Mark is a 21-year-old gay man and has always struggled with his body image. He believes that if he were thinner that more guys would hit on him and he’s afraid he’ll never fall in love if he doesn’t lose weight. Mark’s body weight is healthy for his height and frame, but his negative body image is complicating his ability to see this. For the last year Mark has tried several diets to lose weight, but recently began forcing himself to throw-up after meals. Sometimes he’ll binge eat in secret and then throw everything up immediately afterward. While he’s noticing that some weight is coming off, he feels really depressed and hasn’t told anyone what is going on.
Jamie was teased as a child for her weight and even her father would call her his “fat daughter.” Her mother, a chronic dieter, had Jamie go on her first diet at 7 years old and told her that they could lose the weight together. By the time she was in high school her diets had evolved into extreme restriction with food. Jamie doesn’t eat most days and when she does it is usually around 200 calories at most. She monitors everything that she eats and doesn’t go out much because she feels so weak. Her mother tells her that she’s so proud of her for keeping the weight off, but that she wishes she would at least eat something so that she isn’t tired all the time.
Greg is 46 years old and recently got a divorce from his wife when he found out she was having an affair. Since the divorce Greg has been depressed and his self-esteem is at an all time low. He has tried to diet and go to the gym to get into shape, but every attempt is very short lived. More nights than not he ends up consuming large quantities of food in front of the television to numb out how horrible he feels. In the past 3 months he’s gained over 30 pounds. With each pound Greg feels more and more depressed, but can’t find a way to stop compulsively eating.
Martha is a mother of two and hasn’t liked her body since she was a cheerleader in high school. Although she reports that she even felt fat and ugly back then, too. Martha has been on practically every diet under the sun and sometimes even made herself throw up. Now, that she is so busy being a mom and working she doesn’t have time for extreme diets and doesn’t want to throw up anymore. However, she thinks about food all the time, keeps a meticulous food log, and hyper-vigilantly counts calories with an app on her phone. When she goes over her calorie limit for the day, even by a small amount, she beats herself up internally and usually ends up bingeing on whatever she can find in the pantry.
One eating disorder Nashville Counseling at Change, Inc. addresses is Bulimia Nervosa. It is characterized by bingeing, followed by an “undoing” practice such as vomiting, excessive exercise to burn off calories, or the use of laxatives or diuretics.
What are the consequences?
There are several health consequences to bulimia as the entire digestive system can be damaged in this process of purging or from the use of laxatives/diuretics. An individual may experience heart rhythm irregularity and potentially even heart failure in addition to electrolyte imbalances from lack of hydration and potassium. People who engage in self-induced vomiting might also experience esophageal rupturing, tooth decay or even gastric ruptures. Those using laxatives could develop irregular bowel movements or extreme constipation. Nashville counselors at Change, Inc. can help!
Common signs and symptoms of people with bulimia nervosa in Nashville:
- Frequently consuming large quantities of food followed by an “undoing” behavior such as self-induced vomiting, laxatives, or excessive exercise
- Feeling out of control during the binge eating periods
- Negative body image
- Evidence of large quantitates of food gone missing in a short amount of time
- Evidence of purging behaviors (leaving quickly after a meal, presence of laxatives or diuretics)
- Evidence of an extreme and/or rigid exercise routine regardless of fatigue, injury, illness, etc.
- Swelling in one’s cheeks or jaws
- Calluses on back of hands or knuckles from self-induced vomiting
- Teeth are discolored from self-induced vomiting
- Withdrawal from activities
- Unexplained weight-loss
Did you know?
- 1-2% of adolescents and young adult women experience bulimia nervosa
- 80% of bulimia nervosa patients are female, however males struggle with this as well but do not seek treatment as often
- People with bulimia nervosa usually appear to be an average body weight
- Bulimia nervosa is commonly associated with depression, suicidality, and feeling a lack of control
Anorexia is another eating disorder for which persons in Nashville frequently seek counseling. It is characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. Some people with anorexia will also binge eat and purge as well.
What are the consequences?
The consequences of anorexia are very high. People who self-starve are not receiving adequate nutrition to function normally and so their entire body goes into “survival mode.” People who have anorexia will most likely experience very low blood pressure and deterioration in the heart muscle itself, which could lead to heart failure. They will also experience loss of bone density and muscle tone. The lack of hydration could potentially lead to kidney failure.
Common signs and symptoms of people with anorexia:
- Dry hair and skin
- Growth of an additional layer of hair all over the body called “lanugo” that is the body’s effort to keep warm
- Significant weight loss
- Obsessiveness about weight and food consumption (counting calories, fat, dieting, etc.)
- Extreme anxiety about being “fat”
- Body dysmorphia (Perceiving themselves as overweight or ugly even though they are often significantly under weight)
- Food rituals such cutting foods up in very small bites and chewing excessively
- Withdrawal from friends, activities, and things they once enjoyed
Did you know?
- 90-95% of people with anorexia nervosa are women or girls
- Around 1% of American women have been diagnosed with anorexia
- The most common psychiatric diagnosis given to adolescent girls is anorexia
- 5-20% of people diagnosed with anorexia will experience early mortality and the longer the person has had anorexia the higher their likelihood of premature death
- Of all the mental health conditions, anorexia nervosa has one of the highest mortality rates
Otherwise Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder
Another eating disorder less commonly diagnosed, but perhaps equally commonly suffered is known as “Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder” (OSFED). It is characterized by significant distress around food and eating that does not specifically meet the other eating disorder requirements.
Examples of OSFED
- A person with anorexia nervosa tendencies, but whose weight is not below normal
- Having bulimia nervosa tendencies without a frequency in the behavior
- Purging disorder, characterized by purges without first binge eating
- Binge eating disorder, which you can read about here
Signs and Symptoms of OSFED
- Serious emotional stress in either work, school, or relationships
- Inappropriate food intake, either significantly more or less than needed to maintain healthy weight
- Negative body image
- Feeling out of control during binge eating episodes
- Self-esteem is connected to weight
What causes eating disorders?
Eating disorders are rampant in the West and the number of people struggling with their relationship to food is staggering. According the National Eating Disorders Association, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, other specified feeding or eating disorder, or binge eating disorder). And, as you can suspect, due to the embarrassment and shame many people experience around their body and eating, many cases go unreported. The rise in anorexia, specifically has been exponential each decade since the 1930’s.
Children as young as 6 years of age are beginning to report discontentment with their bodies and a desire to diet in order to lose weight. Simply put, one of the primary causes of eating disorders is a preoccupation with thinness. One study found that 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat and that nearly ½ of teenage girls are using unhealthy behaviors such as starvation and laxatives to control their weight.
Diets make it worse
The diet industry is a worth $60 billion dollars and growing. And, yet, 95% of people who go on diets will gain the weight back in 2.5-5 years. This means that many people are going on and off of diets constantly throughout their life span and this can be very dangerous to one’s health and increase one’s risk of developing an eating disorder.
Did you know?
- People who go on diets to control their weight are 12 times as likely to binge eat
- 35% of people who diet normally will go onto to develop unhealthy dieting behaviors
- 25% of those with unhealthy dieting behaviors will develop a full fledge eating disorder
“Help! I think I have an eating disorder.”
- Seek out professional help in Nashville – Eating disorders can be very detrimental to your health, both physically and emotionally. It is important to get help as soon as possible in order to heal from the impact of an eating disorder. At Change, Inc. Nashville Counseling, you will be able to meet with a therapist who will not judge you, but support you and help provide the insight you need to make positive changes.
- Develop positive body image – The biggest driver of eating disorders is negative body image. Body image is how you think about your body. Notice what type of inner self-talk goes on about your body. If your self-talk is harsh “I’m fat and ugly and no one will ever love me.” Try replacing it with more neutral language, “I’m noticing that I don’t feel good about my body, but I know that I am still deserving of love.” Your therapist can help you better identify your negative self-talk and address it so that you can feel better.
- Develop other coping skills – In addition to negative body image, eating disorders can also be a way of coping with stress or feeling out of control. Notice what is causing you emotional stress (school, work, family, etc.) and find constructive ways to experience some calm. For example, go for a walk, read a book, talk to a friend, or speak with a counselor. With time you can develop strong coping skills so that you do not have to rely on food, dieting, or an eating disorder in times of stress.
“Help! I think someone I love has an eating disorder.”
- Be direct with your loved one – Set up a time that you and your loved one can speak in private about your concerns. Make sure it is a space they will feel supported and safe. Communicate with them your concerns using specific examples and why this is causing you to think they may have an eating disorder.
- Be non-judgmental – Do not place blame, guilt, or shame on your loved one. Using accusatory statements like, “You should just eat more (or less)” will only make them feel worse. Also, giving solutions or sympathizing will not be as helpful as sharing your love and empathy. Try statements like, “I love you and am here for you if you want help.”
- Encourage professional help – Have resources available to share with your loved one and encourage them to seek out the support of a skilled therapist. At Change, Inc. our therapists are trained to help people with eating disorders and can be the support your loved one needs to be well.
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