Eating disorders are not a choice, or a lifestyle or a fad. They are most certainly not a diet.
In the United States, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life and death battle with an eating disorder.
Terms and definitions: Anorexia nervosa: is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. Anorexia nervosa most often appears in early to mid adolescence. It has the highest premature fatality rate of any mental illness. The myth is and this is really an important piece is that an individual may have anorexia and not be visibly underweight!
- Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which mean that the heart muscle is changing. The risk for heart failure rises as heart rate and blood pressure levels sink lower and lower. Really important to know for Coaches and Athletic staff.
- Reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), which results in dry, brittle bones.
- Muscle loss and weakness.
- Severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure
- Fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness.
- Dry hair and skin, hair loss is common.
- Growth of a downy layer of hair called lanugo all over the body, including the face, in an effort to keep the body warm. It sort of looks like peach fuzz.
Bulimia Nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by a cycle of bingeing and compensatory behaviors such as self- induced vomiting designed to undo or compensate for the effects of binge eating.
Other compensatory behaviors include ingesting laxatives, over exercising and the use of stimulants. The myth is that you cannot die from bulimia. Not at all true.
I treated a college student who took more than 200 laxatives a day. Her bowels literally dropped out of her body. She nearly died. She resumed her laxative ritual upon release from the hospital.
- Electrolyte imbalances that can lead to irregular heartbeats and possibly heart failure and death. Electrolyte imbalance is caused by dehydration and loss of potassium and sodium from the body as a result of purging behaviors.
- Inflammation and possible rupture of the esophagus from frequent vomiting.
- Tooth decay and staining from stomach acids released during frequent vomiting.
- Chronic irregular bowel movements and constipation as a result of laxative abuse.
- Gastric rupture is an uncommon but possible side effect of binge eating.
Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a type of eating disorder not otherwise characterized by recurrent binge eating but without the regular use of compensatory measures to counter the binge eating.
The health risks of BED are most commonly those associated with clinical obesity. Some of the potential health consequences of binge eating disorder include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol levels
- Heart disease
- Gallbladder disease
* Information provided by the National Eating Disorder Association
So...Eating Disorders are not just about food. There is a progressive preoccupation with food, weight and body that takes over every aspect of a person’s life even in sleep! The individual is consumed with shame, guilt and fear and
often takes great effort to conceal the behavior.
The US Dept of Health and Human Services National Women’s Information Center surveyed over 1000 people with clinically diagnosed eating disorders. In those with anorexia, it was found that they spent 90 - 100% of their time thinking about food, weight and hunger. Also reported is dreaming about food and having sleep disturbed due to hunger.
Those with bulimia report spending about 70-90% of their time thinking about food and weight related issues.