Anorexia and eating disorders


Thousands of women and an astonishing number of men too, look at the mirror everyday, and dislike what they see. Thinness has become a trend and women consider size zero as the cut off for being anything close to average. Media hype has contributed to propagating thinness. Some professions like modeling or acting demand it; but when the obsession begins to take drastic proportions, it may become life threatening and corrective measures are essential for survival. These point to eating disorders that are not a ‘fad’ anymore.

Diet and its balance

Balanced diet should be everyone’s goal. Being on a nutritional regime for weight loss and having controlled regular meals is acceptable; however a continuous preoccupation with one’s weight and worrying about it is not normal. Self-control is something each one needs to acquire with the habit of eating healthy within limits. All foods were made to enjoy and they all deserve to be devoured and relished. Binging on favorites is allowed occasionally, while religious fasts may be justified as an intermittent attempt at cleansing the body and self-restraint. However the key to normalcy is to survive and thrive within these limits.

Starvation and Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa describes a psychological disorder, in which the sufferer becomes highly abnormally sensitive of being perceived as fat or fears becoming fat; hence doesn’t eat much food at all. The person may be several pounds underweight, to the extent of looking sick and malnourished. However one sees oneself as grossly overweight. Hence there is intense starvation, physical exercise and ways to enhance fat burn. It almost becomes delusional and there is no way to convince the person otherwise. Physical problems set in with the severe malnutrition and one usually gets hospitalized. Anorexia nervosa is extremely traumatizing.

Overeating and Bulimia nervosa

Overeating and bingeing is a trouble which several people face when they are emotionally distraught. In Bulimia nervosa, the sufferer overeats but is concerned with body weight and is pathologically afraid of becoming fat. Here instead of starvation, there is binge eating accompanied by the use of laxatives, hormone pills and emetics, also accompanied by the manual induction of vomiting; all of which are the measures used to prevent absorption of food in the body and prevent the resultant weight gain. Life becomes focused on food, ways to secretly acquire food and means to compensate for the eaten food. There may be food refusal in front of people but an intense binge as soon as one gets an opportunity.

Food and Emotion

Causally, it is important to understand that all eating disorders are really not a problem of control over food; they are problems with control over one’s emotions. People with these disorders can have a variety of external and internal conflicts, unhappiness, stress and a sensation of loss of control. Their behavior of avoiding food, hiding food, starving or vomiting out the food gives them a sense of control. Also, anorexia and bulimia are associated with depression and anxiety and also are linked with a high incidence of suicide. Food is an emotional issue and becomes a point of concern when one is emotionally unstable.

Stop it: better sooner than later

MINDFRAMES offers counseling and psychotherapy for resolution of unresolved conflicts. Medication assists the management of co-existent depression and anxiety and also aims at decreasing impulsivity. Sometimes hospitalization is warranted for correction of the severe metabolic derangements and dehydration that can occur due to starvation and repeated purging-vomiting behaviors both of which are common in anorexia and bulimia. Medication misuse and toxicity can be life threatening and warrants appropriate attention. Eating disorders need to be managed rightly. Food is a basic necessity; such derangements with the diet are unlikely of a fruitful and meaningful existence.

Signs of an eating disorder

One must keep these signs in mind

  • Refusing to eat any food
  • Denying that one is hungry
  • Uncontrolled exercising
  • Fear of putting on weight
  • Always thinking about food
  • Being highly underweight
  • Stomachache and bloating
  • Often low self esteem
  • Self induced vomiting
  • Excess dieting or fasting
  • Emotionality about food

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there anything wrong with having a desire to be slim?
Not at all; it is always desirable to be slim and healthy instead of being fat and overweight. But there are certain standards to be met for the desirable body weight for your age, i.e your BMI (Body mass index) must fall within the normal range. If it is below that, and you still feel you are overweight then something is wrong and worthy of evaluation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is binge eating?
Binge eating is a loss of control over food wherein one keeps eating till one actually feels sick and can eat no more. It qualifies as bulimia when it is followed by vomiting, purging, intense exercise, medicines and measures to avoid weight gain due to the binge.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does someone/ anyone get anorexia nervosa?
Genetic predisposition, serotonin neurotransmitter deficits, zinc and other nutrient deficiency as well as stress, low confidence, insecurity; and media hype about thinness, are usually responsible for the emergence of anorexia nervosa.