I have had this topic on my heart especially this week because it is National Eating Disorders Week. I wanted to write to you all (yes I tagged practically all of my friends) about something that is very important and personal to me. I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to read this (sorry for the length). I am not going to post any grotesque pictures for you to see. However, if you have an eating disorder, know someone who has one, or have never met someone who has an eating disorder, I hope that this helps you to realize the significance and detrimental consequences of this disease that is skyrocketing in our society today.
Did you know that out of all the mental illnesses, eating disorders are the number one killer? Currently, there are 11 million people in the United States suffer from anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Millions more suffer from binge eating disorder. Eating disorders are mental illnesses just like depression, schizophrenia, or Alzheimer’s. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders found 18-20% of anorexics will be dead after 20 years due to suicide or heart failure and only 30-40% will ever fully recover. Those with anorexia nervosa are 12 times as likely to die between the ages of 15 and 24 than ANY OTHER causes of death for females. Not many people know these facts.
It is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. However, not many people talk about eating disorders because they are:
- A sensitive topic
- Viewed as “selfish” and “vain”
This is seen by the fact that funding for schizophrenia is over 210 times as much as the funding for the research of eating disorders. Yet, the mortality rate for those with eating disorders shoots way above the mortality rate of those with schizophrenia.
<span>What are the eating disorders? </span>
Eating disorders are different for everyone. Some may struggle with one thing and some may struggle with another. There is no real model for eating disorders. These are just the most common.
Those who have anorexia nervosa restrict their intake of food and over exercise. Those who have anorexia nervosa don’t eat enough food to fuel their bodies resulting in them losing weight dramatically. These patients are many times hospitalized once they reach down to 90-100 pounds. However, there are many who fall to 80, even 70 pounds. These patients have to be tube fed and restricted to bed rest for several months. These are the side effects that anorexics experience:
Fatigue and loss of energy
Hypertension (low blood pressure)
Dizziness due to low blood pressure
Fine hair growth on body (lanugo hair)
Pins and needles (parathesia due to changes in the peripheral changes in the nervous system)
Brittle nails and fragile bones due to low calcium
Increased vulnerability to osteoporosis
Anaemia and pale skin due to low iron levels
Susceptibility to cold due to loss of insulation
Edema (tissue swelling from water) due to electrolyte imbalances
Cessation of menstruation
Strain on most of the bodies organs
Irregularity in the secretion of growth hormone
Potential kidney failure
Urinary tract infections
Potential liver failure
Bulimia patients induce weight loss by vomiting the food they have eaten. Many will binge and then purge the food that they eat. There is also exercise bulimia which is rapidly increasing. Those with exercise bulimia may eat a normal amount of food but then proceed to exercise for a very long amount of time. And when I mean a long amount of time, I mean they exercise most of the day. The symptoms for bulimia include:
Low potassium (loss of electrolytes)
Heart irregularities and possible cardiac arrest
Increased cavities in teeth due to loss of tooth enamel
Hoarseness of voice
Erosion of the enamel of back teeth (from vomiting)
Broken blood vessels in the face
Constant sore throat
Erosion of the esophagus
Those who have binge eating disorder eat large amounts of food in order to cope with emotional distress. Symptoms include:
Type 2 diabetes
High blood pressure
Certain types of cancer
Joint and muscle pain
Among all of these symptoms, most of those with eating disorders will tell you the worst part is the mental pain they experience. Eating disordered individuals in most cases are:
Enormously self conscious to the point that they literally hate themselves and think that everyone else hates them too.
In a constant state of thinking about food, exercise, and dieting.
Obsessed with weighing themselves (many weigh themselves at any chance they can get).
Unable to eat food made by someone else or eat food in front of someone else.
The scary part about eating disorders is that when an individual is so low in their weight, a chemical called edema kicks in and causes them to become swollen and puffy. For a person with an eating disorder, this causes them to see themselves as larger than they are.
<span>What are the causes of eating disorders?</span>
There is not one specific cause of eating disorders. The key factor is that eating disorders areMENTAL ILNESSES. They are caused by depression, abuse, loneliness, family issues, friend issues, bullying, and so much more. They are even learning that their may be a certain brain make up that may make someone more likely to have an eating disorder. Those with eating disorders are trying to find SOME WAY to be acceptable, loved, and worthy. The media is probably one of the largest factors. The media equates beauty with happiness. Those who are searching for happiness see being skinny as their only way to get out of a situation or to be loved.
The average female is 5’4” and 140 pounds. The average model is 5’11” and 117 pounds. Yet we admire and look at models as “thin, fit, happy, and beautiful”. This unhealthy media portrayal of women affects young girls and boys. Between the ages of 11 and 13, fifty percent of girls think they are overweight. Eighty percent of 13 year old children have tried to lose weight.
Something needs to be done.
What can you do?
Learn more about it. The information I got was from an organization called NEDA. Here is their website which is full of information, help, and encouragement:http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/. Please watch this video if you have a moment:http://vimeo.com/2567743.
Talk about it. Warn your friends and family about eating disorders and help others to see the dangers of starving and purging your way to thinness and eating in order to cope with life’s challenges. This is a great program that NEDA started: http://operationbeautiful.com/
Watch what you say. Do you find yourself talking about food in a negative manner? Do you talk about how others are “lazy, unhealthy, large (or even fat)” in front of others? Keep these thoughts to yourself. Who is it helping by breaking down yourself by telling others how you “shouldn’t have eaten this, or should have worked out harder, etc.”? Food is not bad. It is food. Nourishment for our bodies. Please don’t talk about food as though it is harmful. This is not only to help those who have eating disorders. Obesity is a growing concern in our world. However, even talking negatively about food and exercise is hurting the obese and making them feel inadequate and never able to achieve health.
Tell someone. If you know someone who has symptoms or who you suspect might have an eating disorder, tell someone. First, try talking to the person. Most likely, they will not see their problem and not believe you. So go and talk to their parents or go and get a group of friends to talk to them.
This topic is something that is extremely personal to me. I am on a journey to find a life where food is seen as nourishment and exercise is not something that I have to do every day in order to be healthy. It is my goal to help the world realize that being beautiful and thin is not what brings happiness. There is a Higher Power at work that will wipe away all the pain, sorrows, and tears that hurt brings.
Anyone who knows me knows that I love exercise and eating healthfully. Therefore, I am not saying that we should all start eating Twinkies and fried chicken. Health can be achieved by eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and “healthy” fats. Exercise in the form of running for 30 minutes a day, strengthening your muscles by lifting weights, riding your bike, or playing a sport can help people mentally and physically. Everything just needs to be in moderation. The world needs to find that happy balance.
NEDA’s mission statement is: “NEDA envisions a world without eating disorders.”
Let’s do our best to make this vision a reality.