There is no such thing as a “perfect body.” But in today’s society, there is tremendous pressure to look perfect — like famous fashion models, music artists and actors. Our family, peers and cultural practices also affect our ideas about body image and eating habits.
Having the perfect body weight and shape has become a social norm. The problem is that many of us are so focused on having the “perfect” body, we have stopped working toward a healthy body. In some cases, this leads to developing an eating disorder.
The good news is that eating disorders are treatable. The sooner you recognize and get treatment for the disorder, the better the outcome. It is never too late to get treatment. You are not alone!
Anorexia is a common eating disorder. The main symptom is a strong fear of gaining weight. Because of this fear, people with anorexia gradually restrict the amount of food they eat. This leads to extreme weight loss.
It may start by simply dieting. Then, thoughts of food, dieting and weight get out of control. Anorexia is most common in young females. Around 95 percent of those with anorexia are between the ages of 12 and 25. Common symptoms and warning signs of anorexia include:
If you or someone you know has anorexia, the first goal of treatment is to return the person to a healthy weight. After that, treatment turns to understanding the psychological issues related to the eating disorder. Finally, minimizing or eliminating the behaviors or thoughts that lead to anorexia is important to prevent it from happening again. To reach all of these goals requires medical attention and supportive therapy. Occasionally, anorexia nervosa can result in death due to the effects of severe starvation.
The main symptom of bulimia is eating a large amount of food in a very short time. Bulimics will then get rid of the food by vomiting, exercising too much or overusing medication, like laxatives. This cycle is called “binge and purge” and may happen multiple times each day.
Like anorexia, thoughts of food, diet and weight become consuming. Again, the majority of those with bulimia are women, with the average age in the mid-20s. Common symptoms and warning signs of bulimia include:
The number one goal in treating bulimia is to reduce or eliminate binge eating and purging behaviors. Therapies, medication and nutritional classes can help recovery.
BED is the most common eating disorder in the United States. BED characteristics include periods of compulsive overeating or continuous eating. A binge eating episode typically lasts around two hours, but some people binge on and off all day long.
Binge eaters often eat even when they’re not hungry and continue eating long after they’re full. Binge eating can lead to weight gain and obesity. BED symptoms usually begin in late adolescence or early adulthood. Common behavioral symptoms and warning signs of BED include:
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, help is available. Remember, the first step in overcoming an eating disorder is recognizing the problem and asking for help. You can start by: