Days before your birthday, you open the door of your house and discover an explosion of confetti, people singing "happy birthday" and a table overloaded with decadent food. While you smile and think "you should not eat this," your insides tremble with fear. Or perhaps the anxiety manifests itself while you are eating, for you dedicate yourself to planning the intense training that you expect to "undo" the calories that you are ingesting. Even if you do not relate to this scenario, someone will probably do it. Anxiety, shame and the inability to get pleasure from food are the symptoms of eating disorders (a common ailment that nullifies the joy of life, poses physical risks and is often neglected, as it does not receive treatment).
It is estimated that 80 percent of women are dissatisfied with some aspects of their physical appearance. If we go further, we will discover that a large percentage of these women suffer from some type of eating disorder.
Sari Fine Sheppird, specialist in clinical psychology
What is an eating disorder?
The term "eating disorder" is used to describe various attitudes and negative behaviors in relation to foods that do not meet the criteria for diagnosing a fully developed eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia, or compulsive eating disorder.
Traits of eating disorders are so common that people often consider them normal, according to clinical psychologist and eating disorders specialist Sari Fine Shepphird. The characteristics of these disorders include a repetitive diet, a fixation on calories, food and / or weight loss, and the belief that you will not find happiness, love, success (or any other goal or goal) until lose weight You may have only one or two symptoms, or experience passing symptoms. More serious symptoms include severe depression, abuse of laxatives or diet pills, excessive exercise and severe or long-term restrictions on the consumption of calories or carbohydrates.
Although approximately 4, 4 percent of Americans are diagnosed with eating disorders each year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, many more people express thoughts and behaviors related to eating disorders.
"It is estimated that 80 percent of women are dissatisfied with aspects of their physical appearance," explained Shepphird. "If we go deeper into this problem, we will discover that a large proportion of these women have some type of eating disorder."
The increase in male cosmetic surgeries and specialized diets for weight loss in this sector of the population show that these disorders also affect men.
What are the risks?
Fully developed eating disorders bring some of the highest levels of mortality among psychological disorders. And eating disorders in some cases become the prelude to these diseases.
"Studies show that 35 of the people who perform normal diets, or those who die by chance, gradually progress to pathological diets," said Shepphird. "Of these people, 20 to 25 percent develop some type of eating disorder. "
Eating disorders are associated with emotional problems, including anxiety, low self-esteem, impaired interpersonal relationships, as well as physical problems such as cardiac arrhythmia, fatigue and digestive problems. If the condition is not treated, the symptoms may worsen, increasing the risk of hormonal imbalances, infertility, nutritional deficiencies, osteoporosis and heart attacks. Serious eating disorders can lead to death.
"But will I not get fat?"
The same fear that causes eating disorders prevents many patients from seeking treatment: they are afraid of "getting fat".
The goal of treatment is to achieve nutritional, physical and emotional well-being, not get fat. "If you are below your ideal weight and have been restricting your food intake," Shepphird explained, "the treatment would include the restoration of a healthy weight and deal with any kind of distortion "in the way you perceive your body.
This perception can be discouraging. In addition to fearing weight gain, you may fear losing control of your eating habits. Julie Duffy Dillon, a registered dietitian who specializes in eating disorders, says that when a client expresses this concern, she is told that "a person can still be undernourished... while living a life of depression, anxiety, few or no type of relationship, a deficient work life... or recognize that the eating disorder is manifesting and deciding to do the right thing ".
This philosophy applies to thought patterns related to eating disorders and developed eating disorders. With the proper focus, your perception of yourself, as well as your behavior patterns and your food-related attitudes may change gradually, not towards excessive weight gain, but toward vitality and self-empowerment.
Acting on the problem
Helping a loved one
Seeing a loved one fight against eating disorders can be devastating. The Department of Counseling and Psychological Services at Duke University recommends speaking openly, even if you are nervous or unsure of what to say and how to say it. Tell your friend, for example, that although you respect their privacy, you are concerned about their welfare.
Try not to make specific comments about your weight or appearance. Phrases such as "you are thinning a lot" can be misinterpreted as flattery and lead to more harmful behavior. Playing the role of "food cop", telling him that "it would be better to stop dieting", for example, will not help either. Instead, tell her that you're afraid she's not healthy and that she does not look happy, and that you miss sharing meals together.
Be nice instead of making accusations, and do not be surprised if you find yourself with a defensive or resistance attitude. If this happens, keep calm and remember that you have done the right thing. If your friend seems interested in the treatment, offer to accompany her to her first appointment.
Finally, Duke University suggests "planting seeds, not trees." You should know that recovery takes time and care. Your job is to help reduce your friend's loneliness, listen to her when she needs you and show her that you care about her well-being.