Common Eating Disorders

by Catherine Rein
(last updated May 6, 2009)

Our cultural exposure, especially in the U.S., has increasingly been overwhelmed with food. Whether through advertisements for fast food or diet treatments, we are constantly bombarded with images of food. This unnatural obsession with food has resulted in increasing levels of eating disorders in our population.

Eating disorders are serious illnesses. Fortunately, they are treatable and if the illness is caught early the patient can have a full and lasting recovery. You can get help for yourself or loved ones by seeking treatment through various organizations and healthcare providers. You can learn more about each of the common eating disorders here:

  • Anorexia. This eating disorder is most commonly associated with young, white women, but it can affect anyone of any age. It is diagnosed when patients weigh at least 15 percent less than then the normal healthy weight for their height. It has many causes, but is usually associated with low self-esteem and a desire to attain a perfect body through starvation or excessive exercise. You can help prevent eating disorders in young family members by modeling healthy attitudes about food and body image and by stressing the importance of the true diversity of human body types.
  • Bulimia. This eating disorder is often characterized by the patient's need for control. They may be compensating for stressful events or life changes by trying to control binge-eating episodes with purging or vomiting meals. Bulimia patients often suffer from dehydration, swollen cheeks, chronically inflamed throat and intestinal problems due to frequent vomiting and laxative use.
  • Binge eating disorder. Binge eating is similar to bulimia but the sufferer does not purge the food after bingeing through vomiting or laxatives. It includes an out-of-control feeling, where the sufferer consumes enormous quantities of food in a short amount of time, often without tasting the food or even remembering what was eaten.

Each of these eating disorders, if left untreated, can have a serious impact on the health of the patient's body. Menstrual periods may cease, bones thin due to the loss of calcium, muscles waste away and depression may take hold.

Overcoming eating disorders is not easy and will require the help of trained professionals. A healthy body image and healthy mindset about weight are keys to avoiding eating disorders. By staying away from the scale and enjoying food because of its healthy taste and the way it strengthens your body you can begin to view your body in a different and healthy way.

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