Even though it’s tough, there’s help for people with eating disorders

by Ghost writers
7 minutes read

W

ho doesn’t want to eat?  It is a normal biological need, something healthy and positive, but destructive, especially for those who experience a disease known as an eating disorder. 

Researchers say 9% of the U.S. population, or 28.8 million Americans, will acquire this condition in their lifetime.  Although the consequences of eating disorders might not be noticeable initially if left untreated, the obvious becomes known, and the devastating ramifications present challenges to not only the suffering but also those closest to them. 

In her book Wasted A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia is an autobiography, author Marya Hornbacher bravely outlines her 14-year struggle with an eating disorder.   “I wanted to kill the me underneath. That fact haunted my days and nights. When you realize you hate yourself so much when you realize that you cannot stand who you are, and this deep spite has been the motivation behind your behavior for many years, your brain can’t quite deal with it…,” Hornbacher writes in the best-selling book which sold over a million copies. 

Sadly, eating disorders are not limited to age, gender, ethnicity, or body shape.  The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) says the following is an accurate representation of statistical facts for those prone to eating disorders.

Gay and others..

.Gay men are seven times more likely to report binge-eating and twelve times more likely to report purging than heterosexual men.6

Gay and bisexual boys are significantly more likely to fast, vomit, or take laxatives or diet pills to control their weight.6

Transgender college students report experiencing disordered eating at approximately four times the rate of their cisgender classmates.7

32% of transgender people report using their eating disorders to modify their bodies without hormones.8

56% of transgender people with eating disorders believe their disorder is not related to their physical body.8

Gender dysphoria and body dissatisfaction in transgender people are often cited as key links to eating disorders.7

Non-binary people may restrict their eating to appear thin, consistent with the common stereotype of androgynous people in popular culture.

Black, Indigenous, and People of Color

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BIPOC are significantly less likely than white people to have been asked by a doctor about eating disorder symptoms.

BIPOC with eating disorders is half as likely to be diagnosed or to receive treatment.

Black people are less likely to be diagnosed with anorexia than white people but may experience the condition for a longer time.

Black teenagers are 50% more likely than white teenagers to exhibit bulimic behavior, such as binge-eating and purging.

Hispanic people are significantly more likely to suffer from bulimia nervosa than their non-Hispanic peers.

Asian American college students report higher rates of restriction compared with their white peers and higher rates of purging, muscle building, and cognitive restraint than their white or non-Asian, BIPOC peers.

Asian American college students report higher levels of body dissatisfaction and negative attitudes toward obesity than their non-Asian, BIPOC peers.

Sometimes, eating disorders present challenges to professionals and those who cherished the suffering because the symptoms of eating disorders can appear deceptive.  For example, those with disguised eating disorders can rationalize their lack of eating with the traditional claims of being overworked. Or maybe on a particular day, they preferred to eat less because they had a big meal in the morning. Therefore, they convince their brains they are not hungry, although the hunger sensation is there.  

Significant Obstacle

 A major issue when trying to get a handle on helping those with  eating disorders is the inability to pin down when “things are getting out of control.”  For example, it’s nearly impossible to monitor their food intake, weight, and diet to name a few.  Still yet, regardless of how hypervigilant the concerned person is, it’s nearly unthinkable to monitor what the sufferer does in the bathroom, which oftentimes is where they vomit.

Thankfully, as time progresses, the signs of eating disorders reveal themselves, and below are just a few examples.  

Behavioral

This is the process whereby they begin to cut back on basic meals. They refuse to eat foods usually associated with fat and obesity, such as carbohydrates and fatty foods.  They start extreme diets to the point that they begin to starve themselves.  Because they are desperate to lose weight, they forget to eat a balanced diet and begin to overeat a specific group of foods (which is exceptionally harmful).   They watch their weight very closely and say they gain weight after eating just a few foods.  They frequently check their appearances on the alert for any signals that they perceive are deficiencies.

Bulimia nervosa

“Bulimia is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder. People with this condition binge eat. They then take steps to avoid weight gain,” noted staffers at the Mayo Clinic. “Most commonly, this means vomiting (purging). But it can also mean excessive exercising or fasting.”

Experts say the following are signs of bulimia

Image result for Bulimia nervosa

What are the Warning Signs of Bulimia?

Episodes of binge eating.

Self-induced vomiting.

Smelling like vomit.

Misuse of laxatives and diuretics.

Complaining about body image.

Expressing guilt or shame about eating.

Depression.

Irritability.

Anorexia nervosa

“Anorexia (an-o-REK-see-uh) Nervosa — often simply called anorexia — is an eating disorder characterized by abnormally low body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight, and a distorted perception of weight. People with anorexia place a high value on controlling their weight and shape, using extreme efforts that tend to significantly interfere with their lives,” say staffers at Mayo Clinic.

Physical signs and symptoms of anorexia may include:

Extreme weight loss or not making expected developmental weight gains

Thin appearance

Abnormal blood counts

Fatigue

Insomnia

Dizziness or fainting

Bluish discoloration of the fingers

Hair that thins, breaks, or falls out

Soft, downy hair covering the body

Absence of menstruation

Constipation and abdominal pain

Dry or yellowish skin

Intolerance of cold

Irregular heart rhythms

Low blood pressure

Dehydration

Swelling of arms or legs

Eroded teeth and calluses on the knuckles from induced vomiting

Due to complicated factors, those who struggle with eating disorders often fail to take their condition seriously, but prefer their desired outcome—a distorted body image.  What researchers have since discovered is that certain childhood upbringing functions an alarming role in the occurrence of eating disorders.

“The American Psychological Association (APA) has shown that past abuse or trauma, low self-esteem, bullying, poor parental relationships, borderline personality disorder, substance abuse, non-suicidal self-injury disorder (NSSI), a perfectionistic personality, difficulty communicating negative emotions, difficulty resolving conflict, and genetics are known underlying triggers that contribute to the development of an eating disorder,” writes Kristen Fuller, M.D.

Emotional signs

They become emotional about small matters.

They have low self-esteem.

They never feel good about their appearance, even when they look good.

They have no control over food.

Extreme mood swings.

Such people usually think way too much.

They don’t know when they eat and consume large amounts of food.

Physical Signs

Dry skin, hair, and brittle nails.

Difficulty sleeping and breathing. 

Dizziness, weakness, acid reflux, and other symptoms related to digestion. 

Fainting and slow wound healing. 

Thought-provoking

People who suffer from eating disorders and their families routinely believe that they are struggling alone, which is not the case.  Trying to overcome this condition is challenging and takes an emotional drain on those who care.  This is why both the eating-disordered individual and their loved ones must take proper steps to increase the odds of success. 

The following tips have been studied for years by specialists in the field of mental health.  And various experts suggest that treatment for this disorder involves:

Foster and reinforce a healthy body image in your children, no matter what their size or shape. Help them build confidence in ways other than their appearance.

Have regular, enjoyable family meals.

Avoid talking about weight at home. Focus instead on having a healthy lifestyle.

Discourage dieting, especially when it involves unhealthy weight-control behaviors, such as fasting, using weight-loss supplements or laxatives, or self-induced vomiting.

Talk with your primary care provider. He or she may be in a good position to identify early indicators of an eating disorder and help prevent its development.

If you notice a relative or friend who seems to have food issues that could lead to or indicate an eating disorder, consider supportively talking to the person about these issues and ask how you can help.

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