Eating disorders refer to eating behaviours that affect health or functional daily living. They include binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa and avoidant/restricting food intake disorders.
Patients with binge eating disorder tend to eat more than the normal amount that a person of the same build would; they often find themselves lacking control over their eating habits i.e., amount, speed. This is different from bulimia nervosa, which involves a cycle of binge eating followed by compensatory behaviours such as self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise, or abuse of medications such as laxatives.
Anorexia nervosa refers to the restriction of food intake resulting in low body weight, fear of gaining weight, and/or distorted perception of body weight and shape. Patients are severely underweight.
Avoidant/ restrictive food disorders involve an aversion or a lack of interest to food. There may not be a known cause to why these patients dislike foods in general, but some reasons may include dislike of the taste or texture of food or fear of choking.
It is difficult to treat eating disorders. Treatments include a series of behavioural and psychological therapy. For patients with anorexia nervosa and avoidant/restrictive food disorders, it is also important to watch out for their nutrition level by ensuring that they achieve an adequate amount of caloric intake. It can be fatal for these patients should they not seek treatment in time. For patients with binge eating disorder or bulimia, it is also important to treat the sequelae of the condition. These include electrolyte disturbances from vomiting or laxative use as well as inflammation and injury to the throat from self-induced vomiting etc.
It will require some time for patients to recover, so if you know someone battling with this disease, it is important that you are patient with them.
Body image involves the perception of our appearance, including our weight, height, and body shape. It is important to have a healthy body image as it directly affects our self-esteem. With the rise of social media, celebrities and influencers may set unrealistic expectations of our bodies; even leading to body dysmorphic disorder.
Studies have shown that a negative body image is one of the main contributing factors to anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Concerns with body image can occur at any age, and sadly what we see on social media may result in unrealistic expectations of our bodies. It is important not to compare ourselves with others, and to not be too preoccupied with our images. We are much more than our external appearances. We are unique individuals. Our health is more important than anything else. Instead of focusing on our body image, we could attempt to focus on self-appreciation whilst building on intrinsic characteristics such as resilience, empathy, and compassion.