OVERCOMING EATING DISORDERS
“It was something I just couldn’t control. The feeling of food entering my body and then sticking to it petrified me. I just had to rid myself off it. It had to leave my body. Everyone told me that it wasn’t right, what I was doing. I knew it too somewhere that this isn’t healthy. It began during the second year of my college when I heard from someone that puking out what I ate is a good way to maintain my body weight without having to let go off my food cravings. It seemed like a win-win situation back then but now it is something I can’t control. When I’m eating I can’t stop, I feel a void inside of me which cannot be filled. So I eat, eat and eat. Then I feel guilty. I think about how I will look when I gain more weight. I feel scared and I have to let it out.”SanyaTyagi, 25
Dealing with Guilt and ShameSource
Sanya is a recovering Bulimic and has been suffering from this eating disorder since the past six years, when she was just 19 years old. At that time she weighed 60 kilos and was severely perturbed by the way she looked. It all began when she was rejected to participate in some local fashion show as she wasn’t “skinny” enough. Sanya says that since then she began to lose all her self-confidence and began to idealize the body type that models flaunt and wanted to be just like them. What started as an experiment soon became a living nightmare for her and something that she is still trying to recover from.
Eating disorders are psychological illnesses that are grave and need serious attention. It is easy to ignore the signs and symptoms of these disorders as they develop gradually. Especially lack of knowledge regarding the disorders makes it even more difficult in distinguishing people who are suffering.
Eating disorders are characterized by abnormal eating habits that range from either eating insufficiently or eating excessively, both being detrimental to the physical and mental health of the person. Interestingly, it has been seen that women run a higher risk of developing an eating disorder than men. A lot can be attributed to the cultural idealization of the “right” body type for a woman that is accepted by the society as a standard for beauty. These days these idealizations are further hyped by the media in all forms of media, whether television or social. This creates, at times, an impossible goal for many who want to attain that perfect body type but are unable to do so. The feeling of shame and guilt come to the fore and the sufferers lose all their self-confidence.
TYPES OF EATING DISORDERS
ANOREXIA NERVOSA: It is characterized by an obsessive fear of gaining weight or refusal to do so. The food intake by the individual is inadequate leading to steep weight loss. As a consequence it causes menstruation to stop, loss of bone, loss of skin integrity and heart related problems which could also be fatal. In order to keep their body weight as low as possible, individuals literally starve themselves leading to gruesome results.
BULIMIA NERVOSA: A form of eating disorder in which a period of recurrent binge eating is followed by compensating for it by way of purging or vomiting out the food consumed. This becomes a compulsive pattern where the person cannot help stuffing themselves and then cannot help letting out the contents from the body either by self-induced vomiting or excessive use of laxatives. It is characterized with an inability to control oneself from eating and then intense emotions of shame and guilt.
BINGE EATING: This is characterized by a recurrent pattern of excessive eating/binging without the compensatory behavior of purging. However, this episode also is marked by excessive feelings of guilt and shame post overeating. There’s incessant eating even without feeling hungry to the point of being discomforted.
Though there are biological and genetic causes behind the development of these eating disorders, there are many psychological reasons that can cause them. Mostly anxiety issues can be spotted behind their genesis. Common symptoms include physical symptoms, psychological symptoms and behavioral symptoms.
Physical symptoms likerapid weight loss, loss or disturbance of menstruation in women, lethargy and low energy, swelling around the cheeks or jaw, calluses on knuckles, damage to teeth and bad breath due to constant vomiting are frequent.
The associated psychological symptoms are inclusive of feeling anxious and or irritable around meal times, inability to control an eating spree, a distorted body image, seeking punishment or comfort from food, feelings of shame and guilt associated with the disorder.
As a consequence of psychological pressures, certain behavioral symptoms emerge like dieting behavior, eating privately, binge eating, compulsive or excessive exercising even during injuries and illnesses, changes in food preferences, extreme sensitivity to comments about body shape, weight, eating and exercise habits.
TREATING EATING DISORDERS
Early diagnosis is perhaps the best hope for a positive prognosis for such eating disorders. As nutrition expert, Dr. Sudha Sharma says, “most people with these disorders require psychological counseling to help them recover from the issues that cause them these fears and anxieties. A host of people who come to us for help are suffering from eating disorders and due to lack of knowledge about their condition have been deteriorating. We are trained in identifying such people and we promptly send them to psychologists.”
Believing in the age-old adage that “prevention is better than cure”if you find yourself or others around you inclining towards this deadly disorder then seek help immediately.