Food & Eating Disorders
Common Behaviors Signaling
Three Types of Eating Disorders
Possible Causes of Eating Disorders
Is Food a Problem for You?
What You Can Do
To Help Yourself
To Help a Friend
Eating and enjoying food is an essential part of being alive. The nutrition from food keeps us healthy, alert, and feeling good. The tastes and smells of food are some of the nicest pleasures in life. Sharing food is an important way for friends and family to come together. So, how can food be a problem?
Our society sends out mixed messages about food, messages which are contradictory and very destructive. On the one hand we are bombarded with images of delicious food and urged to eat, eat, eat. On the other hand, and this is especially true for women, images of thin-very thin- young models are presented to us as a physical ideal.
These mixed messages combined with other factors can lead some to develop problems with their eating habits. We call these problems "Eating Disorders," since they affect normal, healthy functioning.
Eating disorders develop over time. In our culture dieting has become the norm. It is estimated that from 60 to 80% of American women are on diets. Studies show that many eating disorders begin when dieting gets out of control. Eating disorders are about 10 times as common in women as in men.
Many college-age women restrict food intake, resulting in severe weight loss. Ten to 20% of college- age women binge on large amounts of food and eliminate the food by vomiting, using laxatives, severe fasting, and/or over-exercising. These practices lead to secrecy and isolation, guilt and shame, and other negative feelings about oneself.
In time, these behaviors can lead to severe physical and emotional problems and interfere significantly with the ability to enjoy life and to feel good.
|Type of Disorder||Signs of the Disorder|
"Anorexia" means loss of appetite and "nervosa" of course means nervous. So this type of eating disorder is just what it seems, a nervous loss of appetite. People with Anorexia Nervosa seriously endanger their health by not eating. Anorexia may represent a attempt to gain control over one's life, especially when a person has felt little control over anything in the past.
Extreme weight loss due to excessive fasting.
Perception of self as being fat despite being underweight.
Preoccupation with food and an intense fear of becoming fat.
Medical problems - including loss of menstrual periods in women, dry skin, cold hands and feet, digestive problems, hair loss, general weakness, and insomnia.
"Bulimia" comes to us from the Greek words for ox plus hunger, and suggests an insatiable appetite, one that can't be satisfied. People with Bulimia Nervosa usually weigh within the normal range but they maintain it by purging food after overeating, which is not healthy. Bulimics tend to be impulsive and have a high need for approval.
Weight within normal range - although may be slightly above or below normal.
Recurrent episodes of binge eating in a short period of time.
Binge eating is followed by purging behavior - vomiting, use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting and/or over exercising.
Medical problems - include dehydration, constipation, digestive disorders, severe dental problems, and muscle weakness.
Those with a "Binge-Eating Disorder" have lost control of eating and are usually seriously overweight.
Recurrent episodes of binge eating with loss of control.
Binge eating episode is ended only when there is physical discomfort.
Feelings of guilt, remorse or self contempt after eating.
May be significantly overweight.
If you answered yes to some of these, you may have eating disorders or you may be developing one. Notice the words in boldface type. They indicate frequency and intensity of feelings or behaviors. These are often warning signs that a problem with food exists.
A preoccupation with food, dieting, and body image can give food an inordinate control over a person's life and result in damage to both health and looks. It can seriously interfere with the ability to enjoy life and to feel good. Beginning to understand the feelings that lead to unhealthy eating behaviors, however, is a first step to changing those behaviors so that food is no longer a problem.
If you think you have a problem, or you're worried about a friend, check out the helping resources section for sources of assistance. There are also some national organizations which will provide additional information.Here are some tips for dealing with an eating problem, whether it's yours or a friend's.
If you have an eating disorder or you think you may be developing one, there are some definite steps you can take to help yourself.
Here are some steps you can take to help out.
You may notice that a friend seems to have an eating disorder and wonder what you can do to help. Here are some tips.
Counseling Center - 661/654-3366
Student Health - 661/654-2394
Kern County Mental Health - 661/868-8000
Clinica Sierra Vista - 661/635-3050
Frazier Mt. Community Health - 661/245-0250
Ebony Counseling Center - 661/324-4756
Over Eaters Anonymous - 661/872-7528
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders,
P. O. Box 7
Highland Park, IL 60035
ANAD Hotline: 847-831-3438
National Eating Disorders Association
Information & Referral Service
The Body Image Handbook: An 8-step program for Learning to Like Your Looks by Thomas Cash. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications, May 1997.
Breaking Free from Compulsive Eating by Geneen Roth. New York: Signet, 1986.
Bulimia: A Guide to Recovery by Lindsey Hall and Leigh Cohn. Carlsbad, CA: Gurze Books, 1999.
Intuitive Eating: A Recovery Book for the Chronic Dieter by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. St. Martin's Press, 1995.
Making Peace with Food by Susan Kano. New York: Harper & Row, 1989.
Overcoming Binge Eating by Dr. Christopher Fairburn. New York: The Guildford Press, 1995.
Gurze Books specializes in eating disorders and body image issues: for a free catalog of their book titles call 1-800/756-7533 or visit them on-line at http://gurze.com/.
If you are in doubt about where to turn for assistance, please feel free to call the
Counseling Center at 661-654-3366.
This information was prepared by the University of Texas at Austin Counseling & Mental Health Center to assist students with mental health issues. Information contained herein was gleaned from on- line publications.