By Alexa Faria
Naturally, with the beginning of March, we say a friendly goodbye to the snowy month of February. However what some of us may have forgotten to acknowledge is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.
In the U.S. about 20 million women and 10 million men and an undefined number of gender nonconforming people suffer from an eating disorder at one point in their lifetime. These disorders are very serious and can often be life threatening.
These disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or an eating disorder otherwise not specified.
There is not one specific cause or reason that an individual may develop an eating disorder. But they derive from body dissatisfaction as well as sub-clinical disordered eating attitudes and behaviors.
These negative body images begin at an extremely young age. Different studies have shown that by age six, very young girls start to express issues with their body. They also worry about becoming “too fat.”
Children are not born with a negative body image; it is something that they learn from society or the people around them. It is simple things like dolls, television, parents, and magazines that make these images so accessible to children.
Simple interactions with external stimuli like social media can truly affect the way a person views themselves. For some time now the “ideal” body shape has been unhealthy thinness.
There was a study done that reflected that one third of female NCAA Division I athletes showed symptoms of anorexia nervosa. Division I athletes are typically extremely physically fit but individuals that experience eating disorders may never be truly pleased with themselves.
Eating disorders are difficult to treat because they often originate from several different factors; symptoms of eating disorders vary depending on the disorder.
Anorexia nervosa is characterized by an abnormally low body weight typically caused by intense food restriction, a serious fear of gaining weight, and a very distorted body image. The body is denied of essential nutrients it needs for basic functioning.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, “the morality rate associated with this illness is twelve times higher than the death rate of all other causes of death.”
Another serious eating disorder is bulimia nervosa.
Bulimia nervosa involves a cycle of binging and purging. Individuals suffering from bulimia nervosa typically have an average body weight, but this disorder affects the entire digestive system and negatively affect the heart as well as other major organ functions.
Binge eating disorder is characterized by constant binge eating without action to counter the binge eating which, can also lead to extremely negative health issues.
It is important to acknowledge that eating disorders are not simply about food; they are often related to an individual’s emotional state and general mental health. Eating disorders can be associated with one self-worth.
All eating disorders have differing symptoms that can be life threatening which is why it is extremely important to get professional help.
These disorders extend further than the month of February. It is important for them to be acknowledged at all times.
If you know someone experiencing one of these disorders, encourage them to seek treatment, and if you are experiencing an eating order yourself ask for help; recovery is possible.