Food for Thought – All You MUST Know About Eating Disorders

Did you know? Eating disorder is a psychiatric condition and causes the most deaths, more than any other disorders. When you hear eating disorder, does a stick thin looking figure come to your mind? According to World Health Organization (WHO), the normal Body Mass Index (BMI) is between 18.5 and 24.9. However, those suffering from an eating disorder may be on either side of the spectrum, depending on which type of eating disorder they have.

Common Eating Disorders You must know

Anorexia Nervosa: If you imagine the stick thin figures here, then you are correct. A person with this eating disorder restricts intake of food to a large extent and appear underweight. You or your loved one may not even know you have it. This condition is rather common with women than men.

Bulimia Nervosa: You will know you or your loved one has it when they binge food, uncontrollably and then feel guilty about it. They compensate the binge, either with laxatives or by vomiting the food out of their systems. It may or may not be done every day but there are episodes of such behaviour.

Binge Eating: Similar to Bulimia, a person with binge eating disorder may not have control over how much food they eat at a go. The difference is no use of laxatives or vomit. People with this disorder are obese and also, at a serious risk of high cholesterol and diabetes.

Avoidant Disorder: This condition is more common in males than any other condition. Here, the food is restricted in the diet because of a previous negative experience, for instance, choking. This disorder may begin in early childhood and continue in later years too.

Pica: If you see a pregnant woman with weird cravings, it’s one thing. But it’s quite another to see a regular person or child crave for chalks, dirt or hair. This eating disorder is associated with consumption of non-food substances.

It’s Important to recognise the seriousness of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are life-threatening conditions causing malnutrition, organ failure, and even sudden death. However, being a psychiatric condition, 50 percent of eating disorder deaths are from suicide. This was a burgeoning part of the plot in the movie “Black Swan” – have you seen it? The prima ballerina has an overbearing mother with high expectations of her daughter. The lead actor is obsessed with her perception of self-esteem and attractiveness, and the athletic endeavour of ballet only spawns the eating disorder some more, leading the issue of perfection to {Spoiler alert!} her ultimate suicide.

The Substance Abuse and other Connections

The people with a substance abuse problem, i.e. alcohol or drugs, then they are 5 times more likely to have an eating disorder too. There are studies that indicate girls who develop an eating order in younger ages are more likely to develop a substance abuse problem later on in life. Gay or bisexual boys or men are more likely to develop these disorders too.

So, what are the other causes of this life-threatening physical and psychiatric condition? It’s not just the media and the body image issues, but there are many underlying causes that give birth to an eating disorder for all men, women, and children.

  • Genetics
  • Family distress
  • Sexual abuse
  • Pressure to lose or maintain weight
  • Athletic endeavours

Eating disorders and thought patterns

People coming from a distressed home; have faced the death of a loved one or domestic violence, bullying or a simple case of not fitting in after puberty, etc., are more likely to develop an eating disorder to have a sense of control over their lives. It can be a coping mechanism, to have that sense of control where no one else can decide for them.

An opposite thought pattern is one to excel. If you are a perfectionist then, restricting food in your diet is a source of achievement, you could say no to that chocolate cake, yes, but having an eating disorder can be the wrong marker for achievement.

If you talk to a person with an eating disorder or if you have one, then this is important to know. Your inner critic is dominant and will say things or make you think of things that make you feel not-so-good enough about yourself.

The underlying themes of self-worth

If you wish you could go about without thinking about food, then see a professional, a therapist who can help you cope with this issue. You can also keep a journal as a cathartic exercise or get on a distraction hobby to indulge in, every time you feel the need to binge eat or follow any other forms of eating disorders.