Kayla Van Boven
Assistant Director of Fitness & Recreational Services
Just about every health or fitness magazine one will find at a local grocery or convenience store will have a headliner boasting about the newest workout or diet guaranteed to help someone lose ten pounds, shrink three inches and get that six pack he or she has been dreaming about. As stated by in an article by Emily Harbourne in Campus Recreation Magazine, in a society obsessed with appearances, it is no wonder that in the United States alone 20 million women and 10 million men meet the criteria for suffering from an eating disorder.
As stated by nationaleatingdisoders.org, severe health consequences are associated with eating disorders. Individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa have been known to suffer muscle loss and weakness, reduction in bone density leading to osteoporosis, abnormally slow heart rates and low blood pressure potentially leading to heart failure. Bulimia is associated with electrolyte imbalances that, similar to anorexia, can lead to irregular heartbeats and potentially heart failure. Additionally, the chronic purging can lead to gastric rupture, inflammation or possible rupture of the esophagus, tooth staining and decay, peptic ulcers and pancreatitis.
By being familiar with the symptoms of an eating disorder, friends and family members can play important roles in helping an individual get help. WebMD lists inadequate food intake, obsession with weight gain or loss and extremely low body weight as signs indicating that an individual may be suffering from anorexia nervosa.
Symptoms of bulimia include eating large amounts of food within a relatively short amount of time followed by behaviors to get rid of the calories such as vomiting, excessive exercise, use of laxatives or fasting. Individuals suffering from bulimia may also show signs of obsession with weight loss, fear of weight gain, constant dieting and self-esteem linked to their body image.
Some individuals may not fall to such an extreme to be classified with anorexia or bulimia but may be suffering from an Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). The National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders identifies EDNOS as being characterized by those behaviors commonly associated with Bulimia and Anorexia including obsession with dieting, periods of fasting, binging and purging behaviors or self-esteem linked to their body image. Any individual showing any signs of an eating disorder is at risk for progressing to the point where their health suffers and it is critical that they get help as soon as possible.
If you think a friend or family member is suffering from an eating disorder it is important to educate yourself on the eating disorder and talk to them about your concerns with their well-being. Talk openly with them about their disordered eating patterns and the possible repercussions they may experience. Individuals suffering from eating disorders need professional help so be gentle yet firm when insisting they go see a doctor or therapist to help them overcome their eating disorder.
For more information on eating disorders, including Binge Eating Disorder, information is available online at nationaleatingdisorders.org.