Be brutally honest. When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Maybe not the exact figure you were hoping for. Body image is what you think of yourself as well as the way you believe how others perceive you to be.
Being thin in today’s world is considered synonymous with beauty and confidence. On the other hand, being fat is associated with negative traits like laziness, ugliness, and lack of will power. It is due to these harsh critiques that women today are rarely seen satisfied with their image. Inevitably, they feel pressured to achieve the image that is deemed fit by the society.
This phenomenon is compounded by the fact that our media keeps bombarding us with images of famous, successful and powerful people who are presented to us as symbols of perfection. The pressure to comply with the social criteria of beauty has a detrimental effect on many women’s psyche and their failure to cope with this pressure often leads to problems like eating disorders.
COMMON TYPES OF EATING DISORDERS
In anorexia nervosa, people lose more weight than is considered healthy for their age and height. People with this disorder may have an intense fear of weight gain even when they are underweight. They may go on crash diets, exercise excessively or use other extreme methods of losing weight.
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder in which a person binges and purges. The person may eat a lot of food at once and then try to get rid of it through vomiting, using laxatives or over-exercising. Bulimia is associated with depression and other psychiatric disorders, with some of its symptoms same as anorexia. Since many people with bulimia can maintain a normal weight, they may be able to keep their concerns with their weight and body image a secret for years.
Binge-eating is characterized by the consumption of large quantities of food in a very short period of time until the individual is uncomfortably full. It is much like bulimia except that the individuals do not try to excrete the food out following a binge. People usually feel out of control during a binge episode, followed by feelings of guilt and shame. Typically, those suffering with binge-eating disorder use food as a cover up for feelings and emotions they want to block out.
WHAT CAUSES EATING DISORDERS
Eating disorders frequently develop during adolescence or early adulthood, but can also occur during childhood or late adulthood. They are more likely to affect females than males. Although there is no single known cause of eating disorders, experts believe that following factors may have a role to play:
- Culture: In the West, extreme thinness is a social and cultural ideal, with women often judging themselves on the basis of their physical attractiveness. While this tendency can be seen in Pakistani women as well, it has still not reached the level of obsession.
- Personal characteristics: Feelings of helplessness, worthlessness, and poor self-image often accompany eating disorders.
- Other emotional disorders: Other mental health problems like depression or anxiety occur along with eating disorders.
- Stressful events or life changes: Things like starting a new school or job, being teased or bullied, and traumatic events like rape can lead to the onset of eating disorders.
- Biology: Studies are carried out to study the impact of genetics, hormones and brain chemicals that may have an effect on the development of and recovery from eating disorders.
- Families: Parents’ perceptions about appearance and diet have an effect on their kids’ attitudes. Additionally, a woman is more likely to become bulimic if she has witnessed her mother or sister suffer from the same.
HOW TO DEAL WITH EATING DISORDERS
While it might be hard to digest the fact that your child or loved one has fallen prey to an eating disorder, it would not be wise to broach this topic publicly. A private, one-on-one
Moreover, showing your genuine care and concern through communication will allow them to discuss their feelings more openly. What you need to be careful about, however, is not to sound judgmental at any point. If your child or loved one suffers from low self esteem, the best thing you can do is to support them and let them know them their importance in your life.
If your child or loved one is a perfectionist and wants to attain the same level of perfection in his/her body image, you should keep a check on their unbalanced dietary habits or obsessiveness towards their outer appearance. Depression often accompanies an eating disorder since dissatisfaction with self is a common denominator in both. It is important to recognize and treat depression as soon as possible in order to prevent future eating disorders from developing and to successfully manage the one at hand.
Oftentimes, sufferers of eating disorders reveal an abusive past. Acknowledging the past and its impact is an important step to begin the healing process for people struggling with these disorder. Be aware of how often your child or loved one chooses to be alone. If the pattern coincides with meal times, there might be more to it than just avoiding social interaction.
We may be far from ideal but as wisely stated by Alison Boulter, “Always remember you’re unique, just like everyone else.”