Is your desire to be thin driving you to the edge? Or is it your loved one starving themselves in the pursuit of beauty?
Anorexia is a serious disorder which can at times end in death if nothing is done to help the person. Read on to learn more about anorexia and how to prevent it or fight it.
Anorexia Nervosa: An Introduction
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder. Anorexics eat very little food, and over time they starve. When not curbed, it leads to death from starvation.
Anorexic people, due to their non-eating, become thin and malnourished. However, they still see themselves as overweight – and that’s why it is categorized as a disorder.
It gets so bad that they have to be hospitalized because of severe undernourishment. In spite of everything, anorexics refuse to accept that they have a disease.
The condition develops during the adolescent years. 9 out of 10 anorexic people are female.
Anorexia is diagnosed when a person restricts food intake to the point where their weight becomes dangerously low. At the same time, they have an intense horror of gaining weight and an excessive fixation on their body weight or shape.
Anorexia has two subtypes. The first subtype is related to another eating disorder known as bulimia. It involves bingeing on food then purging – eating, and then inducing themselves to throw up. The difference between this and the disorder bulimia nervosa is that people who have bulimia nervosa are usually in the normal weight range.
The second subtype of anorexia is the one people think about when they hear the word anorexia, and involves severe restriction of food and calories.
The Causes of Anorexia
It is not known exactly what causes anorexia nervosa. It is known, however, that the condition can run in families. Young women who have a parent or sibling with an eating disorder are at a higher risk of developing it too.
Psychological, environmental, and social factors also influence the development of anorexia in an individual.
Anorexics are people who have bought into the false belief that they would lead better lives if only they got thinner. It has been noted that they are usually perfectionists and overachievers. The typical anorexic is often a good student and involves herself in school and community activities.
According to some experts, anorexia could be the result of unresolved conflicts or painful childhood experiences which the sufferer is trying to come into terms with.
Sexual abuse is not linked with the development of anorexia.
Anorectic drugs, crystal meth abuse in particular, may also cause anorexia. Crystal meth gives you a false sense of energy while at the same time decreasing or depressing your natural feelings of hunger.
Some people start using it just so they can lose weight. That’s why methamphetamine is classified as an anorectic or appetite suppressant. Taking meth with an aim of losing weight is a very bad idea. Meth is 3 times as powerful as cocaine and is one of the most difficult drugs to quit. It also creates dependence faster than most drugs.
How to Deal with or Prevent Anorexia
- Shift Attention from Just Your Body to Your Whole Person
One of the reasons people become anorexic is trying to conform to society’s beauty expectations that place higher value on some types of bodies over others.
When you get it in your mind that the only way to be worthy is if you have a certain type of body, this will become a disease of the mind.
You are more than your body. Think of all the wonderful features you are overlooking, all your strengths, talents, and abilities. What do people compliment you for?
Learn to accept yourself as you are, and be happy with who you are.
- Develop a Healthy Body Image
An anorexic person’s view of their body is unrealistic and extremely negative. When they look at their bodies, they only see flaws.
How about you start having a more wholesome and positive body image? This does not imply singling out a particular part of your body like the nose and thinking how wonderful it is.
We mean a positive attitude that encompasses the whole body. Think about how healthy your body is, how well everything functions. Realize that body weight and shape are not flaws, except in unhealthy cases such as obesity.
If you focus on what is positive about your body, and ignore the imaginary flaws, your self esteem and body confidence will increase. You will feel more comfortable in your own skin.
- Become Aware of the Falseness of Media Portrayal of Bodies
The media has over the years fostered an unrealistic portrayal of bodies – women’s bodies in particular.
When every female character in a movie, TV show, or every female news anchor and supermodel has a slim body, it communicates the message that only that particular type of body is beautiful.
This is of course not true. Still, many women inwardly believe that they are not beautiful based on these false judgments.
Make a point whenever you watch TV and experience feelings of shame or self-hatred to remind yourself that the standards set by popular media are not the actual standard of beauty.
For instance, while Western society may admire slim bodies, some regions of the world admire women who have bigger bodies, and in those societies slim women may feel shame and self-hatred.
If perceptions of beauty are dependent on the observer, why not make yourself the observer of your own body? If you love your body, other people’s opinions will not have any influence over your feelings.
- Let Go of Your Perfectionism
Anorexic people often have strong perfectionist tendencies.
Stop trying to be in control of everything. Learn to let go.
See a therapist to help you overcome perfectionism. Cognitive therapy will help you identify your perfectionist belief systems, and help you develop healthier expectations of yourself.
- Drop Your Tendency to Demonize Certain Foods
There is no good or bad food. Carbohydrates are not bad, in spite of what fad diets tell you. It’s true that some foods provide only empty calories, but when you give them the “bad” label, you are likely to relapse later on and binge on them. Afterwards, guilt and shame will overwhelm you, and you will force yourself to vomit what you have eaten.
Over time, you develop an unhealthy relationship with food. When you have an unhealthy perception of both food and your body, that’s how you get a eating disorder.
- Stop Dieting
Diets rarely succeed. When you remove certain food groups from your diet and eat below the recommended nutritional guidelines, you put yourself at risk of suffering numerous health problems.
According to statistics, 95% of all dieters regain lost weight within 1 to 5 years. Unfortunately, diets are a façade.
Serial dieters are at risk of diminished muscle mass, heart disease, bone deficiencies, and may suffer negative effects on their metabolism.
If you are determined to maintain a healthy weight, look for a registered dietitian who can help you develop a lifestyle-based eating plan that focuses on health rather than weight.
Perception is a big thing when it comes to eating disorders. Anorexia develops as a result of two wrong perceptions: a wrong perception of your body and a wrong perception of food. As a result, you develop an unhealthy relationship with your body and with food.
Understand this, and start altering your perceptions as recommended in this article. It will certainly help you deal with anorexia, if you have it. If you don’t, it will help ensure you never develop anorexia.
If your friend or relative has anorexia, don’t demonize them. Understand that this is a mental illness. Empathize with them, and help them understand the concepts shared in this article.