- Eating Disorders
- What is an Eating Disorder?
- What Causes Eating Disorders?
- Kinds of Eating Disorders
- Restrictive Eating
- Eating Disorder Resources
Food can easily become a source of stress and concern, especially when we attempt to resolve cultural messages that urge us both to achieve the “perfect” body AND to consume food mindlessly. Misinformation is constantly saturating our culture about nutrition and ‘healthy eating’. The reality is there is no one solution when it comes to good nutrition, and no foods are ‘bad’ foods.
To successfully achieve a healthy body, you must first accept your natural body type, enjoy moderate physical activity, and eat a balanced diet. Most importantly, food can be such a wonderful thing! It can bring friends and family together, symbolize traditions and fond memories, and remind people of home. Remember that food and eating are supposed to be pleasurable.
Living in our culture, it's not surprising if you feel you have to look a certain way to be happy or healthy. You may think that dieting is a normal or even a necessary part of life. However, constant concern about body weight and shape, fat grams and calories can start a vicious cycle of body dissatisfaction and obsession that can take a toll on your mental, emotional and physical well-being.
While they may seem harmless, those "innocent" habits you're counting on to make you thin - and supposedly happy - can quickly spin out of control and leave you face-to-face with a serious and potentially life-threatening eating disorder.
Eating Disorders - such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder - include extreme emotions, attitudes and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues. Eating disorders are serious emotional and physical problems that can have life-threatening consequences for females and males of every age, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation.
Eating disorders are complex conditions that arise from a combination of long-standing behavioral, psychological, interpersonal, biological and social conditions. Scientists and researchers are still learning about the underlying causes of these emotionally and physically damaging conditions.
While eating disorders may begin with preoccupations with food and weight, they are most often about much more than food and the control of food in an attempt to compensate for feelings and emotions that may otherwise seem overwhelming. For some, dieting, bingeing and purging may begin as a way to cope with painful, emotional health, and/or self-esteem issues; and find it provides a sense of competence and control.
A formal diagnosis of anorexia is made when someone:
- Refuses to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height (< 85% of ideal body weight)
- Has intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though their weight is normal or low
- Has a disturbance in the way his or her body weight or shape is experienced
- Experiences undue influence of body weight or shape on self-esteem
- Denies the seriousness of current low body weight
Bulimia Nervosa is a condition characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating that may have little or nothing to do with actual physiological hunger. These episodes of bingeing are then followed by recurrent compensatory behaviors intended to prevent weight gain.
A formal diagnosis of bulimia is made when someone:
- Engages in repeated episodes of binge eating, characterized by
- Eating in a discrete amount of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat during a similar period of time and under similar circumstances
- A sense of lack of control; that the person cannot stop eating or control what or how much they are eating
- Engages repeatedly in inappropriate compensatory behavior designed to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting; misuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or other medications; fasting, or excessive exercise
- Engages in the binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviors on average, at least twice a week for three months
- Experiences that self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape or weight
- Does not experience these disturbances exclusively during episodes of anorexia nervosa
Female Athlete Triad is a syndrome of three interrelated conditions that exist on a continuum of severity.
- Energy Deficit/Disordered Eating
- Amenorrhea (lack of menstrual periods)
- Osteoporosis/Bone Loss
Our Society puts a great deal of emphasis on body image. Advertising and the media equate certain physical images with happiness and desirability in order to sell products. Millions of people risk their health to get "the look" they see in ads and the media.
People May Be at Particular Risk if they are:
- Under stress due to family, work, school or relationships
- Pressured to look a certain way by others (coaches, employers, partners, parents, friends)
- Unhappy with themselves
- Looking for ways to control their lives
Why is Restrictive Eating a Problem?
- Restrictive eating can change metabolism. This can make maintaining a healthy weight more difficult.
- What begins as a small habit can get worse and result in a more serious eating disorder.
- Restrictive eating robs your body of important nutrients. This, in turn, robs you of energy, strength and creativity.
- Illness and infection can happen more frequently.
- Eating is often social. Restricting your eating can lead to isolation.
What Can You Do About Restrictive Eating?
Learn About Food - Find healthy ways to nourish and fuel your body for peak performance.
You might need to learn:
- The right food plan for you personally
- The best mix of carbohydrates, proteins and fats for you personally
- How to eat a wide variety of foods each day
- How to read nutritional labels to maximize your nutritional intake
Seek Support - Talk to friends, family, and caring professionals.
Health care providers, counselors and health educators can help you:
- Explore healthy options
- Find ways to put your body image and nutritional needs into perspective
- Break unhealthy habits
Explore Resources - Professional health care providers, counselors and registered dietitions can help.
You might need more information on:
- Steps to choose a more realistic, healthier image for yourself
- How to relax around food
- How your feelings affect and are affected by your food intake
- How your self-esteem may be involved in restrictive eating