When food serves not the purpose of satisfying hunger and deriving nutrition but becomes an obsession to overeat or under eat, here is when the stage is set for eating disorders.
Basically, eating disorders are beyond unhealthy eating and are the resultant of complex mental health issues. The social pressure in today’s world to look skinny drives this obsession and people go out of the way to meet the non-realistic standards of aesthetics. The consequences can be hazardous if left unidentified and unattended.
The common eating disorders constitutes ‘Anorexia nervosa’ when a person resists to eat due to an intense fear of gaining weight despite being overly thin or underweight.
Anorexics may skip meals, avoid eating in public, over exercise or diet to the extent of starving.
The second is ‘Bulimia nervosa’ when a person has episodes of overeating to the extent of discomfort and pain which is followed by corrective measures such as self-induced vomiting, or use of medications to ward off the discomfort. They cannot control themselves on a binge, have normal weight but the gruesome fear of putting on weight compels them to practice such behaviours.
The red flags
Teenage girls and people in early adulthood are more susceptible to develop eating disorders due to hormonal changes. There are certain changes in eating behaviours during adolescence which is normal. However, if they are developing negative perception about their body sizes and are eating too little or eating way too much, it’s an alarm.
According to Allegra Broft, assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, who has been researching eating disorders and treating patients for more than a decade; mentions, ‘the most common misconception is that these disorders are just dieting gone awry, that they are trivial problems, rather than complex disorders with strong biological, psychological, and cultural components. A person with anorexia may say, “I want to stop dieting but I can't.” A person with bulimia nervosa may try to exert dietary restraint but be unable to maintain it.’
The way out
Usually the cognition behind eating disorders are some serious life altering incidents that might have happened such as loss of a loved one, abuse, complications in relationships, moving to a different place or switching a job.
And as it is commonly said, food is the most abused stress drug, the concern is to eliminate the root cause of an eating disorder.
Correspondingly, it is also important to keep in check regarding the websites or social media influencers that your teen might be following which propagate restrictive eating as a lifestyle choice. They must be assured that not the false beauty standards but healthy body should be the ultimate reason to celebrate.