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Eating Disorders: Beyond the New Year’s Resolutions
By LaKeisha Jones, Adjunct Faculty for the Master of Human Services Program at Concordia University, Nebraska
Each year, people make a list of New Year’s resolutions they hope to fulfill throughout the year. At the top of most people’s list is to lose weight, which leads to packed gyms and more people looking for the newest low calorie food craze. A plethora of fitness advertisements start showing on billboards, television and social media, and while the idea of good health and wellness achieved through fitness may appeal to many, there are those that have disorders when it comes to dietary nutrition.
Eating disorders are psychological disorders that have a tendency to be brought about by unresolved problems and/or traumatic events in life. The disorder involves developmental and habitual maintenance of the eating habit. In addition to keeping the eating habit, body image distortion tends to be at the core of many eating disorders. While eating disorders is a broad category, two main types exist: anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Anorexia nervosa presents a real fear of weight gain and a distorted view of their body size and shape which causes restriction of food, extreme dieting, and excessive exercise. If the individual eats at all, the person obsesses over the small amount of food consumed. Bulimia nervosa is similar to Anorexia, however. This type of disorder results in overeating through binging and purging to prevent weight gain. Purging consists of forced vomiting, using laxatives, and/or exercising excessively. This cycle occurs at least twice a week over months.
Eating Disorders Lack a Gender Divide
While still a large majority of individuals suffering from eating disorders are women, eating disorders do not only affect females but also occurs in males. “With the increasing pressure on men to be fit and to look muscular, there is evidence that body dissatisfaction and ED in men are increasing” (O’Dea & Abraham, 2002 as cited in Gadall, 2009, p.72). From a young age, it is important for parents to be cognizant of their children’s eating habits as eating disorders can form in children as early as 8 years of age. Eating disorders often occur in conjunction with other problems such as stress, anxiety depression, and substance use. Eating disorders can lead to malnutrition and even death.
Symptoms of eating disorders include:
- Becoming very frail and thin
- Obsession with eating, food and weight control
- Extreme fear of weight gain
- Intensely unhappy with body size, shape and weight
- Weighing herself repeatedly
- Only eating certain foods/Avoiding certain foods
- Spend most of time working out
- Making excuses for going to bathroom immediately after eating
Helping an individual that you think may suffer from an eating disorder can be a difficult task. It is important that you guide the individual toward professional assistance such as a medical doctor or mental health expert. Human services professionals can also provide referral resources and help locate support groups for family and friends of individuals struggling with an eating disorder.
Discover how you can help improve the lives of others with Concordia University, Nebraska’s online Master of Human Services program. Call (877) 497-5848 to lean more.
Numbers for assistance:
National Eating Disorders Hotline
National Crisis Hotline
Gadalla, T. (2009). Eating disorders in men: a community-based study. International Journal of Men's Health, 8(1), 72-81.