How would you classify someone who is morbidly obsessed with rapid weight loss; easily rattles off the calorie count of any food;
spends more than 2 hours in the gym AND could be underweight? Health-conscious, overzealous, or someone who could have an eating disorder?
If you opted for the last one, you are possibly correct.
People with this disorder may go to great lengths to diet, almost to the point of starving, or exercise even if they are underweight.
It’s all in the mind
Shrouded under the cloak of an eating disorder, anorexia nervosa has a psychological element to it. People with anorexia may feel they are overweight although they could be dangerously thin.
Research has found eating disorders to be a confluence of psychological factors and personality traits. Even the society can be blamed for propagating a typical body image!
“ Anorexia primarily affects girls and women. A quarter of pre-adolescent anorexia develops in boys too.”
Anorexia Nervosa Symptoms
A person with anorexia usually displays these:
- An intense fear of gaining weight or getting overweight even when they could be underweight.
- Would have a body weight that is 15% below than what is considered normal for age and height. They would refuse to maintain it such even after advice
- Be obsessed about body image and shape. They often fail to recognise the ill-effects of excess weight loss.
The most telling signs about anorexia can be picked around the dining table as they try hard to limit food. Some of them are:
- Their food stays put in the plate longer. They could cut up foods into small portions and keep pushing them around.
- Exercising all the time even when the weather is bad, during illness or with a busy schedule.
- ‘Cooking’ up excuses to not eat.
- Wears baggy clothes to hide body.
- Going to the bathroom right after meals to throw up the food just eaten.
- People with anorexia could be conscious of eating in the presence of others too.
- Bank heavily on pills such as diuretics (increased urination to reduce water weight), laxatives or enemas (for increased bowel movement) or diet pills that promise weight loss.
- Blotchy, dry skin that lacks colour and lustre due to nutritional deficiency diseases.
- Poor memory, slow thinking, confusion.
- Dry mouth.
- Extreme sensitivity to cold requiring many layers of clothing.
- Pale and frail appearance due to wasting of muscle and body fat.
- Loss of bone strength.
Seeking treatment is important
The biggest challenge in treating anorexia is highlighting the condition to the person for many could deny the condition. Goal for treatment is to normalise the body weight and eating habits.
The treatment for anorexia is diametrically opposite to that adopted in weight loss. It includes weight gain of 1-3 pounds a week and decrease in physical activity.
n addition, doctors suggest socialising and having a set discipline for eating.
- Anorexia nervosa. Medline Plus. Accessed on: 18/12/2015
- Eating disorders. American Psychological Association. Accessed on: 18/12/2015