What is Eating Disorder
The voices of eating disorders usually sound like - “I hate people watching me eat, I’ll just skip dinner.” “I’m such a loser! I put up that picture an hour ago and nobody has liked it. Maybe everybody thinks I'm pathetic because I’m fat.” “This cake tastes so good but it’s so fattening. I’ll just puke it out later.” There’s a constant voice in their heads obsessed with food. They are riddled with anxiety, stress and guilt with everything they put in their mouth and are always on a self-destruct mission. Eating disorders usually root from psychological or emotional deprivation so they quit eating or make unhealthy food choices as a coping mechanism. Eating disorders are very serious mental conditions characterised by persistent and disturbing eating behaviour..
Why People Develop Eating Disorders
- Research has shown that most people who struggle with eating disorders have untreated mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, etc… long before eating disorder sets in.
- Having certain personality traits like being sensitive to change or conflict. People who are indecisive or going through existential crisis fall into unhealthy eating patterns to get a sense of control.
- Overwhelming feelings of anxiety in being perfectionists and underlying people-pleasing traits lead to constant worry about body weight and self-esteem which onsets eating disorders.
- A toxic cultural environment that propagates an unhealthy relationship with food, exercise and body weight. The pressure to fit in contributes to eating disorders.
- Trauma or loss sets the stage for developing eating disorders. It could be a build-up of seamlessly minor trauma like moving to a different city, fight with a friend or not being picked for a sports team that manifests as eating disorders later on.
- It could also be a biological basis, in certain individuals, the pathways in the brain don’t function the same way as neurotypicals.
Types Of Eating Disorders
1. Anorexia nervosa
A person drastically limits their intake of food or calories due to psychological obsession with body image and low weight. Individuals starve for days together or excessively exercise to lose weight. They also have compulsive behaviour traits like looking at the menu before attending a social gathering just to decide on a low-calorie dish.
- Significantly low body weight and ignorant of the severity of the situation
- Inadequate eating or extreme starvation to a point of malnutrition
- Hyper focused on body weight, social image and calorie intake
- Fear of gaining weight and going to extreme measures to prevent weight gain
- Self-esteem issues
A life-threatening eating disorder identified by binge eating followed by purging. Forced vomiting, taking laxatives or diuretics and excessive exercise are recognised as purging behaviour. They are overly critical of themselves and hold up unrealistic expectations of body weight.
- Episodes of binge eating followed by unsuitable compensatory reactions
- Measuring self-worth based on body weight
- Overuse of supplements, herbs and weight loss medications
- Refusing to eat in social situations
- Stained teeth from stomach acid
- Going to the bathroom immediately after meal every single time
This is the most common eating disorder that involves unable to gain control over how much and what they eat. It is not the same as overeating, binge eaters have recurring episodes of excessive eating followed by a feeling of painful distress and regret.
- Eating faster than normal
- Eating even when not hungry and to the point of uncomfortably full
- Isolation due to embarrassment
- The feeling of extreme disgust, shame and guilt with oneself
Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders (OSFED)
People who do not fall under the category of anorexia, binge or bulimic are referred to as OSFED. Undue concern about body weight, restrictive eating, either overweight or underweight.
Avoidant/ restrictive food intake disorder- Persistent failure to meet nutritional needs and obsessively choosy in what they eat.
Pica- Repeatedly eating objects that are not food or bear any nutritional value like chalk, metal, paint or cloth.
Rumination disorder- Excessive re-chewing, swallowed food is brought back to the mouth voluntarily to re-chew or spat out.
Eating disorders are potentially fatal, and early intervention with professional help is the only solution. They have serious implications on the social, psychological and physical functioning of an individual and can occur at any age or any gender. Learning intuitive eating strategies and addressing nutritional and medical factors is the first step towards recovery.