This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (11th February – 17th February 2013) so we at Discount Supplements would like to help spread the word far and wide in the hope of reaching more people and families who are currently living with these terrible illnesses every day. This article will hopefully go some way to improving people’s understanding of eating disorders, addressing who it can affect and providing contact details for agencies that support individuals and their loved ones through the turbulent journey of acknowledging an eating disorder and taking steps along the long road to recovery.
An eating disorder is a condition defined by abnormal eating habits that may involve either insufficient or excessive food intake to the detriment of an individual’s physical and mental health. The eating disorders which are recognised as ‘common’ in our society are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder.
This illness involves lowering food intake by skipping meals and cutting down on the amount of food eaten as well as certain types of food in particular. It is often combined with over-exercising although this is not true for every person who struggles with this disorder. The disorder tends to stem from psychological issues such as low self-esteem and an inability to cope with feelings and stressful situations. Although these are dominant factors there are many other underlying issues from which this disorder can stem as every individual is unique.
- Severe weight loss
- Disrupted sleep cycle (fatigue and difficulty getting to sleep)
- Stomach pain
- Feeling cold
- Amenorrhea ( ceased menstrual cycle in women of reproductive age)
- Hair loss
- Irritability/ mood swings
- Tend to shut themselves off from the world
- Sufferers have very clear views of what they perceive as right and wrong. There is no middle ground.
- Difficulty concentrating
- Excessive exercise
- Obsessive behaviour
- Being secretive
- Lying about eating
- Being a people pleaser
- Cooking and preparing elaborate meals for others but not eating any themselves
- Wearing baggy clothes
Bulimia is a much more common disorder than anorexia and the numbers are thought to be much greater than the known cases as it is a ‘hidden illness’. Those who suffer with Bulimia tend to have an average or slightly higher than average weight and do not tend to suffer from rapid and severe weight loss like those with anorexia.
Bulimia Nervosa involves a vicious cycle of eating a very large amount of food (bingeing) followed by purging which generally involves induced vomiting but can also involve taking laxatives. Periods of starvation following a binge are common as is excessive exercise (known as exercise bulimia).
- Sore throat
- Mouth infection
- Bad breath
- Stomach pain
- Women: irregular periods
- Poor skin
- Sleep disruption
- Kidney and bowel problems
- Bingeing on large amounts of food in one sitting
- Visiting the toilet immediately following a meal
- Regular laxative use/reliance on laxatives
- Secretive behaviour
- Lying about/hiding eating habits
- Can be very emotional and depressed
Binge Eating Disorder/ Compulsive Overeating
Binge eating disorder involves eating very large amounts of food but it is not followed by purging. It generally consists of ‘out of control’ eating to a point of severe digestive discomfort caused by the amount of food eaten and the pace at which it was consumed. People who suffer with this disorder tend to become obsessed with eating to a point where they eat when they are not hungry and eat in secret to hide their behaviour from others.
Compulsive overeating involves ‘picking’ at food constantly throughout the day. People who suffer from this tend to have difficulty coping with feelings which unfortunately causes a vicious cycle of unhealthy behaviour. Those who suffer from depression and/or feelings of inadequacy may ‘comfort’ themselves through obsessive eating. Overeating and weight gain then increases their feelings of depression and inadequacy causing them to turn to food as comfort and the awful cycle continues.
Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified
Some eating disorders fall under the category of ‘not otherwise specified’. This is due to variations in symptoms, behaviour and the problems from which the disorder stems. This usually leads to individuals being diagnosed with partial syndromes, but don’t let the name fool you into thinking they are not as severe because this is not the case.
Examples of these disorders are:
- An individual suffering with anorexia who is still menstruating.
- Infrequent bulimia.
- Chewing and spitting food out in large amounts.
- Individuals of a normal weight who regularly engage in damaging compensatory behaviours after eating small amounts of food.
Who It Affects
Eating disorders are typically perceived to be conditions suffered by females, but the prevalence of men suffering with an eating disorder has increased over the past decade. Whether this is only due to improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of men is unclear. The bottom line is this: Eating disorders can affect people of any gender, age, social status, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.
Recovery begins with the acknowledgement of an eating disorder. This is a very difficult step to take for the majority of sufferers who become set in their ways and feel safe in their obsessive routines. Many of the people who suffer from eating disorders are convinced that weight loss is the answer to all their problems and the key to success, happiness and confidence.
Recovery is not a simple matter of ‘putting on a few pounds’, it is a matter of battling those inner voices to help change an individual’s feelings towards food, health and eating so that they are able to regain control of their life. It is a lengthy and turbulent process which is why recovery from an eating disorder requires a team of people to help support and motivate sufferers towards a healthy lifestyle.
Of course it is easy for me to write factual information about these illnesses, but I want you to hear from someone who knows firsthand how it feels to be controlled by an eating disorder. She is living proof that with strength and determination you can overcome an eating disorder to lead a fulfilling and happy life.
‘It was the year 1999 when I started to realise my over exercising and counting calories had taken over my life. Every day food ruled my life from the moment I woke until the moment I finally let myself sleep. I was always a slim girl but after leaving school at an early age through illnesses and bullying, I started to feel like I needed some focus in life and I chose food and exercise as my new way of control. I felt good!
No matter how my parents and family could see how much I was deteriorating rapidly, I didn't seem to notice or care. Food and calories took over my mind and body until I was surviving on water and one apple a day. In the year 2000 I finally got to the point where I could no longer walk, dress or go to the toilet without help. My mum was trying to help me and I wouldn't let her. I saw her pain and tears one day and I broke down and asked for help.
I was admitted to Newmarket House Clinic in Norwich...a place for people suffering from anorexia and bulimia and wanting to recover. A friendly, homely place to help support and guide you on the road to recovery! I slowly gave in and started to regain my health and weight gradually...I felt happier and more alive. My brain still tried to convince me to go back to the darker side but I turned my mind around into getting well again instead. I wanted this part of my life to disappear and to regain my health and smile again. Most importantly I wanted my family happy again and I knew it was up to me to get myself well with the support of loved ones around me. At my worst my weight plummeted to 4 stone 3lb and I almost lost my life...but with much love, support and help from the clinic and family I managed to creep on enough weight to think straight, walk alone and dress myself. My determined side kicked in and after several long months I left the clinic and struggled greatly at home to keep on the straight and narrow.
In 2003 I got my first proper job (in a bakery of all places) and I was back in control of my life instead of letting food control me. I felt fantastic! Years went by and I managed to get better and better until food, calories and exercise did not control me, I was in control of myself! I was happy. Now I'm 34, in a relationship, weighing a healthy 9 stone and most importantly I'm a mummy to the best little boy in the world. I'm the proof that it’s never too late to fight an eating disorder, I've beaten it and so can anyone. I love being me and I am so lucky to be alive.
I'd like to express the importance of keeping places like the Newmarket House Clinic open and funded because without these clinics a lot more people won't recover! I did...and I LOVE my life.’
If you are suffering yourself or know someone who is, do not be afraid to ask for help and let your journey to recovery begin. The following organisations are here to help provide support, advice and treatment to help you feel healthy and happy.
Anorexia and Bulimia Care: 01934710645
Men Get Eating Disorders Too: www.mengetedstoo.co.uk
Diabetics with Eating Disorders: 02088083832
Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous: www.foodaddicts.org
For more information:
Eating Disorders Expert: www.eatingdisorderexpert.co.uk
Bulimia Help: www.BulimiaHelp.org
Voice in Recovery: www.voiceinrecovery.com/blog/
Hungry for Change: www.hungryforchangeofficial.org/eating-disorders.html