October 12, 2018
Food, Culture, & Society
There is an estimate that 8 million individuals in the United States suffer from an eating disorder. Out of those 8 million people, only one in ten people get help to cure their eating disorder. Nearly half of America know someone personally who has or had an eating disorder, therefore at least one student in each classroom know someone.
“Eating disorders are life threating conditions that are related to persistent eating behaviors that have a negative impact on health, emotions, and the overall ability to function in the society” (Dourish, Clifton, Stice, Shaw, 2017). These diseases affect both genders male and female, although rates among women are higher than men. “There are three common types of eating disorders, which are the following: anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and binge eating disorder (BED)” (McPherson, 2018). Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that is characterized by abnormally low body weight. A person who weighs 15% less than their ideal body weight is diagnosed with anorexia. Dangerous health problems and sometimes death are results of extreme weight loss. The word “anorexia literally means loss of appetite. Nevertheless, the definition of AN is often misled as people with this disorder are hungry but refuses food anyway. Individuals who suffer from AN have severe fears of becoming fat and view themselves as “fat” when in reality they are really thin. Therefore, people choose to eliminate food intake and exercise excessively in order to correct their flaws and lose weight (McPherson, Scott, Joshi, Gandi, 2018).
“Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that is characterized by bingeing and is followed by poor methods to avoid gaining weight.” The method that is used to avoid gaining weight by individuals with this disorders is called purging. Purging can happen through excessive exercise, forced vomiting, or by voluntarily taking laxatives or diuretics. In addition, people with bulimia participate in a binge-to-purge cycle where they would eat a meal and then take a laxative or diuretic immediately after in order to avoid weight gaining (Jones, Blodgett, Schaefer, Haugen, 2015) Individuals who have this disease has an unrealistic body image. In most cases, people with bulimia are of normal weight or overweight and is obsessed with their weight which leads to them being extremely critical on themselves. “It is proven that roughly 1.5% of women and .5 of men will experience bulimia at some point in their lives, especially during their teenage and early adult years of life.” Also, groups such as performers, athletes, dancers, actors, and models are all at high risks of experiencing bulimia (McPherson, Scott, Joshi, Gandi, 2018).
“Binge eating disorder is an eating disorder that involves frequent consumption of large amounts of food without stopping and results in weight gaining.” Individuals with this disorder usually consume large amounts of food, even beyond the point when they are full while feeling like they have no control over their food intake. “Binge eating often occurs as a coping method with depression, stress, or anxiety.” They may have never learned how to deal with feelings and emotions and find food as comfort and support (McPherson, Scott, Joshi, Gandi, 2018). Likewise, binge eating share a lot of similarities with bulimia except people who have BED does not engage in the binge-to-purge cycle. Unfortunately, people with BED often feel sad or guilty about not being able to control their eating habits, which can lead to an increased level of stress and fuel the cycle of binging all over again (McPherson, Scott, Joshi, Gandi, 2018).
Furthermore, the causes of eating disorders are still unknown to this day. “Along with other mental illnesses, there are many possible causes such as negative effects from family, society, and psychological.” Certain individuals may inherit eating disorders due to their family’s genetics. Also, in some cases brain chemical changes may play a role in putting a person at high risk of developing an eating disorder. “People may also be suffering negative psychological issues like low self-esteem, perfectionism, or impulsive behavior which can cause them to result in consuming low or high amounts of food.” The society also plays a role in eating disorders by bullying people about the way they look or by brainwashing an individual on how they are “supposed to look” (Jones, Blodgett, Schaefer, Haugen, 2015). Social media, magazines, television shows, and movies have a major impact on individuals, especially women, on body images. Also, famous people and celebrities often take advantage of their world-wide platforms and use them to advocate for most weight loss techniques and programs and sometimes weight gain programs.
As stated before, eating disorders are serious life threating conditions that cause dangerous effects mentally, physically, and behaviorally. People who suffer varies in between either being extremely overweight to being extremely underweight. However, “these individuals’ physical appearances does not dictate the amount of physical danger that they are facing, nor does it dictate the emotional confusion they feel mentally” (Jones, Blodgett, Schaefer, Haugen, 2015). People who have anorexia nervosa has early effects like bloating, fainting, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and stomach pains. These symptoms progress and become worse as the disorder continues. “When the disorder progresses, severe problems occur like low blood pressure, irregular heart rhythm, tooth decay, skin disorders, and stomach ulcers.” Fortunately, these conditions are reversible with medical treatment. If a person does not receive treatment and experience those early effects, more serious health issues like liver disease, kidney disease, and weakened heart muscles can occur (Dourish, Clifton, Stice, Shaw, 2017). In addition, individuals’ who suffers from bulimia has negative health effects like dehydration due to purging. Continuously consuming laxatives and diuretics voluntarily causes electrolytes to an imbalance in the body, commonly in the form of low potassium levels (Jones, Blodgett, Schaefer, Haugen, 2015). When potassium levels are low in the human body, a wide range of symptoms are triggered ranging from cloudy thinking to an irregular heartbeat and death. Low potassium levels that occur chronically can cause kidney failure. “Lastly, individuals who suffer from binge eating disorders health effects lead to physical, emotional, and social problems. They are more likely to suffer stress, insomnia, and suicidal thoughts than a person who does not have an eating disorder.” Also, they experience anxiety and depression which usually leads to substance abuse and weight gain (Dourish, Clifton, Stice, Shaw, 2017).
Treatment programs are available for those who face challenges with eating disorders. “Treatment programs are the best because it gives patients a responsibility to help improve their own behavior and the people who run the programs get to keep an eye on them to ensure they are doing what they are supposed to be doing (Dourish, Clifton, Stice, Shaw, 2017).” Therapy sessions seem to be the most effective way to help these individuals because they discuss why the eating disorder is present in their lives and try to manage to improve internal issues. “Typically eating disorders are present in people’s lives due to horrible past issues or pain that was never recognized and treated.” Therefore, conditions in eating disorders become the strategies they used to maintain their lives. Lastly, medication is a great tool that is used to improve their health. Medications that are prescribed to individuals with eating disorders are designed to either increase or suppress hunger in a healthier manner. Orlistat is an anti-obesity drug, Ephedrine stimulates and energizes the human body, and Methylphenidate is used when the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder accompanies the eating disorder (Dourish, Clifton, Stice, Shaw, 2017).
All in all, eating disorders can easily be overlooked. Therefore, we should pay close attention to our loved ones and people that are around us daily to ensure they are strong and healthy as possible. We can recognize signs like baggy clothes, a decrease in the ability to focus or communicate, constantly talking about food or body images, and plenty more. There are about eight million people in America who battles with these disorders and hopefully when people are more aware of this information, more people can get help so the situation can be eliminated.