Obesity has become an epidemic in America, with over a third of the population being overweight. However, there is another, less talked about danger when it comes to weight, and that is the problem of eating disorders.
Eating disorders affect approximately 20 million women and 10 million men in our country. And studies show that around half of elementary age girls will already be concerned with their weight and body type.
Dr. Richard Snellgrove from Eastern Shore Weight Loss joined us on Studio10. Below is a list of some of the questions and answers they discussed.
What should we know about eating disorders?
Probably the best place to start is to understand what an eating disorder actually is. An eating disorder is a mental health problem that affects the way a person eats every day. They may severely overeat or severely undereat, but their diet is greatly affected. Often times, we see where eating disorders accompany other health problems, such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse. These are real problems that need real solutions.
What are some of the different basic types of eating disorders?
Anorexia nervosa is a condition in which a person is constantly concerned with their weight and appearance, so they severely limit their food intake. A person suffering from this will be relentless about trying to be "thin." People with anorexia are often characterized by an emaciated appearance, and can suffer from thinning bones, brittle hair and nails, dry and yellowish skin, anemia, atrophy, and even very severe symptoms such as brain damage, heart damage, and organ function. Bulimia nervosa is another eating disorder, where a person often maintains something similar to a normal weight. But, their life will be characterized by episodes of binging and then trying to purge out their food. This can be done through induced vomiting, over exercising, the use of laxatives. This may happen a few times a week, to multiple times a day. The people will deal with guilt and shame, in addition to sore and inflamed throats, swollen glands, tooth decay, GERD, dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. There are other variations of eating disorders that aren't necessarily medically categorized, but these are the main problems. And it is not uncommon to see people struggle with going back and forth between these two conditions.
Are certain people more prone to suffering from eating disorders?
Actually, yes, there are a few risk factors we can look out for. First, females are more likely than males to develop an eating disorder. This doesn't mean men are exempt, but it's simply more common in females. Also, the most common time for an eating disorder to develop is during a person's teens and early twenties. Again, there are definitely cases of senior adults and children with eating disorders, but the most common time frame is adolescence and early adulthood. People with a family history of eating disorders are more likely to develop one themselves. When people are dieting, if they begin see success, than can become obsessed with losing more. This can even be reinforced when they hear positive comments about how good they look from losing weight. Anyone who is an athlete or in performance arts is at higher risk. Often, there is a demand for athletes to lower their weight, and dancers or actors can feel the pressure to stay as skinny as possible. Lastly, anyone with other emotional disorders—depression, anxiety, OCD—or anyone going through a major life transition—going to college, losing a relationship or a job—are more likely to develop an eating disorder in conjunction with their emotional distress.
It's definitely helpful to see the warning signs and risk factors. So, what should a person do if they have an eating disorder or know someone who does?
Get help. There is a HUGE difference between eating healthy, and having an eating disorder. So, while you might be able to make yourself skinny, you aren't making yourself healthy if you're dealing with this. Often times, it can be hard for a person with an eating disorder to realize they have one. They see themselves as simply trying to get or stay thin. They don't see the damage they're doing to themselves. This is why it can take a person from the outside to help them out. But don't be afraid to help. A person who is suffering with an eating disorder can do permanent and even fatal damage to themselves. Talk to them, and make sure you're not guilting them or shaming them, or downplaying what they're dealing with. If that doesn't work, involve a close friend or family member, maybe even a teacher or counselor for those in school. A person may need professional help and counseling to overcome it. But, don't simply ignore the problem.
Eastern Shore Weight Loss
374 South Greeno Rd
Fairhope, AL 36532
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Friday: 8:00 - 11:30am
Closed for lunch: 11:30am - 1:30pm
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