For many the words ‘eating disorder’ evoke images of starved young women with rib cages poking out from underneath their skin. This is one very real aspect of eating disorders. But that is not the only one.
The Facts About Eating Disorders
In the United States alone, 20 million women and 10 million men have suffered from an eating disorder at some time in their life.
The term eating disorder can refer to: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS).
Eating disorders are serious, life threatening mental illnesses.
Eating disorders can stim from multiple factors. Frequently they are brought on by a deep seated hatred of the person’s own body, an unhealthy obsession with food, or one’s weight.
Eating disorders can also be a reaction to another mental illness. Depression may be self medicated with binge eating, which may or may not be followed with purging. Someone with anxiety may feel the only thing they can control is how much, or how little they eat.
But the somber truth is, the world we live in actively promotes a dissatisfaction with one’s body.
The Role Body Shaming Plays
From a young age we are bombarded with the idea that there is one ideal body type. What that body type is may change from one generation to the next, but it is always there. The media and clothing designers imprint into our minds how we are supposed to look.
But here is a secret I want to share with all of you. A secret it took me a long time to learn. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes. And that is okay. That is normal. That is the way it should be.
Some are taller than others, some are leaner than others, some are curvier than others. And that is all okay. That is all good! How boring would life be if we all looked exactly alike?
In more recent years, there has been a spotlight pointed on the fashion industry and the fact that many of their female models starve themselves or purge on a regular basis to meet the standards set out for them.
The changes are happening slowly. Very slowly. But they are happening. However, something that seems to be ignored is the unrealistic standards that are set out for men.
The world has also set an ideal body for men. Young boys also grow up with the imprint that they need to look a certain way if they want to be considered attractive, even if they want to be liked.
The world is filled with people that body shame others. People tell thin people they need to spend all their free time in the gym so they can be just the right amount of curvy, in just the right places. But don’t bulk up too much!
People tell heavier people they need to not eat at all or that they need to take unhealthy diet pills to fit in with the set standard of beauty. Lose weight they say, but if you go to the gym they make fun of you.
Celebrities are plastered all over every magazine and website if they dare to look anything but perfect all the time.
Our world is obsessed with looks. It is no wonder that many feel they need to take drastic measures to feel they will be accepted.
The Dangers of Eating Disorders
This obsession with looks leads to real medical problems.
Some of the consequences of anorexia nervosa include:
Severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure
Muscle loss and failure
Increased risk for heart failure
Reduction of bone density, leading to dry, brittle bones
Bulimia nervosa may lead to:
Peptic ulcers and pancreatitis
Inflammation and possible rupture of the esophagus
Electrolyte imbalances that can lead to irregular heartbeats and possibly heart failure and death
Consequences of binge eating disorder may include:
High blood pressure
Type II diabetes
These are real, life altering, life threatening consequences caused by a mental illness. If you or someone you know has any signs of having or developing an eating disorder, get help right away!
The sooner treatment begins the sooner healing can begin. Psychological counseling is the primary treatment, coupled with attention to medical and nutritional needs.
The Need For Preventative Measures
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Prevention is key.
We may not be able to change the whole world. But we can change the way we view other people and how we speak to and about others, this includes strangers on social media, this includes celebrities.
Start spreading the message that everyone is beautiful, no matter what size they are.
Start spreading the message that everyone is important, no matter what size they are.
Start spreading the message that everyone has something special about them, no matter what size they are.
Let your voice make a difference for a little girl or boy that is growing up in this beauty obsessed world.
Gohere for more information about eating disorders and how to get help.