Eating Disorders

The topic of eating disorders has only really come to light in the last 10 years. And most recently when Princess Diana openly discussed her eating disorder.

There are a number of ways eating disorders can be described. The most commonly recognized two would be Anorexia and Bulimia (which is the problem Salene had). Most eating disorders relate to issues people have with food and / or body image.

The advertising we are bombarded with every day effects how we feel, what we want to look like, listen to and what we perceive as beautiful. We look in magazines, books or on television and are subtly told that thin is beautiful, thin will help us succeed and make us happy, thin will solve all your problems. But, as we can see from the trouble Salene has had, all her problems haven’t been solved, in-fact they have worsened.

Lets look at what Bulimia Nervosa means:

Bulimia is a condition in which people secretly get rid of food they have eaten at meals or during binge eating. This is usually by vomiting.

Nervosa refers to the great tension associated with this behavior. Outwardly, bulimics appear confident and self-assured, but they are secretly coping with all the stress and inner turmoil through food.

As the condition worsens vomiting becomes easier and eventually a lot of bulimics find it difficult not to vomit after eating.

Is it only woman who suffer from eating disorders?
No, not at all. Men also have eating disorders, quite often more than is expected.

Is there any particular type of person that suffers from Bulimia?
Usually people in their late teens or early twenties. Most of the time they are people trying to keep slim. Their desire to stay or get thin drives them to vomit up food or use laxatives to hurry food through their systems.

How Bulimia can effect your family and friends
With most families working to a household budget, it can be frustrating if overnight the cupboards have become empty. Family members become puzzled by the amount of food one person is consuming, but still not putting on any weight. Most bulimics are also touchy about the subject.

How can friends and family help with the problem?
Try not to nag about food all the time. This only makes problems worse.

There isn’t a permanent solution unless the underlying problems are identified and worked on. Try to keep the person busy, as boredom and loneliness only increase the risk. Help create a daily routine. Establish a regular eating pattern. Keep a diary of food intake, make sure everything is written down, binges, purging. Write down feelings too, this can help identify what are the trigger signs. Most importantly contact your local eating disorder clinic and ask them for any other helpful advice you may need.

Risks of the condition
Frequent vomiting causes loss of tooth enamel, which leads to decay. Mineral and electrolyte balance in the body can be upset through loss of fluids and may result in serious medical complications, including heart and liver damage.

Historical Facts:
Some of the first accounts of eating disorders came from ancient Rome, Greece and Arabia, they used self-induced vomiting as a way of cleansing the palette.

The ancient Egyptians believed that if they purged 3 days out of each month they would be purged of human diseases that existed at the time from food.

In Rome the rich ate vast amounts of food then vomited it all up.

In 1689 a doctor first published an article which talked of a wasting disease called nervous consumption caused by sadness and anxious cares.

Anorexia Nervosa was first described medically in 1873.

Bulimia Nervosa was not described as a medical condition until 1979.

As you can see disordered eating, food and body image obsessions are more complex than we think. There is no “quick-fix” plan to change your life. What we need to break the cycle is to make a decision to deal with our feelings in other ways, without food. Instead of seeing food as a way to cope with problems we need to see food as a part of caring for and nourishing our bodies. This means learning to live with who we are, not what the “ideal” is that the media has created for us.

Once we learn to value our bodies we can then enjoy a greater sense of worth and well being.