Eating disorders have mostly been a ‘foreign’ problem affecting young people in developed countries but is rearing its ugly head in our country. The two most common food disorders are bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. People who suffer from these eating disorders are extremely concerned about their weight and appearance.     Anorexia affects mostly women. This may be due to the fact women are more concerned with their appearance and are likely to take more radical action to achieve the appearance they crave. This condition has traditionally been prevalent in countries in which the ‘ideal’ woman is supposed to be thin. The advent of television and the internet has brought the world together and thus the idea of the ‘thin’ ideal woman is spreading even in third world countries and as such eating disorders are becoming more prevalent in our country. Some common features of people suffering from anorexia include severe weight loss and self-starvation. People with anorexia are very thin but have body image distortion. This means though they are visibly thin, they sincerely believe they are fat. If anorexia occurs during childhood or adolescence, it may lead to stunting or some level of growth retardation. It may also delay sexual maturation and the onset of menstruation. People suffering from anorexia also need psychological/psychiatric help because they show symptoms of depression.      


Whilst anorexia is characterized by self-starvation, bulimia is characterized by repeated episodes of binge eating followed by self induced vomiting, compulsive exercise, laxative abuse and excessive fasting. It is also more common in women than in men. Such people are also ‘obsessed’ with their weight and appearance. Unlike people with anorexia who are visibly ‘thin’, people with bulimia appear to have normal weight and this makes it more difficult to diagnose. Binge eating involves eating an unusually large amount of food in a short period of time. The person exceeds her/his satisfaction but continues eating. After this people with bulimia feel guilty and seek to compensate for overeating with measures such as inducing vomiting or excessive use of purgatives and laxatives. People suffering from bulimia have been found to have anxiety, mood, and personality disorders which would need psychological or psychiatric help.    


 If detected, people with anorexia would need to be detained in a hospital so as to be fed well. The aim of the re-feeding is ultimately weight gain. This would be done in consultation with the doctor and dietician so as to meet all protein, vitamin and mineral needs. Unlike anorexia, the aim of the dietician and medical team nutrition is to ensure reasonable weight loss. People suffering from bulimia would be guided on how to lose weight without endangering her/his health. They would also be counseled to stop destructive behaviors such as inducing vomiting and abuse of laxatives.      


 Taking a look at the multitude of beauty pageants shows that gradually the concept of beauty is dependent on being ‘thin’ and this means young ladies who are overweight and obese are likely to try various means to lose weight and some may fall victim to anorexia or bulimia. Healthy weight loss can be achieved safely and anyone interested should visit his/her dietician at a hospital or clinic nearby.

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