We often indulge in unhealthy practices like binge eating and emotional eating unconsciously. Sometimes we get blindly stuck in this loop of anxieties and binge-eating that we become unaware of such detrimental habits. Not to forget the damage these diet-enforcing, thin-idolizing communities have done to us on such a massive scale. Such conventional beauty standards sometimes also lead people to practice harmful ways to achieve that body shape. Most people become oblivious of all the negative impacts of binge-eating and the obsession with attaining a particular body form. This entails an urgency to understand the basics and an in-depth knowledge of unhealthy eating habits and eating disorders. What if it’s an eating disorder that you have developed that you feel might just be a strict diet plan or binge-eating episodes?
Eating disorders are caused due to uncontrollable eating habits that harm your health, emotions, and ability to perform in day-to-day activities. Predominantly, eating disorders entail obsessing about your weight, food, and body shape, leading to unhealthy eating habits. Eating disorders can ruin the health of your heart, digestive system, bones, teeth, and mouth, as well as cause other health problems. These unhealthy eating habits can also influence your body's capacity to acquire enough nourishment.
Eating disorders often develop in the teenage and young adult years, although they can develop at other ages. With the correct treatment, you can learn and get back to healthier eating habits and sometimes get rid of severe complications caused by the eating disorder.
The symptoms of eating disorders differ depending on the types of disorders. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorders. Other eating disorders include Rumination disorder and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder.
Anorexia Nervosa, often called anorexia, can be a life-threatening eating disorder characterized by abnormally low body weight, acute fear of gaining weight, and a false perception of weight or shape. People with anorexia use extreme efforts to control their weight and work on their body shape, which often significantly hampers their health and life activities.
When you have anorexia, you excessively limit calories or use other methods to lose weight, such as excessive exercise, using laxatives or diet pills, or even vomiting after eating anything. Efforts to reduce your weight, even when underweight, can cause severe health problems, sometimes to the point of self-starvation.
Bulimia nervosa, commonly known as ‘Bulimia’, is a serious and life-threatening eating disorder. When you have bulimia, you have episodes of binging that involve feeling a lack of control over your eating. Many people with bulimia also restrict themselves to eating during the day which often leads to more binge-eating and purging.
During these episodes, you typically eat a large amount of food in a short time and then try to rid yourself of the extra calories in an unhealthy way. Because of guilt, shame, and an intense fear of weight gain from overeating, you may force vomiting, or you may exercise too much or use other methods, such as laxatives, to get rid of the calories. If you have bulimia, you're probably preoccupied with your weight and body shape and may judge yourself harshly for your self-perceived flaws. You may be at a normal weight or even a bit overweight.
When you have a binge-eating disorder, you regularly eat too much food (binge) and feel a lack of control over your eating. You may eat quickly or eat more food than intended, even when you're not hungry, and you may continue eating even long after you're uncomfortably full.
After a binge, you may feel guilty or ashamed of your behavior and the amount of food eaten. But you don't try to compensate for this behavior with excessive exercise or purging, as someone with bulimia or anorexia might.
Rumination disorder is persistently and repeatedly regurgitating food after eating. However, it's not due to a medical condition or another eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge-eating disorder. Food is brought back up into the mouth without gagging, or nausea and regurgitation may not be intentional. Sometimes regurgitated food is rechewed and swallowed or spit out. The disorder may result in malnutrition if the food is spat out or if the person eats significantly less to prevent the behavior. The occurrence of rumination disorder may be more common in infancy or in people who have an intellectual disability.
Avoidant/restrictive food intake Disorder
This disorder is characterized by failing to meet your minimum daily nutrition requirements because you don't have an interest in eating; you avoid food with certain sensory characteristics, such as color, texture, smell, or taste; or you're concerned about the consequences of eating, such as fear of choking. Thus, you don't avoid food because of the fear of gaining weight. This disorder can result in significant weight loss or failure to gain weight in childhood, as well as nutritional deficiencies, causing health problems.
Causes of Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are caused by different unclear factors, such as biological, as with other mental diseases. Certain people may be predisposed to eating problems due to genetic factors. Eating disorders may also be caused by biological reasons, such as changes in brain chemistry.
Mental and emotional well-being. Eating disorder sufferers may have psychological and emotional issues that exacerbate the condition. Low self-esteem, perfectionism, impulsive conduct, and strained relationships are the possibilities.
Risk factors of Eating Disorders
Teenage girls and young women are more likely to have anorexia or bulimia, but men can have eating disorders, too. Although eating disorders can occur at any age, they often develop in the teens and early 20s.
Certain factors may increase the risk of developing an eating disorder, including:
- Family history: Eating disorders are significantly more likely to occur in people who have parents or siblings having an eating disorder.
- Other mental health disorders: People with an eating disorder often have a history of anxiety disorder, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- Dieting and starvation: Dieting is a risk factor for developing an eating disorder. It affects the brain and influences mood changes, rigidity in thinking, anxiety, and reduction in appetite. There is strong evidence that many of the symptoms of an eating disorder are symptoms of starvation.
- Stress: Whether it is heading off to college, moving, landing a new job, or a family or relationship issue, change can bring stress, which may increase your risk of an eating disorder.
Eating disorders can cause varied complications such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. It may hamper your growth. The more severe and long-lasting these habits are, the more likely you will experience these complications.
Although there is no established way to prevent eating disorders, here are some strategies to help your friend or a family member develop healthy-eating behaviors:
- Avoid following a diet around them: Family dining habits may influence the relationships that children develop with food. Eating meals together allows you to teach your child about the pitfalls of dieting and encourages eating a balanced diet in reasonable portions.
- Sit and talk to them: For example, numerous websites promote dangerous ideas, such as viewing anorexia as a lifestyle choice rather than an eating disorder. It's crucial to correct any misperceptions like this and to talk to them about the risks of unhealthy eating choices.
- Cultivate and reinforce a healthy body image: Whatever the shape or size of the body is, talk to your child about self-image, and offer reassurance that body shapes can vary. Avoid criticizing your own body in front of your family or friend. Positive conversations and messages of acceptance and respect can help build healthy self-esteem and resilience that will carry them through the rocky periods of their teen years.
If you observe a family member or a friend who shows signs of an eating disorder, consider talking to that person about your concern for their well-being. Although you may not be able to prevent an eating disorder from developing, reaching out with compassion may encourage the person to seek treatment.