An eating disorder is any condition characterised by abnormal or irregular eating habits and an obsession with food, body weight and shape. Often, eating disorders are confused for a lifestyle choice. Which is very untrue. They are very serious and could even be fatal. And as per studies, they’re generally more prevalent among young women.
An eating disorder is characterised with having an abnormal relationship with food. It could be eating a lot or not eating enough. In the recent past, many actors have spoken about battling eating disorders and the related depression. In 2016, Richa Chadha spoke about how she felt guilty every time she was hungry, while earlier this year Hazel Keech spoke about starving herself to look a certain way.
Internationally too, celebrities like Demi Lovato, Paula Abdul, Russell Brand, Lady Gaga and even Princess Diana amongst many others have opened up about their journey with the disorder. While eating disorders weren’t openly discussed before, they’re now increasingly recognised and understood better, thanks to more celebrities sharing their struggles. And to understand this better, read on to know all about it.
The 3 common eating disorders:
1. Anorexia Nervosa
People with anorexia may see themselves as overweight even when they may have abnormally low body weight. They have an intense fear of gaining weight, severely restrict the amount of food they eat, weigh themselves constantly, exercise way more than normal, and are constantly obsessed with losing weight.
Anorexia can have harmful consequences to one’s health. It can lead to brain damage, multi-organ failure, bone loss, heart difficulties, infertility and even death.
2. Bulimia Nervosa
People with bulimia go through episodic cycles of first eating an unusually large amount of foo, followed by actions to compensate for it- like forced vomiting, excessive exercise, fasting and using laxatives or diuretics. They may fear weight gain and be obsessed with their body size and shape. The repeated binge-eating and purging cycles are generally conducted in secret. People around may not even be aware of their condition. They suffer from intense feelings of shame and guilt. Bulimia could lead to gastrointestinal problems, dehydration, and heart-related issues.
3. Binge-eating Disorder
Those who suffer from this condition have little or no control over their food intake. They may eat even when they are full or not hungry. Unlike bulimics however, periods of binging isn’t followed by purging. This leads to weight gain and obesity. An episode of binging may be followed by feelings of shame, guilt or disgust.
Signs that someone suffers from an eating disorder:
- Skipping meals.
- Making excuses not to eat.
- Constantly obsessing over being fat.
- Exercising too much.
- Going to the toilet in between meals.
- Chronic dieting.
- Constant weight fluctuations.
- Obsessively counting calories.
- Avoiding normal social situations.
- Eating in secret.
- Eating way more than normal.
- Expressing intense negative feelings about eating.
- Periods of overeating followed by fasting.
What causes eating disorders?
Eating disorders may be caused by a combination of biological, psychological, behavioural and social conditions like:
- Hormonal problems.
- Nutritional deficiencies.
- Low self-esteem.
- Poor body image.
- Dysfunctional family/troubled relationships.
- Need for perfectionism.
- Professions that promote being thin like modelling or showbiz.
- Cultural or peer pressure.
Eating disorders frequently appear during teens but may also develop later in life. An eating disorder could be difficult to manage or treat by yourself. That’s why it’s essential to reach out to a therapist or a medical professional. Treatment could include any one or a combination of the following:
- Individual or group psychotherapy.
- Medical care.
- Nutritional counselling.
Eating disorders can also be prevented by cultivating a positive body image, and being conscious of what we say to those around us.