source: http://www.renfrew.org) Eating disorders affect both men and women who are usually between the ages of 12-25. Just because a person has not been diagnosed by a physician does not mean that he or she doesn’t suffer from an eating disorder. Eating disorders, if not treated, can be fatal for the person suffering from the problem.

Our society has set us up to develop an eating disorder. All you have to do is turn on the television and you will hear women saying that they want to become thinner and men saying that they want to become more ripped and muscular. Society has gotten better, but for the most part overweight and obese people are still treated differently than skinny people. We are now starting to see plus size models, but we don’t see people who are clinically obese walking the runway.

People aspire to be like the model who is a stick figure, not the one who has some extra weight. The media places a lot of importance on body image and dieting so that it is hard for young girls and boys to look in the mirror and appreciate what they see when they constantly hear, “You need to look like this” or “You need to weigh this much.” These influences cause kids to start dieting at a young age and experimenting with different things that will cause them to lose weight and keep it off. This is ultimately how an eating disorder develops.

Eating Disorders Explained

Knowledge is power, and the more that we understand about eating disorders will allow us to prevent them from plaguing people in the future. It is not only important to understand what types of disorders are out there, and the symptoms and effects, but we must educate the youth so that they do not fall into these pitfalls and suffer the way so many have. There are three main types of eating disorders that people suffer from — anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and bulimia nervosa.

These diseases are extremely serious, and if not treated by proper health care professionals, will ultimately lead in death. Anorexia, binge eating disorder, and bulimia are not solely physical problems that the person must overcome. The origins have deep-seeded psychological roots and those problems must be addressed as well. One of the biggest problems that leads to a person falling into an eating disorder is an unhealthy body image.

People see themselves differently than they really are and have a negative outlook on their image. These people want to be “in control” of their bodies and the only way they find that they can is with food. First the dieting begins, and as the person starts to see changes, he or she wants more control, so they start obsessing about food. As the obsession and desire for control continues, the person finds his or herself on the path to an eating disorder.

Most people have a general understanding of eating disorders and the differences between them. Here are the three disorders explained so that you can see what makes each one different from the others. These definitions come from the National Eating Disorders Association.

Anorexia Nervosa

“Anorexia Nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.”

Anorexia is probably the most well known of the eating disorders. Celebrities such as Billy Bob Thornton, Karen Carpenter, Christina Ricci, Christine Alt, Fiona Apple, Tracy Gold and Nadia Comaneci have all suffered from this disorder. (Source: http://anorexics.net/celebrity_frame.html) The statistics about anorexia are unbelievable. It is reported that anorexia is the 3rd most common chronic illness among adolescents. Five to ten percent of anorexics die within ten years of onset; 18-20 percent die within twenty years of onset and only 50 percent report ever being cured. The reality of this illness is that it is very hard to overcome and failure to do so can result in death.

Binge Eating Disorder

“Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a type of eating disorder not otherwise specified and is characterized by recurrent binge eating without the regular use of compensatory measures to counter the binge eating.”

This disorder is unlike the other two, where as the person affected with the disease is not using this method to lose weight. Binge eating disorder is an unhealthy coping method that people use to deal with their underlying issues, which may or may not be body image-related.

Bulimia Nervosa

“Bulimia Nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by a cycle of bingeing and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting designed to undo or disorders”, which include compensate for the effects of binge eating” (Source: http://www.uhs.umich.edu/eatingdisorders).

Bulimia nervosa is different from binge eating disorder because of the “compensatory vomiting or the use of laxatives to eliminate the food that they have consumed. Bulimia often occurs in athletes such as gymnasts, wrestlers, dancers, horse jockeys, football players, and runners. (Source: National Institute of Mental Health)

How to Combat Eating Disorders

Even though much is known about eating disorders, people are still affected each and every day. While it is possible to help people once they are afflicted with an eating disorder, it is easier (and more ideal) to try to reach them before the disorder sets in. There are several ways that this can be done. The first way is by educating people on the importance of proper nutrition. It is important to inform young kids how nutrition effects their body and what will happen if they don’t consume the right amounts of nutrients such as protein. This same method would work well for adolescents and young adults. It is never too late to educate someone on nutrition.

Not only should people be educated on proper nutrition, but they should also be educated on the sources that contain vital nutrients. Profect, a liquid source of protein, can play an important role in combating eating disorders. This source of protein can be incorporated into a well-balanced diet and help people to reach their required allotment of macronutrients while at the same time not loading them up with calories or fat. This protein source will also help to make sure that people suffering from an eating disorder won’t continue to lose valuable muscle and organ mass and cause them to continue to waste away.

When dealing with people suffering from an eating disorder, it is important not to press them about it. You should keep an eye out and look for changes, but confronting them could wind up doing more harm than good. If you feel that someone you love has an eating disorder, then it is best to talk with a qualified professional to determine the best course of action to take.

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