Issues with Food and Weight - In today's world we are constantly bombarded with what society deems as "success". Such praiseworthy accomplishments include power, money, glory, and popularity. Unfortunately, outward appearance has become a number-one priority. Television is swarming with shows focused on appearance: Extreme Makeover, The Biggest Loser, Make Me a Supermodel, What
Not to Wear. With the media spending so much time on our looks, many individuals get trapped into a battle of self-destruction, warped body image, and food obsession.
On the following pages you will read about warning signs of altered eating habits, their side-effects, what causes them, and how to help someone you know who may be dealing with an eating issue. We will also discuss statistics, many of which may be surprising to you. It's also important to know where to get help. If you feel that you or a friend are suffering from an eating disorder, please seek help!!
- 1% of young women are anorexic
- Anorexia is the #1 cause of death among young women
- About 50% of those who have been anorexic develop bulimia
- 4% of women are bulimic
- Approx 1 million males have anorexia or bulimia
- Up to 20% of people with serious eating disorders will die without treatment
- 20-25% of "normal dieters" progress to full-syndrome eating disorders
Males Too? - Men can have anorexia or bulimia, just like women. In fact, the number of males with eating issues is increasing. Unsurprisingly, men are reluctant to confess having what has become known as a "woman's problem."
Males often begin altered eating habits at older ages than females, and like females they often need professional help to recover.
Warning Signs - There are a wide variety of warning signs.
Food Behaviors Skips meals, won't eat in front of others, loves to cook for others but won't eat any themselves, mixes strange foods, only eats "safe" foods, becomes disgusted with former favorite foods.
Thoughts and Beliefs Becomes irrational, denies anything is wrong, argues with people trying to help.
Feelings Has difficulty talking about feelings, denies anger, becomes moody.
Social Behaviors Anorexics tend to avoid sexual activity and to be rigidly controlling. Bulimics may be promiscuous and have lack of impulse control
Other Behaviors The following behaviors require professional attention: alcohol abuse, abuse of drugs, physical, emotional or sexual abuse; suicide attempts or threats, cutting or other self-harm behaviors, rage attacks, placing oneself in dangerous situations, homicidal threats or attempts, and stealing and other criminal acts.
Causes - Unfortunately, there is not a simple answer. Each individual is unique, making the causes of one's disorder different from the next. There are a variety of factors that can contribute:
Biological Factors People with a mother or sister who has or has had anorexia are 12 times more likely to develop it themselves. They are 4 times more likely to develop bulimia.
Psychological Factors People with eating disorders tend to be perfectionists, have unrealistic expectations of themselves, feel inadequate, defective and worthless.
Family Factors Some may feel smothered, abandoned, alone, or misunderstood.
Social Factors Appearance focused friends or romantic partners can create pressure that encourages disordered eating.
Cultural Factors Women often feel unrealistic cultural demands for thinness.
Media Factors In today's media, successful people are almost always portrayed by actors and models who are young, toned and thin.
- Irregular heart-beat, death
- Kidney damage, death
- Liver damage, death
- Rupture of esophagus
- Damage to lining of stomach
- Weakened immune system
- Swollen glands in the neck
- Gray or yellow colored skin
- Permanently stunted growth
- Anemia, malnutrition
- Seizures, fainting spells
- Icy hands and feet
- Permanent loss of bone mass
- Depression, may lead to suicide
- Feeling out of control/helpless
- Anxiety, self-doubt
- Guilt & shame
- Obsessive thoughts
- Disrupted family
- Damaged friendships
How to Help - To Do: Talk to them when you are calm, provide information, agree that recovery is hard, offer to go with him/her to the first counseling visit, be supportive and caring, resist guilt, realize that recovery is the person's responsibility (not yours), and realize that change will not occur until he/she wants to.
Not to Do: Never nag, plead, beg, bribe, threaten or manipulate. Avoid power struggles...you will lose. Never criticize or shame, don't pry, don't be a food monitor, don't try to control, don't waste time trying to convince them that they are not fat (he/she will not be convinced). Don't give advice unless asked and don't expect the person to follow your advice even if he/she asks for it. Don't say, "you are too thin". He/she will secretly celebrate. Don't say, "It's good you have gained some weight". He/she will lose it.
From the Nutrition Management Department at U.S. Air Force Academy\Mitchell Hall
Staff: Shelly Morales, M.S., R.D. , Nutritionist
Stephanie Winsborrow, DTR. Dietetic Technician