“… Nobody knew, I would eat enough for four, go to the washroom after every meal, or starve for three days straight. For ten years, nobody knew I had a problem with food—I fooled everybody. Nobody knew, not even me, that my eating disorder was never about food, I had been feeding myself love, safety, security and strength. I could conquer the world, be anybody, d anything when I was eating. When I felt I was loosing control of my eating, I starved and immediately, I regained control.” This statement comes from Sheila Mather, author of Leaving Food Behind. In this autobiographical book she discusses her long battle with eating disorders.
Eating disorders affect many people throughout the world. Unfortunately anorexia is on the up rise in our society. In the United States there are at least 8,000,000 victims. Upsettingly, six to eight percent of these cases die. A whopping 90% of anorexics are women, although the percentage of males with eating disorders is increasing. This topic is not to be taken lightly; people are starving themselves to “perfection”.
Anorexia Nervosa as defined in The American College Dictionary is; a disorder usually occurring in teenage women, characterized by a fear of obesity; a distorted self-image, an aversion to food and severe weight loss. However, this disease impacts a person in many more ways than what is defined. It is both an emotional and physical disease. It is an obsession that usually begins as a diet to loose a few pounds.
For many victims it is an issue of control. Anorexia Nervosa usually strikes those who have problems with friends or family. They blame themselves if they don’t get perfect grades, or if other things in their life are not perfect. People with anorexia believe they would be happier and more successful if they were thin. They feel that controlling what they eat they compensate for other issues that are not in their hands. They feel a sense of accomplishment when they go without eating, and they loathe in guilt when they give in and eat. As a result of this guilt they will rely on laxatives and appetite suppressants.
A young woman by the name of Christine died from anorexia nervosa at the age of twenty-two. She struggled with this disease for seven years. Her weight drastically dropped from 120 to 60 pounds. At times she was known to swallow up to 150 laxatives a day.
A common subtype of anorexia is bulimia. Anorexics will self-induce vomiting after eating. At times they will binge, eating everything in sight. Although this illness is just as threatening to the body, people with bulimia usually don’t lose as much weight as people with anorexia.
Society plays a major role in the development of this disease. Magazines and television place pressure on young women to be skinny. They strive to be “perfect” in society. Judy Sargent, a recovered anorexic comments on society’s part in the number of people struggling with eating disorders: “ I believe that the media has a profound impact on young girls/women (and increasingly men) in our culture. Young people in our society are socialized to believe that the emaciated (starved) bodies of models portrayed in magazines and on television are the ‘American ideal’”. An anorexic will avoid eating to the point of emaciation where the damage to his or her body is irreversible. Once the disease takes over they can no longer make realistic judgements on their body. They have distorted body images.
Anorexia affects the body in a multitude of ways. Starvation causes many complications, other than the obvious weight loss Hypothermia is a result of the loss of the body’s natural insulation (body fat). This drop in body temperature causes an anorexic to be cold constantly. The body will put up a natural defense by producing fine hair all over the body. Another result of anorexia nervosa is hyperactivity. Most anorexics will exercise compulsively to get rid of unwanted calories, and loose more weight. This obsession will lead to excessive energy until later in the disease. Hyperactivity will also cause sleeplessness, or insomnia in most patients. Amenorrhea occurs in female anorexics. Severe weight loss will affect a woman’s menstrual cycle