Anorexia is largely about thinking that one is fat or needs to lose weight even though they are as skinny as one can possibly be

By Psychotherapist Mertha Mo Nyamande

Eating is generally a social and pleasurable experience that nourishes the body for both physical appearances and mental fitness. Eating Disorders (ED’s) are therefore Mental Disorders closely linked to body image, self-esteem, and confidence, leading to depression and anxiety.

People with Eating Disorders struggle to regulate or control their eating in healthy ways, based on altered perception of their ideal body image or they use the control of food to cope with feelings and other situations.

Unhealthy eating behaviours may include eating too much or too little or worrying about your weight or body shape.

 

 

Eating disorders are a strong negative associations and feelings over the smell, taste, or texture of certain foods. There are two extremes to known Eating Disorders: Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia.

Anorexia is largely about thinking that one is fat or needs to lose weight even though they are as skinny as one can possibly be, they would not want to see or feel an ounce of fat on themselves, thereby try to control their weight by not eating enough, or exercising too much, or both.

Bulimia on the other end is about those who eat too much, then immediately take drastic action not to gain weight, like purging or extreme exercise.

The other common type is Binge eating disorder, those who binge eat, do not stop eating until they are uncomfortably full, and this is usually associated with obesity. Born ready to suckle, no training.

 

 

The other 2 types of Eds are: Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED) and Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). OSFED is the most common eating disorder, though not as popular as the former, likely due to the name.

A person may have an OSFED if their symptoms do not exactly fit the expected symptoms for any specific eating disorders above.

These are often specific to certain food preferences, like someone lives on cheese alone, and nothing else. ARFID, is when someone avoids certain foods, limits how much they eat or does both.

Certain allergic reactions are associated with eating disorders.

Symptoms of Eating Disorders include:

  • Spending a lot of time worrying about your weight and body shape.
  • Preoccupation with counting calories and ingredients used in making foods.
  • Avoiding socialising when you think food will be involved.
  • Eating very little or too much food.
  • Inducing vomiting or taking laxatives after eating / exercising too much.
  • Having very strict habits or routines around food.
  • Changes in mood such as being withdrawn, anxious or depressed around food.
  • Worries that you have an unhealthy relationship with food.
  • Worries about being slim, particularly with felt pressure from society or job, eg, ballet dancers, TV personalities, models, or athletes.

Physical signs, include:

  • feeling cold, tired, or dizzy,
  • stomach pains or ulcers,
  • tingling or numbness in arms and legs due to poor circulation.
  • blood pressure issues.
  • feeling heart racing, fainting, or feeling faint, and prone to panic attacks.
  • problems with digestion, such as bloating, acids/heartburn, constipation, or diarrhoea
  • body weight being very high or very low for age and height.
  • not having regular period in girls or other delayed signs of puberty.

Warning signs of an eating disorder in someone else

  • dramatic weight loss / gain.
  • lying about how much they’ve eaten, when they’ve eaten, or their weight.
  • eating a lot of food very fast.
  • going to the bathroom a lot after eating.
  • exercising a lot.
  • avoiding eating with others.
  • cutting food into small pieces or eating very slowly.
  • wearing loose or baggy clothes to hide their weight loss.

 

Causes

Eating disorders are caused by numerous factors that lead to negative associations with food, and most are childhood issues. As food is one thing no one can control but the individual, most children develop good or bad eating habits due to associated behaviours and emotions around food.

Responses to an experience with food that was upsetting, for example, choking or being sick after eating something, been shamed criticised for eating habits, appearance, body shape or weight, family history of eating disorders, depression, or alcohol or drug misuse, sexual exploitation and other forms of abuse causing self-esteem and anxiety issues.

These lead to the need to develop internal control issues where external is lacking or oppressed. There can also develop out of coping used for soothing in infancy, leading to comfort eating as a strategy for coping with distress.

Media influence also encompasses internal traumas and provides alternative preoccupations, thereby fuelling an obsessive or perfectionist personality.

Implications

The body and mind required a wide variety of nutrients to function effectively, that poor eating habits lead to compromised physical and mental health, from heart conditions and reproductive health to Anxiety and panic attacks leading to depression and other complication.

People with eating disorders also struggle with social spaces generally, thereby compromise their chances in life.

Furthermore, the compromised body image and self-esteem increases vulnerability for further abuse and ridicule, perpetuating difficulties.

 

 

Remedies and recommendations

Eating disorders, like all mental disorders are treatable, the course of action requires seeking medical advise from a general practitioner, who upon stabilising the physical issues makes a referral to an eating disorder specialist or team.

It is usually difficult to know and admit to such a problem and to ask for help and so would require a lot of courage.

Recovery may take time and will be different for everyone depending on length the disorder has been present, support available and needed as there are usually more than this single issue, but usually includes a talking therapy in individual or group settings to address any unresolved issues. Regular physical health checks will be necessary to monitor progress.

 

Psychotherapist Mertha Mo Nyamande @ www.i-wellbeing.weebly.com. Insightwellbeing.mo@gmail.com

 

 

 

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