We are aware that healthy eating is important to maximize our health, but unfortunately, many people develop problems with their body image which prevent them from maintaining a healthy eating lifestyle. The severity of these eating disorders varies significantly from person to person, but they are all alike in one respect – they are very detrimental to a person’s health.
The most common kind of eating disorder that a person may develop is anorexia. Anorexia occurs when someone is overly concerned with their weight and simply refuses to eat. The unfortunate aspect of anorexia is that very often the person concerned is not overweight but they believe that if they were to lose weight, their new thinner body would be more beautiful. This kind of thinking results from a distorted perception of what their body actually looks like.
Someone suffering from anorexia usually tries to hide it by discarding the food without anyone knowing, cutting the food into small pieces to make it look smaller, or skipping entire meals then often having to lie about that. Anorexia is extremely dangerous because it does not allow a person to lose weight in a healthy way. Reducing the amount of fat in your diet is fine, but failing to get adequate amounts of proteins, vitamins, minerals, water, and other nutrients can make your body lose muscle weight and weaken. For many, the wasting continues to such an extent that it cannot be readily reversed, even by hospital treatment.
Another common type of eating disorder is bulimia. With an anorexic person the rapid weight loss is very observable, often being the key factor which alerts other family members. Someone who has bulimia however, may or may not be losing weight. A person suffering from bulimia is trying to achieve the same end result as a person with anorexia – forced weight reduction. But the bulimic person does not have the will power to give up eating food, and instead vomits or uses laxatives after meals to rid the body of these foods. Like anorexia does, this can rob the body of key nutrients, and it can also lead to significant problems in the digestive system, throat, and mouth, which are usually unable to cope with regular induced vomiting.
The third main type of eating disorder is binge eating. This is a combination of anorexia and bulimia in most cases. A binge eater will, like a bulimic, not deprive themselves of food. Rather, someone who is a binge eater will eat enormous amounts of food in a single sitting, often cheaper foods of low nutritional value. But instead of vomiting as the bulimic person does, a binge eater will then refuse to eat at all and exercise rigorously for a day or two, but then commence an eating binge once again. This can lead to major problems with maintaining a health, stable weight.
Eating disorders can affect both men and women of any age. However, most commonly, victims of these eating disorders are teen and young adult girls, who seem to be those who have greatest difficulty in developing a sensible attitude to their body image, wanting to become thinner as they believe this will make them ‘more beautiful’.
Many people die every year as a result of complications arising from these eating disorders. However, as a result of the increase in the number of people suffering from eating disorders over recent years, the psychological and physical factors involved are now better understood and professional assistance is now widely available.
If you or someone you know suffers from an eating disorder, it is important to seek help as soon as possible.