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Eating disorders: Food is the enemy


To be addicted means to be dependent on a particular substance and unable to stop taking it without incurring adverse effects. By now, many people know that, no matter how good food can be, for too many people, food is the enemy. Eating disorders are the most difficult to treat. They are the deadliest mental health disorders.

            The Unbearable Weight by Sovereign Health staff explains eating disorders. Anorexia is about not eating enough or not eating at all. Even when the person has lost a lot of weight, they still talk about how fat they are. They obsess over their consumed calories, fat grams, weight and dieting. Physical signs of anorexia include brittle hair and nails, dry, yellowish skin, low blood pressure, mild anemia and weakness, lethargy, infertility, osteoporosis and organ failure which can result in death.

            When the body has been starved for too long, it loses vital salts like potassium and magnesium with the potential complication, refeeding syndrome. Loss of these salts can cause heart and respiratory failure, muscle breakdown and death.

            Bulimia is pretty common, with one in 100 Western women affected. After eating too much food – a large amount – they purge by vomiting or using diuretics and laxatives. They may fast or exercise to excess. The problem starts in the late teens or early 20s. Someone in their immediate family may have an eating disorder. They also suffer low self-esteem, feel like they are not in control of their life or struggle with anxiety. They may have a history of being physically or sexually abused.

            Dehydration and a deficiency of needed nutrients can lead to health problems like heart failure, seizures, osteoporosis, severe electrolyte imbalances and organ failure.

            Binge eating is the most common eating disorder in our country. The person eats a huge amount, even if they are uncomfortable, even if they aren’t hungry. The official measure of binge eating is once a week for three months.

            The binge eater eats secretly, hides the wrappers and packaging, hides and hoards food. They don’t eat meals on a regular schedule, but throughout the day. This isn’t just snacking. These are people who feel angry, worthless and ashamed before they binge eat. They often are perfectionists who need to control. Anxiety and depression go along with it.

            Not all people who are obese are binge eaters. But it is estimated that 20 million women and 10 million men, adolescent to mature adult, will require treatment for an eating disorder .

            There are other eating disorders lesser known. Night eating syndrome is not your typical midnight snack. Rather, it is consuming the bulk of your daily calorie intake at night when they are struggling with mental health issues. Orthorexia Nervosa is healthy eating – with obsession about purity and the perceived healthy qualities of your food. Self-esteem is measured by what you eat. Purging disorder is when one makes themselves vomit without eating first.

            Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder, according to National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.

            Next week we will continue this discussion about eating disorders.

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