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Dr. Ayushi Gupta
Food is essential for our bodies to grow, function properly, repair cells and tissues, and produce energy for daily tasks. But over time there has been a shift from healthy food choices to unhealthy food choices and especially with the advent of social media, the entertainment industry, etc.
Things like body dysmorphia have become very common. Well, what is body dysmorphia and how it affects people is a whole other discussion, but in short, it’s a condition in which a person is obsessed with one part or another of their body and thinks that particular part (which is completely normal and working) is flawed and the person tries to hide that part and constantly compares it to other people, for example, if someone thinks their nose is faulty or has a flaccid arm and it constantly haunts the person and affects their mental peace, which is body dysmorphia.
Today’s topic of discussion, however, is a group of conditions that fall under eating disorders. Literally it means eating disorders, but in reality it’s not just about food, it’s a range of behavioral conditions that cause a person to develop serious and persistent unhealthy eating habits and thoughts. and associated distressing emotions like obsession with food and weight, more exercise, not eating proper food or eating inedible things, eating and vomiting and it is because the person does not want to gaining weight because that person has body dysmorphia and is obsessed with losing weight and looking thin and in some shape or that person is extremely fussy and instead of eating normal food they eat things that don’t have no nutritional value. This person can develop serious physical, psychological and social consequences like severe nutritional deficiencies, not being able to concentrate on work, problems with conception, etc. And all of this can affect literally every aspect of that person’s life. Now the question is why our elders did not have it and why mainly a particular sex and age group are more affected. Well, some of our elders may have had it, but back then it wasn’t talked about much and in fact having more weight and a fuller body was considered a sign of good wealth. Studies have shown that genetics plays a role, i.e. people who have a sibling or parent with an eating disorder are more likely to develop it at some point in their lives. Moreover, perfectionist and impulsive people are also more likely to have it and how can we forget our society and its pressures to look a certain way no matter how the person feels inside. Eating disorders can occur in association with other psychiatric disorders like OCD, anxiety disorders, etc. Although people of any sex and age can be affected, women between the ages of 12 and 35 are most commonly affected. These women may show dramatic weight loss, excuses to avoid mealtimes, always busy with food and measuring the calories of everyone and everything they eat, denying feelings of hunger, binge eating and purging habits, excessive exercise, etc. which in turn affects in different ways like developing constipation, feeling lethargic, dizzy and tired all the time, developing sleep irregularities and menstruation, dry skin, thin and brittle hair and nails, weak immunity, difficulty concentrating, etc. Eating disorders comprise a group of conditions and they are:
ANOREXIA NERVOSA – one of the most common types of eating disorders. Mostly seen in young teenage girls who do not want to gain weight even though they are underweight, so they limit their food intake and may exercise too much or use laxatives or vomit the food taken, i.e. say that they lose weight by calorie restriction (limiting type of anorexia) or by eating excessively and then purging it (type of bulimia and purging of anorexia).
BULIMIA NERVOSA – these people tend to gorge themselves on food until they are painfully full, then, to compensate for the calories consumed and because of fear of gaining weight, they purge it by forcefully vomiting or using laxatives or enemas, etc. It’s somewhat similar to binge eating and anorexia-type purging, but in bulimia the weight is usually maintained. During these binge eating episodes, these people cannot control how much they eat. And these recurring purging episodes can lead to throat inflammation, bowel irritation, acid reflux, electrolyte imbalance, and more.
EXPRESSIONAL FEEDING DISORDERS – such as bulimia and anorexia of the binge eating and purgative type, these people also tend to eat a lot of food, usually over a short period of time and until they are uncomfortably full . After that, they start to feel ashamed or disgusted about this binge eating behavior, but they do nothing to lose weight or limit calories. They just binge, feel ashamed, and then binge again, with these episodes occurring as frequently as a week to 10 days.
RUMINATION DISORDER – in this case the person tends to regurgitate eaten food (usually within 30 minutes of eating) and re-chew the food followed by re-swallowing or spitting it out. This type can even begin in infancy or childhood, although like all other types, it is also most commonly seen in young adults and adolescents. However, one thing to note here is that this regurgitation is not due to any medical or gastrointestinal cause but is psychological in nature.
AVOIDANT RESTRICTIVE FOOD INTAKE DISORDER (ARFID) – these people are extremely picky when it comes to eating food, leading to nutritional deficiencies because the lesser amount of food they eat does not meet the needs of their body. This may be due to a lack of appetite or lack of interest in eating or because they avoid foods because of their color, smell, texture, etc. (But not because of the fear of gaining weight). This leads to weight loss, nutritional deficiencies and/or poor body development. However, the key word here is EXTREME, because these people are not only picky (which many people usually are), but EXTREMELY picky.
OTHER SPECIFIED FEEDING AND FEEDING ORDER – this includes disturbances in eating behavior that impair a person’s family, social and work functions, etc. But do not fit into the categories mentioned above, eg. Orthorexia, atypical anorexia nervosa etc.
Now that we know the types of eating disorders and how they affect us, it’s important to know how to treat them. Things as basic as psychotherapy, nutritional counseling or as advanced as medications like antidepressants, mood stabilizers, etc. can be used to help these people. A very important approach that can be taken by the family and friends of these people is to talk to them, listen to them, spend time with them and try to build their self-esteem and eventually they will let go of the stressful thing. underlying cause that triggers their eating disorder.