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Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders
September 15, 2010 Kim Goldman

What is an eating disorder?

An eating disorder is an obsession with food and weight that harms a person’s well-being. Although we all worry about our weight sometimes, people who have an eating disorder go to extremes to keep from gaining weight. There are 2 main eating disorders: anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

What are the differences between anorexia and bulimia?

Anorexia:  People who have anorexia are obsessed with being thin. They don’t want to eat, and they are afraid of gaining weight. They may constantly worry about how many calories they take in or how much fat is in their food. They may take diet pills, laxatives or water pills to lose weight. They may exercise too much. People who have anorexia usually think they’re fat even though they’re very thin. They may get so thin that they look like they’re sick.

Bulimia: Bulimia is eating a lot of food at once (called bingeing), and then throwing up or using laxatives to remove the food from the body (called purging). After a binge, some bulimics fast (don’t eat) or overexercise to keep from gaining weight. People who have bulimia may also use water pills, laxatives or diet pills to “control” their weight. People who have bulimia often try to hide their bingeing and purging. They may hide food for binges. People who have bulimia are usually close to normal weight, but their weight may go up and down.

What are some warning signs:

The following are possible warning signs of anorexia and bulimia:

  • Unnatural concern about body weight (even if the person is not overweight)
  • Obsession with calories, fat grams and food
  • Use of any medicines to keep from gaining weight (diet pills, laxatives, water pills)

More serious warning signs may be harder to notice because people who have an eating disorder try to keep it secret. Watch for these signs:

  • Throwing up after meals
  • Refusing to eat or lying about how much was eaten
  • Fainting
  • Overexercising
  • Not having periods
  • Increased anxiety about weight
  • Calluses or scars on the knuckle (from forced throwing up)
  • Denying that there is anything wrong

Can eating disorders be treated?

Yes. For people who have anorexia, the first step is getting back to a normal weight. If you’re malnourished or very thin, you may be put in the hospital. Your doctor will probably want you to see a dietitian to learn how to pick healthy foods and eat at regular times. For both people who have anorexia and bulimia, family and individual counseling (talking about your feelings about your weight and problems in your life) is helpful.

Statistics on Eating Disorders:

  • During the last 30 days, 6.3% of students nationwide had taken diet pills, powders, or liquids without a doctor’s advice to lose weight or to keep from gaining weight.
    2005 CDC Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance
  • Nationwide, 4.5% of students had vomited or taken laxatives to lose weight or to keep from gaining weight during the last 30 days. Overall the prevalence of having vomited or taken laxatives to lose weight or to keep from gaining weight was higher among female (6.2%) than male (2.8%) students.
    2005 CDC Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance

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