Eating Disorders

Eating disorders affect 1-2 teens out of every 100 students. This is a serious issue that not only deals with weight loss, but behavioral changes, body image, and a teen’s overall health. If you or someone you know may have an eating disorder, a parent and a doctor must be contacted. They will be able to help you begin treatment and make healthier lifestyle choices.

The most common eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa.

Anorexia

Often a person diagnosed with anorexia had started out trying to lose weight or get into shape. They have a fear of weight gain and a distorted body image, resulting in an addiction to excessive weight loss behaviors. This may result in restricting their food intake, exercising excessively, using laxatives, and/or binge eating. These behaviors over time can produce serious and chronic health issues, not to mention emotional stress and mental fatigue. Some of these may include:

  • A drop in blood pressure
  • Loss of hair
  • Fingernail breakage
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Brittle bones
  • Anemia
  • Lanugo (thin layer of hair growth all over the body).
  • People diagnosed with anorexia tend to look very thin and malnourished.

According to kidshealth.org, a person with anorexia may exhibit these symptoms:

  • become very thin, frail, or emaciated
  • be obsessed with eating, food, and weight control
  • weigh herself or himself repeatedly
  • count or portion food carefully
  • only eat certain foods, avoiding foods like dairy, meat, wheat, etc. (of course, lots of people who are allergic to a particular food or are vegetarians avoid certain foods)
  • exercise excessively
  • feel fat
  • withdraw from social activities, especially meals and celebrations involving food
  • be depressed, lethargic (lacking in energy), and feel cold a lot

Bulimia

A person who is bulimic eats to excess (binges) and then to get rid of the ingested calories, will exercise excessively, use laxatives, and/or force themselves to vomit. Sometimes a bulimic person will secretly eat food that is uncooked or even from the trash because they feel they do not have the control to stop until they are full. These actions can become compulsive very quickly and can lead to serious health conditions, emotional distress, and mental fatigue. These can include constant stomach pain, stomach and/or kidney damage, tooth decay (from constant purging), and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Binge eating is not the same as overeating at a party one day and then going to the gym the next and trying to eat healthier. To be diagnosed with bulimia, that person must be binging or purging regularly, at least twice a week for a several months.

According to kidshealth.org, a person with bulimia may exhibit these symptoms:

  • fear weight gain
  • be intensely unhappy with body size, shape, and weight
  • make excuses to go to the bathroom immediately after meals
  • only eat diet or low-fat foods (except during binges)
  • regularly buy laxatives, diuretics, or enemas
  • spend most of his or her time working out or trying to work off calories
  • withdraw from social activities, especially meals and celebrations involving food

Binge Eating

Another eating disorder involves just eating excessively. Binge eating is diagnosed by a person eating an excessive amount of food three or more times a week. However, this person will not compensate for their eating by exercising or purging. Serious conditions can result from being excessively overweight. Gaining a lot of weight can put a person at an increased risk for diabetes and heart disease, among other diseases associated with being overweight.

Treatment

It is important to remember that eating disorders are very successfully treated. These are medical diseases that require treatment. If you think you or someone you know might have one, sitting down with your doctor is a good first step. Treatment includes a combination of both mind and body healing. Often times it may take the teamwork of your primary care doctor, a nutritionist, and a therapist to treat each aspect of an eating disorder. Eating orders are common among teens today and talking to a responsible adult or your doctor about concerns and questions is greatly encouraged!