Food For Thought: Eating Disorders Awareness
Each year millions of people are affected by serious and sometimes life-threatening eating disorders. Thinking that eating and weight are the cause and result of many of their problems, people with eating disorders become trapped in a cycle of repeated, ritualistic and rigid behavior regarding food.
Anorexia nervosa involves intentional self-starvation, resulting in extreme weight loss (approximately 15% less than minimally normal body weight for age and height). People with anorexia typically look emaciated, but view themselves as fat and intensely fear weight gain. Because of their excessively low body weights, they usually develop many physical problems including dry skin and hair, digestive issues, osteoporosis (brittle bones), amenorrhea (cessation of menstrual periods), fatigue, and heart muscle weakness. Lanugo, a fine, downy layer of body hair, may develop to insulate the body in place of body fat. Psychological symptoms include extreme moodiness, isolation, food and exercise obsession, and feeling inadequate.
Bulimia entails alternating periods of binge eating and purging, typically done in secret because of shame about the behavior. Binges involve the rapid consumption of a large amount of food in a short period of time. Purges are measures to rid the body of this excess food and can include self-induced vomiting, fasting, over-exercising, and laxative, diuretic, enema or emetic abuse. Bulimics generally appear to be normal to slightly above average in weight, and may have frequent or rapid weight fluctuations. Consequences of bulimia may include ulcers, intestinal problems, heart irregularities, severe dental problems, swollen parotid glands, malnutrition, and general muscle weakness. Emotional symptoms may include feeling out of control when eating, feeling guilty after binges or purges, isolation, and depression.
Compulsive eating also includes episodes of uncontrolled eating or bingeing, but not purging. Compulsive eaters are usually slightly to severely overweight. As their weight increases they may suffer from shortness of breath, high blood pressure, diabetes, and joint problems. They may struggle with depression, shame, guilt and low self-esteem. A common myth is that all obese people are compulsive eaters; however research indicates that only 30 - 40% of overweight individuals suffer from compulsive eating disorder.
If you have concerns about your eating patterns or those of someone you love, be sure to stop by the Eating Disorders Screening on Thursday, February 26th from 10:00 – 2:00 PM in GSUB 312 for more information. You can also make an appointment to speak with Counseling Center staff by stopping by GSUB 308, or by calling 201-200-3165.