Eating Disorders

04.12.2014

The hardest part of my job is when I have been faced with a customer who is clearly suffering from an eating disorder. Over the years I have met several women who are anorexic, bulimic or both. This is not to say that men don’t have eating disorders too, they do’. Around 1 in 250 women have an eating disorder, for men it is 1 in 2,000.

Lots of us at some point in our lives may be unhappy with the way we look. How many times have you asked or been asked the phrase ‘Does my bum look big in this?!’  We may get fed up with our wobbly bits and wish we could be taller, slimmer, more toned but then tuck into a bar of chocolate and forget about it!

Anorexia isn’t really about food and weight; it’s much more complicated than that. It’s normally a symptom of something much deeper, depression, loneliness, insecurity, pressure to be perfect or feeling out of control about any aspect of life, no amount of dieting can help with this.

There is a condition called Body Dismorphic Disorder, this causes the person to have a very distorted view of how they look. They spend a lot of time worrying about their appearance, it doesn’t mean that they are vain or self -obsessed, to them it is a real problem. They tend to obsess about a particular feature, maybe their ears; to them they would give Dumbo a run for his money but for everyone else they look perfectly normal. The problem can get so bad that they don’t like going out and their social/ professional life suffers as a result

This is a much bigger problem with young people than ever before. Pick up any magazine or look at the internet and you will see images of perfect men and women. God forbid they should have an ounce of body fat, a spot, small breasts/ pectorals, a six-pack (men and women!) and if they have a wrinkle OMG (I’m down with the kids!) reach for the Botox now!!!! Is it any wonder that society today is having more cosmetic surgery?

But, have you all heard of Photoshop? I’m guessing the answer is yes. The real story is that these perfect gorgeous specimens are actually real people just like you and me. They too have imperfections, the difference is they have been photo shopped to make them look flawless.

The best example I have seen is a photo of a perfect specimen of a female, the article showed us mere mortals how the photo had been photo shopped starting from the end product back to what she looked like originally. The lady it turns out didn’t exist, ever. In fact she started life as a pizza, how clever is technology that a cheese and tomato margarita can be transformed into a human being!

Perhaps if the famous were to let the world see what they really look like there wouldn’t be so many insecure people worrying that they don’t look a certain way…somehow I doubt that will happen.

It is very distressing to see someone who has lost a huge amount of weight and has changed from looking healthy and having an optimal body weight to becoming extremely thin and undernourished.

It is a very delicate subject and one that has to be treated very sensitively. Accusing someone of having an eating disorder is very hard; along with the eating disorder comes psychological problems which need to be dealt with by the right people, I am certainly not qualified to deal with this very distressing condition but I do have a duty of care for this person if they are using our facilities.

Alarm bells ring if I see changes in people over a short period of time. The body will strive to survive if it isn’t getting the food that it needs; if it is starving it will get its energy from muscle. The anorexic person will have very low fat percentage and also low muscle percentage. In cases that I have known they exercise excessively, attend gym sessions, swimming and coming back in to do studio sessions.

Below are some behaviour signs and symptoms to help recognise is someone has an eating disorder.

Anorexic food behavior signs and symptoms

Anorexic appearance and body image signs and symptoms

Purging signs and symptoms

There can’t be anything more worrying for a parent or friend of someone with an eating disorder. The feeling of helplessness must be overwhelming and the compulsion to force feed them/ follow them around the house to make sure they don’t make themselves sick must be immense. The affected person isn’t doing this just to ’wind you up’, they have an illness which needs to be dealt with by professionals. There is help available; it can take a long time for the affected person to beat it but man, many people do.

Contact your GP if you suspect that someone close to you has a problem or if it is yourself, take that step and make this the day that you start the journey to recovery.

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