No one deserves to suffer in silence.
The only weight young girls need to lose is the weight of a capitalist agenda that preys on the insecurity we teach them to have.
Body shaming women is no way to make money and the marketing department should be ashamed.
I’m a grown woman, and I don’t know how to eat.
I’m thinking of a number between one and ten…
Culturally, eating disorders are associated with models, ballerinas and teenage girls desperate to look like Taylor Swift. We see stick thin girls with gaunt, sallow faces; ribs eerily prominent. The phrase ‘unrealistic standard of beauty’ is thrown around, which implies that eating disorders are easily cured with a meat pie and a stern talking to.
So why are they stuck in the heads of sufferers for years?
I once had an eating disorder. I come from a dance background and I’m in the entertainment industry; there is always pressure to be trim, taught and toned. When I was in my early teens, I was put on a drug to control my temporal lobe epilepsy. While the drug stopped the seizures, the side effects were a slowed metabolism and increased appetite. That, coupled with the changing body of an adolescent girl, assured that I went (quite quickly) from an athletic dancer’s physique to a chubby, unfit package.
Seeing your body transform like this at the age of 14 is tricky. Couple it with the fact that your greatest passion; dance, requires extreme fitness/muscle tone and it becomes trickier. Add an obsessive, anxious personality and you have a recipe for disaster. Looking back, I really had no hope. I was obsessed with food. All I thought about was increasing my fitness and decreasing my weight. I went through periods of deprivation, followed by extreme (and secret) binging. My size fluctuated, along with my self-esteem and mental state.
I’m sure you’re wondering why I didn’t seek help; I was exhibiting every symptom. Here’s the thing; I never looked anorexic. I was never one of those skeletal images we’ve grown so used to. As such, nobody ever saw it as a disorder, not even myself. However, what society doesn’t realise, through lack of information or lack of interest, is that having an eating disorder DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY IMPLY anorexia or bulimia. There is another spectrum.
Let’s talk about OSFED; Other Specified Eating and Feeding Disorders. An OSFED sufferer can display many of the symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa, but will not meet the full criteria. This doesn’t mean that OSFED is any less serious; 30 per cent of people who seek treatment suffer from it.
Eventually, I began to realise that I had a serious problem. None of my friends obsessed over their weight like I did. With the support of my wonderful parents, I sought help and spent time with a psychologist. I’m now – at the age of 27 – very much out of the woods. However, if I had known earlier that there was more to an eating disorder than being dangerously underweight, I could have saved years of stress.
My purpose here is to clear up a few glaring misconceptions. I can think of 3 big ones:
- You can control your eating disorder.
FALSE. Anorexia is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Other eating disorders follow a similar vein and require behavioural therapy.
- It is a plea for attention.
SO FALSE. Having an eating disorder is psychological torture. The damning voices never leave you alone; they lead to self-harm and even suicide. There are far better ways to get attention.
- It is a sign of vanity.
UNBELIEVABLY FALSE. There is no beauty to be gained by jaundiced skin and protruding ribs. Aside from that, the resulting body dysmorphic disorder distorts your image. A size 4 will look in the mirror and see a size 14 staring back.
Please; if you are reading this and you relate, seek help now, regardless of your size. Stop the juggernaut before it consumes you. Eating disorders are not trivial, they are serious mental illnesses and should be treated as such.
Image via Thefix.com
We all know the type: the super-thin girl who refuses to ever eat cake, pasta, and/or bread and who never raises a glass of alcohol to her lips.
This same poor lass will rigidly order the same salad for lunch and exercise for more than two hours daily, obsessively watching her weight and food intake.
This clean eating obsession, or orthorexia, is a proposed, new eating disorder that’s increasingly common in young women and teenage girls, says leading Sydney dietitian, nutritionist and author Susie Burrell (pictured). Yet, it’s still not medically recognised as a bona fide eating disorder, Susie says.
“The classification for clinical disorders is clearly defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) – the official manual used by the American Psychiatric Association to classify psychological disorders, but as for any scientific definitions, there are outliers, and this is the case with this increasingly commonly seen condition – orthorexia,” she says.
Sufferers are so obsessed with clean eating they will only consume foods which are “pure” and “healthy”, and subsequently favour extremely low-calorie, unprocessed foods, which in turn kept their body weight extremely low. And while they are not malnourished, young girls and women with orthorexia customarily suffer from anxiety, low moods and depression.
So, is there a cure? Orthorexia sufferers need a more balanced and nutritious diet, plus good therapy to help them to identify and manage their emotions, rather than using food and exercise as an escape from them, Susie says.
And Christine Morgan, CEO of the Butterfly Foundation and national director of The National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC) concurs. “Orthorexia is a recognised illness and is being treated by eating disorders specialists in Australia,” Christine says. “However, it is not as yet officially recognised as a specific eating disorder.
“Anyone who obsessively manages the consumption of whole food groups is at risk of nutritional deprivation.” So, when does healthy eating go too far?
Top Warning Signs Of Orthorexia
- You skip social occasions for fear of having to eat food you have not prepared.
- Your skin is dull and your hair is falling out.
- You have lost your period.
- You feel constantly tired.
- You have been experiencing recurrent injuries.
- You will only eat a very limited range of foods, like fruit and vegetables, and are inordinately obsessed with these foods.
- You never eat cake or enjoy an alcoholic drink.
- You exercise for more than two hours a day.
- People are constantly commenting that you look too thin.
- You are still not happy with your body no matter what you eat or how much you exercise.
- You feel guilty when not following strict rules about meals and, conversely, virtuous when eating “correctly”.
- You experience social isolation in group-dining settings.
- You avoid situations that might involve “processed” foods.
If you need help and support, phone the Butterfly Foundation National Supportline on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or visit their website.
Images via panosplatritis.com, healthology.com.au, howcast.com
We all know that healthy eating should be part of our lifestyle, but what happens when our habits becoming obsessively unhealthy? That’s where the term orthorexia nervosa comes in, a term that literally means “fixation on righteous eating”. People who suffer from orthorexia become fixated on food quality and purity as well as how much they eat. Eventually their diet becomes so restrictive that their obsession becomes detrimental to their health as well the relationships with those close to them.
People who have orthorexia normally start out simply wanting to eat healthier but it then turns into an extreme diet where they’ll avoid any food that has been processed and eat only untouched, whole or organic food. Sometimes this can lead to malnourishment because vital nutrients are being eliminated from the diet.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with following a healthy diet but when you feel guilt or self-loathing if you haven’t stuck to your diet, if thinking about food is taking up far too much of your time or if your diet has left you isolated and alone then there are serious concerns.
Some common behaviour changes that could be a sign of orthorexia nervosa include:
- An obsessive concern over the link between food choices and health concerns
- An increased consumption of supplements or herbal remedies
- The sufferer may consume less than ten different foods
- An obsessive concern over food preparation technique, including the sterilization of utensils
- The sufferer may avoid an increasing number of foods due to food allergies
Symptoms of orthorexia nervosa include:
- Feelings of guilt when you deviate from a strict diet
- Feelings of satisfaction or fulfilment from eating healthy
- Avoiding foods that have been prepared by other people
- Thinking about food all the time and always planning meals in advance
- Avoiding dining out for fear of deviating from the diet
- Depression and mood swings
And some common effects of orthorexia include:
- Becoming socially isolated
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Extreme weight loss
- Cardiac complications
Orthorexia symptoms are serious and can have long-term effects on your health and physical body, so should not be swept under the rug. As with any other eating disorder, orthorexia needs treatment so if you think you or someone you know may be suffering from this condition talk to someone about it, preferably a professional such as a GP or psychiatrist.
Image via philly.barstoolsports.com