Class of 2011
Kayla Degrote
May 2011

                                                                                Eating Disorders
        When I was 11 years old my best friend, at the time, convinced me that with the way we were both growing by the time I was in my late teen years I would be over weight like my mother. We started eating a lot of food at once, smoking weed, doing drugs, to eat as much as we could and then we would take turns throwing up all the food we just consumed. This is also known as binging and purging. This went on for about a year and a half until I took a health class in 8th grade that taught us about eating disorders and taught me about what I was doing to my body. You see, I never enjoyed or wanted to binge and purge but my best friend was that little voice in my head convincing me to continue to do it. She was living with me at the time so it was hard to get away from it. When I finally learned what I was doing I told my family about what was going on, they made my so called “friend” move out and get me help to get me healthy before it was too late.
      According to the website, there is an estimated 8 million Americans that have an eating disorder, 7 million women and 1 million men. Every 1/200 women have this disorder. Half of all Americans know someone with an eating disorder. 5-10% will die within 10 years; 18-20% die within 20 years and 30-40% ever fully recover. Only 1 in ten people get treatment because treatment ranges $500-$2,000 per day, that means that one month can be $30,000 and its recommended to have 3 to 6 months in treatment. It is the 3rd most common chronic illness in adolescence, 95% of people with an eating disorder are between the ages of 12 to 25 and 15% of girls 11-13 think that they are fat. 80% of 13yr old girls try to lose weight. From those admitted to the hospital 10 to 20% eventually die from this disorder. Anorexia has the highest fatality rate, killing about 1000 per year, which is between 5-10%! Now that’s a lot. A questionnaire was given to 650 fifth and sixth graders in 1996 and it showed that 73% of girls and 43% of boys wanted to be thinner. 58% already tried to lose weight and 11% showed eating disorder attitudes. 90% of females have an eating disorder and men are becoming increasingly more affected.
Eating disorders are not about food and weight at all, their symptoms are about something much deeper going on inside them. Eating disorders are more than just being on a diet, dieting is about losing a little bit of weight in a healthy way. But eating disorders, on the other hand, are about seeking approval and acceptance from everyone through negative attention. Its about trying to make your whole life better through food/eating (or lack of). Most of the people with eating disorders are junk food addicts. It has little nutritional value but serves as a false sense of energy. Anyone can suffer from this disorder.People from every age-bracket, class and culture. Out of 2,000 people who responded, 50% said that they suffered from some kind of sexual or physical abuse, NOT to say that everyone with an eating disorder have been abused. What they have to understand is that food is not love, pride, sadness or a friend. It is something our bodies need for fuel to keep us healthy and strong.
      Too many times food is used as an award or a punishment like using food as comfort, for an example. Children need to be comforted with hugs, communication, validation and spending time with them, they do not need to be fed something to get over their emotions. It is not common to use food as a punishment either. An example would be, “No food until you do what I say.” Kids ask to eat because they are hungry. Forcing them to unreasonably wait between meals will destroy their ability to determine when their really hungry. Forcing them to eat when they aren’t hungry again will destroy their sense of hunger.
Bulimia and anorexia are similar but they are also very different. For instance, anorexia is mostly common in teens and bulimia is common for people in their 20’s. Although both men and women have these disorders both disorders are more likely found in women. Anorexia is a refusal to eat anything, whereas bulimia is eating as much as you can (binging) and then causing yourself to make it come back up (purging) using self-induced vomiting or laxatives. Bulimia has recurrent episodes of binging and purging. Both of these disorders cause fatigue, depression, a irregular heart rate which can cause heart failure. The person with these disorders have an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though they are FAR from fat.
Anorexia symptoms are different than bulimia because people with anorexia avoid eating completely. They count all their calories, wear baggy clothing, use diet pills, have dry skin and thinning hair. They will normally feel cold, act moody or depressed, get dizzy frequently and have mild anemia.
      With bulimia your face tends to get puffy and you get swollen fingers. The person hands and fingers get cut or callused from sticking their fingers down their throat to purge. The persons teeth will become discolored and their teeth will begin to decay from all the stomach acid. They will go to the bathroom after eating (to purge). They will get stomach pains and have constipation.
Anorexia is an eating disorder that cause’s people to obsess about their weight and the food that they eat. They attempt to maintain a weight that is far below normal for their age and height. The definition means “loss of appetite” but really they are hungry they just won’t allow self to eat. To prevent weight gain or to continue losing weight people may starve themselves, exercise or diet excessively. People start to restrict their food income severely and they do it on purpose. They refuse to maintain minimal body weight. You’re considered anorexic if you are 15lbs under weight. Anorexics are obsessed with staying thin. They will be very thin but still describes them self as fat. People with this disorder have an intense fear of being obese. They will do anything to avoid eating, and that takes a lot of energy. They are confident when losing weight, but worthless if they aren’t. Its not about the food but more about an unhealthy way to cope with emotional problems. Anorexics tend to set high standards for themselves and are most of the time perfectionists. Despite starvation, people with this condition might love to cook for others and collect recipes.
      Eating disorders are difficult to over come but not impossible. With the right treatment, you can gain a better idea of who you are. It is very difficult to treat an anorexic because they deny that there is anything wrong with them. They are defiantly resistant to therapy as well. Hospitalization is sometimes needed to prevent death by starvation.
      The physical symptoms are extreme weight loss, appearing very thin or skinny, people with anorexia often feel very fatigued, have insomnia, and dizziness/fainting. They have an intolerance to cold, have an abnormal blood count, swelling of arms or legs, become very dehydrated, have low blood pressure, constipation and have no menstruation. Problems with starvation is dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and heart arrhythmia. The emotional or behavioral symptoms include refusing to eat, denial of hunger, excessive exercise, lack of emotions, a social withdraw, irritable, depressed mood, reduced interest in sex and loss of concentration. They will strongly deny hunger and fatigue. Common medical problems are denied as well.
      Some say that anorexia is a choice, you choose to be anorexic. But studies show it could be biological and/or psychological. The studies are not specifically clear about how genetics play a role in eating disorders. A low self-worth, O.C.D (obsessive compulsive disorder) personality trait or extreme drive for perfection can be a reason why. Mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, drug abuse, and personality disorders can cause an eating disorder. Some risk factors are genetics-If your parents have or has had an eating disorder, it is more common among teenagers but mostly with girls. Athletes, models, actors or dancers are likely as well.
      Female athletes are at high risk because appearance is important. The problem is publicized as The Female Athlete Triad. “Female athlete triad” is another way of saying anorexia nervosa in athletes. 6 months to 2 years they will have irreversible bone loss, they mistakenly think that exercise will keep them from getting osteoporosis later in life. Osteoporosis is where your bones are super brittleness due to loss of calcium. People with anorexia are 7 times more likely to have bone fractures. The only way to stop bone loss is to gain enough weight to begin your period again.
      Anorexia has been around for centuries. They believed it would bring you closer to God. In the 1300’s, St. Catherine of Siena was famous for living on small amounts of food. It wasn’t until the 19th century that anorexia was recognized as an illness. Around the same time food related illnesses appeared.
      If someone’s skipping meals and making excuses for why they are not eating, only eating what they call “safe” foods-low fat/calories, weighing themselves a lot, complaining about being fat, not eating in public, adopting eating habits or checking the mirror for perceived flaws they could have an eating disorder and most need help to stop.
When the person decides to get help they need to restore their self to a healthy weight, treat their psychological problems, reduce or eliminate the thought and behaviors that lead to an eating disorder, or they may need nutritional counseling. Long term counseling is essential. 
      If you have a child, Do not use food as a punishment or reward. For example, ”No dinner until you clean your room” or ”Great job cleaning your room lets go get ice cream.” Children need to be comforted with hugs, communication, validation and time spent with them. They don’t just need food. Children ask to eat because they are hungry, forcing them to unreasonably wait or forcing them to eat will destroy their ability to determine when they are hungry.
      On-line they have Pro-Anorexia websites. These websites will have a warning page that says you need to be at least 18 years of age and to not go on the site if you are seeking treatment. They will tell you how to starve your self in a healthy way, such as, you need vitamins and minerals to survive. It goes on to tell you that if your exercising you’ll need some kind of protein in your body. But watch your fat intake because fat has more calories than any other source of energy. So switch to low fat and then go to no fat foods. Caffeine is used as an appetite suppressant and will increase your metabolism. It also acts as a diuretic, but be sure to drink one glass of water after each cup. I mean why would this be on the internet. I feel there should be laws against this kind of thing.
      Bulimia is an eating disorder which in a person binges on large amounts of food, or over eats, then feels a loss of control. It is binge-eating, starving, vomiting, compulsive exercise, or other behaviors focused on eating, getting rid of or avoiding food. The person then uses any way they can to prevent weight gain, such as vomiting or laxative abuse. Many, but not all who are bulimic have anorexia too, however bulimia is more common than anorexia. Half of anorexics develops bulimia at some point in their disease. Bulimia is more common in women than men, but most common in teens and young adults. The person is aware of abnormalities and may experience fear/guilt with their episodes. The exact cause for this disorder is unknown but genetics, psychological, trauma, family, society or cultural factors may play a role. And it might be due to more than one of these factors.
      Binges tend to occur more than several times a day for many months. The person will eat large amounts of high-calorie foods and mostly always feel a lack of control. Binges cause self-disgust which leads to purging. For most bulimics, purging brings a sense of relief. They will have reoccurring episodes, a lack of control, so that’s why it becomes an addiction. The food is the “drug” and the binging/purging is the addictive behaviors. It is temporary and sporadic but can become a way of life. Bulimia can be harder to detect than other eating disorders. They will successfully hide the symptoms and delay getting help until in their late 30’s and 40’s. They can successfully hide the symptoms because they can maintain a normal body weight and binging and purging is done in secret. When they finally get help, people with this disorder are easier to treat because they recognize their behavior is abnormal. Although, the earlier the better. As time goes on the problem gets worse and it is harder to treat and more disengaging.
      Fashion, advertising, and entertainment idealize the female body that only about 1% of the average female can hope to achieve. Research shows that dissatisfaction and desire to lose weight are the norm for about 70% of women, and men are becoming increasingly concerned about their weight and food. Eating disorders are starting to occur at younger ages. Activities pushing thinness such as gymnastics, ballet, ice skating, wrestling, and long distance running can cause an eating disorder. 15 to 62% of female athletes are affected compare to the 4% of general population.
      An eating disorder exists when ones attitude towards food and weight becomes all that a person can ever think about. When someone’s feelings about work, school, relationships and day-to-day activities are determined by what has or hasn’t been eaten that day. We all know what it is like to reward our selves with food after a hard day, and we all know what its like to be a little bit under or over weight. But when our wishes and rewards become the basis of every decision, it means a problem has been developed . The problem starts as a common wish to lose weight, and becomes a bigger problem when it’s no longer used to maintain or reduce weight. Its a problem when you eat for reasons other than hunger.
      Food is closely connected to emotions. Food is used for pleasure, comfort and to gain control. Economic status can also affect when and what people eat. Having a low income can affect what you can afford to buy because high fat foods are cheaper. Eating disorders are more common in industrialized societies where there is an abundance of food and females have a cultural pressure to be thin. In some families refusing to eat can be very offensive.
      Eating habits do and will play a role in oral health. While 89% of bulimic patients show signs of tooth erosion, usually from throwing up, studies show similar effects in patients with highly restrictive dietary habits. Often times pain and discomfort associated with dental complications that will cause patients to seek the help they need. Some signs are loss of tissue, erosion, and lesions on the surfaces of teeth due to acid exposure (can appear as early as 6 months from start of problem). Other complications include in color, shape or length of teeth, sensitivity to increase of temperature changes, enlargement of salavery glands, dry mouth, and reddened, dry, cracked lips. If you brush your teeth or rinse your mouth out too much after vomiting it can cause tooth decay. Changes in mouth are often the first sign of an eating disorder. Other than dramatic weight loss, some signs include, obsession with food, knowing how many calories are in everything, working out even when their super sick, avoiding meals with friends, wearing baggie clothing, severe dieting, cutting foods into millions of pieces before eating it and moving food around on the plate. A serious health risk is having an imbalance of chemicals cause a heart attack or stroke.
      Bulimics will have obsessive thoughts, like when their not eating all they can think about is food. They are greatly troubled with food. Their eating disorder will be out of control and they’ll be unable to stop. Then they will think of them self as disgusting and will feel very guilty.
      If you think you may be suffering from an eating disorder there is help.