According to HealthResearchFunding.org, Australian research finds that young girls who use extreme diets are 18x more likely to suffer from an eating disorder within 6 months.
When it comes to weight loss, each person needs to tailor their strategy to accommodate their lifestyle, health, and preferences. But unfortunately, many people rely on unhealthy weight loss methods that may seriously harm their health. In addition, on the very extreme end of these unhealthy weight loss methods are eating disorders.
The Mayo Clinic defines eating disorders as “serious conditions related to persistent eating behaviors that negatively impact your health, your emotions, and your ability to function in important areas of life.”
While teenage girls and young women are at higher risk of developing an eating disorder, men of all ages are not exempt from suffering from these conditions.
Purging might not necessarily involve only vomiting but could include the abuse of laxatives, and extreme exercising.
Connie Diekman, a director of nutrition at the St Louis campus of the university of Washington, told WebMD, ”These unhealthy and unsafe problems are not uncommon on college campuses, poses serious health risks, and are the first steps in the development of eating disorders.”
Binging and purging is not restricted to college-age women. Neither is it limited to women. According to helpguide.org, an online guide to mental health, it can affect men and women of all ages.
Binging and purging is the hallmark of most (85% to 90%) cases of bulimia, according to WebMD. Bulimia is one of three classified eating disorders along with anorexia nervosa and binge eating.
It is characterized by eating copious amounts of food very quickly, which is then compensated through throwing up, using laxatives or extreme exercise. Sufferers say they feel out of control and they keep it secret out of shame.
Most Common Eating Disorders
The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating
- Anorexia nervosa, or simply anorexia, is characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight paired with similarly extreme efforts to control their weight. People with anorexia drastically reduce their food intake, adopt extreme diets, or never eat at all.
- Bulimia nervosa, commonly called bulimia, presents episodes of binging and purging. People suffering from this disorder often feel lack of control over their eating, which leads them to overeat, followed by attempts to get rid of the extra calories. They may purge, over exercise, or use other methods like laxatives.
- Binge eating. Unlike bulimia, binge eating disorder does present episodes of excessive eating, but they are not followed by purging or excessive exercise.
In the United States, at least 30% of people of all genders and ages suffer from an eating disorder, and these conditions have the highest mortality rates among mental illnesses. For example, 20% of all people who receive treatment for an eating disorder never recover.
The Serious Consequences Of Eating Disorders
- Starvation has very serious consequences for health, including possible death
- WebMd reports that throwing up after binging on food is likely to fuel unhealthy cravings, damages your teeth, esophagus, and stomach, and can cause serious dehydration and even death from related health complications. Purging, says WebMD, can seriously damage your body. “The contents of your stomach, it says, are meant to stay in your stomach, where it is prepared for digestion and absorption by stomach acid, which is very strong and is not meant to be regurgitated. Vomit that is extremely acidic can erode the esophagus and mouth as well as the enamel on your teeth.
- Regular vomiting or laxative abuse can also lead to fluid loss and dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, like a shortage of potassium.
- They may severely reduce calorie intake. Fasting and purging, combined with vigorous exercise, may deprive the body of the necessary calories it needs to function. As a result, metabolism lowers, and the patient may show low mood, fatigue, and heart problems.
- May worsen medical conditions. For example, inconsistent food intake may worsen conditions like type 2 diabetes by creating blood sugar spikes.
- Eating disorders may continue after ideal weight has been attained. Instead of aiming for a healthy weight and following a plan to maintain that weight after it has been reached, a person with an eating disorder will continue trying to lose more and more weight past healthy ranges.
- Eating disorders are linked to mental health issues. The precise causes for eating disorders are not known, but they coexist with other mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and distorted body image, and substance abuse. These, combined with the medical problems created by eating disorders, impair the person’s life at all levels.
For eating disorder patients, trying to lose weight after recovery can be challenging. Otherwise, normal activities in a weight loss program, such as weighting and counting calories, may be triggering for recovering eating disorder patients.
Ideally, they need to be aware of how losing weight in a healthy way looks like, for example:
- Promotes a varied diet with many types of foods
- Does not encourage patients to starve themselves to lose weight
- Incorporates moderate amounts of exercise
- Helps patients maintain a healthy weight
So, together with healthy weight loss programs that promote lifestyle changes instead of dangerous eating habits, people who are in recovery could benefit from having an honest discussion with their doctor. With the help of a medical professional, these patients can focus on goals other than a number on a scale.