EATING DISORDER WARNING SIGNS:

ANOREXIA NERVOSA

• Deliberate self-starvation with weight loss
• Intense, persistent fear of gaining weight
• Refusal to eat, except tiny portions
• Continuous dieting
• Excessive facial/body hair because of inadequate protein in the diet
• Compulsive exercise
• Abnormal weight loss
• Sensitive to cold
• Absent or irregular menstruation
• Hair loss

BULIMIA NERVOSA

• Preoccupation with food
• Binge eating, usually in secret
• Vomiting after bingeing
• Abuse of laxatives, diuretics, diet pills
• Denial of hunger, or drugs to induce vomiting
• Compulsive exercise
• Swollen salivary glands
• Broken blood vessels in the eyes

PHYSICAL REPERCUSSIONS FROM ONE OR BOTH DISEASES:

• Malnutrition, intestinal ulcers
• Dehydration
• Ruptured stomach
• Serious heart, kidney, and liver damage
• Tooth/gum erosion
• Tears of the esophagus

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPERCUSSIONS FROM BOTH DISEASES:
 
• Depression
• Low self-esteem
• Shame and guilt
• Impaired family and social relationships
• Mood swings
• Perfectionism
• 'All or nothing' thinking

WHO IS AT RISK OF DEVELOPING AN EATING DISORDER:

Everyone!  In every race, culture, age group, and sex there are people with eating disorders.  Yet, below ANAD identifies groups which are at a greater risk.

Females: Because of the increased number of media images portraying 'thin and perfect' models, many girls struggle with body image issues that potentially result in eating disorders.

Youth: Early adolescence to early adulthood, with ages 11 and 17 identified as times for increased vulnerability. Perhaps they represent times of change. The 11 year old may be experiencing changes in her body hormonally as she becomes ready to get her periods. Often there is increase in fat in 'all the wrong places' creating anxiety. Perhaps it is even more difficult when the school, in a well-meaning attempt to have children be healthy, measure body fat. Of course, there is always the issue of boys and what our culture tells them about having an attractive body.

The onset of eating disorders can occur at any age; the age of onset does appear to be getting younger.  Eating disorders can occur at any time, and certainly reports of adult onset —even individuals at 70 years of age — have been reported.

Males: We are becoming more aware of eating disorders in males. In adults, approximately 10% of sufferers are male. About 20-30% of younger anorexics are male. We probably are not identifying the disorder because of stereotyping that this is a female illness. There are probably as many bulimic men as anorexic women.

Minorities: Once considered an illness of affluent white females, the picture has dramatically changed. In the U.S., eating disorders appear to be as common among Hispanic women as Caucasian. A recent focus on African American women indicates that it is more common than expected. Black women are more prone to bulimia nervosa and to abuse laxatives. There appears to be an overall increase in other countries.

Athletes: Women participating in certain sports such as gymnastics and distance running are especially vulnerable. Men involved in wrestling are often at risk as they attempt to make weight.

Genetics: Evidence is pointing to the fact that there is a strong genetic component to the illness.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:

• Did you know that the diet industry is a $30 billion business? That's a lot of money for selling products that don't work and can cause harm!

• To fit the Barbie Doll image, an average 5'2'' woman, 22 years old with a normal weight of 125 lbs, would have to be 7'2'' tall!

The above information was provided by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD). Visit their website at www.anad.org.