Starving for Perfection
By Sharon Witt
Eating disorders are increasingly common among young people, particularly girls, and it’s hardly surprising. Young people face a daily barrage of toxic messages, both from the media and their peers, related to body image. It’s almost impossible to escape the highly manipulated and digitally-altered images of celebrities and models on the covers of our magazines.
Recent statistics indicate that 90 percent of 12-17 years old girls and 68 percent of 12-17 year old boys have been on a diet of some type. Unfortunately, a society obsessed with dieting means that it’s likely that many young people will develop an eating disorder of some description.
This is distressing indeed! We’re all unique and beautiful, and this makes us who we are. We’re not meant to be carbon copies of each other.
Eating disorders describe a group of illnesses where someone has a false or untrue view of their body image and suffers from extreme disturbances in their eating habits. Commonly known eating disorders include Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. There are many reasons why a person might develop an eating disorder and they will vary from person to person. However, it might be brought on by one of the following triggers:
● constantly thinking about weight and being skinny
● loss and grief
● brain chemistry
● physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
Whatever the cause, if you feel that you might be suffering from an eating disorder, it’s important that you share this with someone you trust and get some help.
Anorexia Nervosa is probably the most commonly known eating disorder and it has been in the media spotlight many times in recent years.
A girl suffering from anorexia will often show symptoms of extreme weight loss and will most likely have a distorted (wrong) view of how her body actually looks. It’s a bit like going to the show grounds and standing in front of one of those crazy mirrors; you look at yourself in the mirror and you look all weird and fat. That’s not how you really look, but your mind thinks it’s a truthful image.
Girls with anorexia will often have an intense desire for weight loss and appearing thin. Food, weight, and appearance often become the main focus for someone with anorexia. Concentrating on food and weight becomes, for them, a way of dealing with and managing intense emotions.
Common symptoms of Anorexia:
● fear of putting on weight
● avoiding fatty foods
● extreme loss of weight
● not wanting to eat
● over exercising
● constantly checking weight
● getting cold easily
● thinking they are fat/ overweight
● nails and hair are brittle and break easily
● dry and yellow skin
● the appearance of lanugo (fine body hair)
● irregular periods or no periods whatsoever
● wearing oversized/ baggy clothes to cover up loss of weight
Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder that involves regular binges (excessive amounts of eating). Sufferers may feel hungry and out of control and this leads to eating large amounts of food. Usually, extreme feelings of guilt and anxiety about becoming fat then leads to an intense desire to get rid of the food, often by vomiting.
Common symptoms of Bulimia:
● eating unusually large amounts of food and often the wrong types of food such as fatty foods and junk food
● being secretive about eating
● visiting the toilet to vomit or purge after eating
● extreme moodiness and depression
● being overly critical about their body
● feeling tired and often lacking in energy
● sore throat (from the acids coming up during vomiting)
● decaying teeth (caused by the acids in the stomach coming up)
What to do if you think you are suffering from an eating disorder
It’s vital that you seek help if you think you may be experiencing the symptoms of an eating disorder. If left undiagnosed and untreated, eating disorders can put a lot of pressure on your heart and other vital organs in your body that are trying to make up for the lack of food and nutrients in your body. So, here are some options to get some help:
· talk to someone you trust such as your mom, dad, teacher, friend or school counsellor
· call a teen help line
· if you find it too hard to talk to an adult on your own, tell a friend who can then talk to an adult on your behalf or come with you to talk to an adult
· ask a parent or adult to take you to see a doctor
There are many experts on eating disorders who have experience with helping young girls with these types of issues. Although you might feel this way, it’s important to know that you’re never alone!
If you don’t feel comfortable telling someone face-to-face, please make sure you call a help line or a support program. Help is out there for you and may include counselling, hospital treatment (for severe cases) and other types of therapy. Just know that you never need to suffer alone. You can get better and lead a happy, healthy life following this disease.
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