For some people the food awareness doesn't kick in until teen or college years. But at some point many of us learn behaviors to "control" the food intake. Many others "try" to control it and have issues doing so. They end up overweight and obese.
I recently heard the story of a women whose mother put her on a diet when she was just five years old! Early priming for food issues.
Why then do some people end up with eating disorders and others just gain weight? Then there are those "normal" size people who look great but survive on a diet of junk food. Eating disorders evolve as a result of a number of factors. Having an eating disorder is vastly different from being 100 pounds overweight. Both individuals have issues with food. Both individuals are using food and their behavior to avoid dealing with issues in life. Or else they wouldn't have a "weight problem". With an eating disorder there is a significant distortion of body image from reality.
Eating disorders typically appear in adolescent or young adult girls. However some women develop eating disorders later in life. Women aren't alone, an estimated one million men also suffer from eating disorders. An eating disorder is identified by extremes. An obsession with body and weight, eating very little or eating extreme amounts. In addition many people with eating disorders usually follow rituals or patterns to control their food intake.
The two most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. A third type is called eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS) which includes variations of other eating disorders but with different characteristics.
Some typical contributors to eating disorders include issues with:
- Low self-esteem and self-worth
- Family relationships
- Abusive relationships
- Sexual abuse
- Chemical imbalances
Many times young girls who begin the behaviors of anorexia or bulimia don't realize how dangerous their habits can become. Or that they can be life threatening. The physical problems that result from continued eating disorder behaviors can be devasting. A few of the complications include:
- Cardiovascular and neurological complication
- Impaired physical development
- Brittle hair and nails
- Cardiac arrest
- Electrolyte and fluid imbalances
- Chronically inflammed neck and throat
- Worn tooth enamel and sensitive teeth from throwing up and stomach acid
- Intestinal distress such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) from laxative abuse
- Burned out adrenal glands
- Poor brain/mood function
Treatment for eating disorders must address psychological issues in addition to restoring normal weight and eliminating self-defeating behaviors and thoughts. Many individuals with eating disorders are in and out of treatment for long periods of time and costs can range from $10,000 per month to $100,000 or more per year. Insurance coverage for eating disorders many times falls short of the individual needs.
Alternative treatments are evolving. Many clinics now have a mind, body, spirit approach to their treatment. Alternative treatments can cost far less than traditional treatment programs. Through yoga, meditation and body work individuals improve self-esteem, release destructive habits and patterns, embrace their bodies and return to a normal healthy lifestyle.
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In peace, balance and health!