Eating Disorders - The Winter Blues by gjjur4356


									                                        Eating Disorders
                                        By Jo Ann Telfer, PhD, RPsych

It used to be that eating disorders were defined in very distinct and rigid terms. Professionals who work in
this area now recognize this is not really accurate. Disordered eating behaviours are part of a continuum.
Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa exist along this continuum; so do binge-eating, yo-yo dieting, food
obsessions and food preoccupations. The boundaries between these terms are open, and people with
disordered eating behaviours will move back and forth along this continuum. Some may display
symptoms of more than one category over the course of a day, week, month, or even years.

The result of living anywhere along this disordered eating continuum is mental, physical and spiritual
illness. In anorexia, for example, inadequate nutrition causes memory problems and impairs the ability to
concentrate. Bulimics my suffer from sore throats and decaying teeth from repeated exposure to vomit in
the mouth, and muscle weakness from insufficient protein in the diet. Lack of enthusiasm for life,
depression, and faltering relationships are all signs of the spiritual illness brought on by the disordered
eating patterns. Ironically, these strange eating patterns were started because their false promise was
thinness and happiness.

What causes women to develop these disordered eating behaviours? The contributing factors to eating
disorders are usually placed into three categories: society, the family and the individual. It is important to
understand the underlying causes of disordered eating patterns, since these must be addressed in
treatment and prevention.

Society                                                Family

The media plays a large part in spreading the          If your parents over-emphasize weight, diet and body
false message that it is possible to have a            image or have disordered eating behaviors
"perfect" body. Magazines, movies and television       themselves, then you are more likely to have the
all lead us to believe that once we have achieved      same problems. Other parental characteristics that
that "ideal" weight, shape or look, happiness will     have been linked to eating disorders include
follow. Another false assumption perpetuated by        perfectionism, over-protectiveness, rigid parenting
the media is that dieting is a normal human            styles, and poor communication skills. A family
activity that leads to permanent weight loss. In       history of addiction or depression is also a
fact, research shows that 95 to 98 per cent of         contributing factor in eating disorders.
those who diet gain back all the weight they have
lost-and more-within two to five years.


Low self-esteem is the personality trait most highly associated with eating disorders. Women and girls
who have a negative body image, are perfectionists and feel they are not in control of their lives are more
likely to suffer from eating disorders. Other characteristics associated with disordered eating behaviours
include a fear of growing up, a need for approval, and feelings of ineffectiveness.

The Road to Recovery

Recovering from eating disorders takes time -sometimes a long time. But the chances of recovery are
greater if the eating disorder is identified early, before the behaviors become too entrenched. Professional
help is essential, especially the help of professionals who are knowledgeable in the field of eating
disorders. They will offer support by listening to feelings, allowing appropriate control, encouraging self-
esteem, and focusing on some enjoyable aspects of life.
Depending on the needs of those involved, the structure of the treatment will vary. It may include a
physical assessment by a physician, individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, dietetic counseling,
or hospitalization. All treatment is aimed at establishing normal eating patterns, restoring and maintaining
healthy weight, developing positive attitudes towards food and the body, and improving or changing any
of the factors that may have contributed to causing the disorder.

The job of family and friends is to provide support. If you suspect that someone you love has an eating
disorder, it will help if you educate yourself about the eating disorder continuum and find out about the
resources available in the community. Let your friend or family member know that you are concerned
about her health and well-being, and suggest a visit to her doctor and some treatment options. Don't be
surprised if she denies that she has a problem. But she may also admit that she is concerned about her
own disordered eating habits and be relieved that someone has noticed. Whatever her response, be
patient. Be a good role model by taking care of your own health. At the same time, be persistent about
your concern. Don't focus on food by preparing a favourite meal for her, or remarking on how much she
has (or hasn't) eaten. Avoid making comments about body weight, shape or size. People who are
seriously affected by an eating disorder tend to turn even the most positive comments into messages that
encourage more disturbed food rituals.

Unfortunately, there is no proven treatment for eating disorders. Those who suffer from anorexia and
bulimia may get better in the short-term but struggle with other disordered eating behaviours for years.
Concentrating on prevention may do more to help individuals with eating disorders and those who are
close to them. The following healthy and healing attitudes may decrease the incidence of eating disorders
in the future.

    •   Look at food for fuel and for fun. Food's        •   Do not diet yourself, and don't encourage
        main purpose is to supply us with energy             anyone you know to go on a diet. Diets do
        while still being enjoyable. There are no            not work and are almost always a precursor
        'good' and 'bad' foods, but there are                to eating disorders. Practice healthy eating,
        'more healthy' and 'less healthy' choices.           exercise and body acceptance
        Avoid using food as a reward,
        punishment, bribe, delay tactic, or time-

    •   Accept that people come in many                  •   Become more critical of what you see in the
        shapes and sizes. Believe that "It's                 media, and teach others to do the same. We
        what's inside that counts." After all, it's          are so accustomed to seeing "perfect" bodies
        the truth! Focus on your own and others'             that it becomes difficult to believe it's
        achievements, relationships, hobbies,                possible to be happy if we are anything but
        thoughts, and feelings, NOT on size,                 slender. Even models do not meet the
        weight and appearance.                               industry's exacting standards, and computer
                                                             technology is often used to perfect them or
                                                             remove any perceived "flaws."

    •   A healthy self-esteem may be the best assurance against developing an eating disorder. Help
        yourself and others you care about to develop a positive self-esteem. This includes knowing and
        accepting yourself, using good communication skills, developing hobbies and leisure activities,
        and nurturing positive relationships. Many excellent books and classes are available to help you
        in this area.
               Disordered Eating Behaviours

Anorexia nervosa is a refusal to maintain "normal" body weight, along with
an extreme fear of gaining weight or becoming fat. Women and girls with
anorexia nervosa become intensely focused on their weight, body shape, food,
and calories.

Bulimia involves binge-eating followed by purging to prevent weight gain.
Purging behaviors include vomiting, laxative and/or diuretic abuse, fasting, or
excessive exercise. Body weight and shape become the basis for self-esteem.

Binge-eating disorder is characterized by consuming an unusually large
amount of food rapidly and beyond the point of being full. The binge is
accompanied by a sense of lack of control, extreme distress and disgust. It is
not followed by purging.

Yo-yo dieting is a practice of repeated periods of food restriction followed
by non-restriction. The periods of non-restriction may be characterized by
"normal" eating, but more often they are followed by bingeing-and feelings of
guilt. Foods are labeled as "bad" or "good." The body responds to yo-yo
dieting with changes in metabolism that lead to difficulty in maintaining normal

Food obsessions and preoccupations are behaviours where calories,
fat grams, food additives, food content or restricting certain food groups
become the focus of one's life. Up to 90 per cent of the day may be spent
thinking about food, along with weight, size, shape or exercise.

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