ED. When most of us see that abbreviation we connect it to erectile dysfunction. But there’s another ED that is far less talked about. Eating Disorders. There are currently four main categories of eating disorders identified in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders): Bulimia Nervosa, Anorexia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, and Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder. Eating disorders effect some 20 million women, and 10 million men in their lifetime in the United States alone, and the best-known contributor to anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa is body dissatisfaction (Stice, 2002).
So, who do eating disorders effect? More people than we would care to think about. 15% of women aged 17-24 have an eating disorder. Over half of teenage girls, and almost one third of teenage boys admit to using unhealthy behaviors to control their weight – i.e. skipping a meal, smoking cigarettes, fasting, and purging (Neumark-Sztainer, 2005). Men make up 10-15% of the anorexia and bulimia population, but are less likely to seek treatment for something that is looked at as a “women’s problem”. And that’s just to name a few…
My second undergrad degree was in psychology, so I studied everything that eating disorders do to your body. The risks you take and the consequences that could/would ensue with an eating disorder. I knew all of this, and yet I still developed an eating disorder my sophomore year of college. For the record, I have never admitted this or talked to anyone besides my mom about my eating disorder and I had to BEG her not to tell my dad and “respect my privacy”. It took me a year and a half, almost two years, to ask for help – because I was finally able to recognize that I was out of control.
I went from A to B within a semester. I went from pushing 150 to around 130. Initially, it was just throwing up things I knew I shouldn’t be eating. In New York you can bartend at 18, so more often than not I was eating bad for me bar food while I was bartending. French fries and potato skins and wings galore. That’s how it started. Somewhat “harmlessly” – only purging what I knew I shouldn’t have eaten. That’s how I rationalized what I was doing.
The problem with Bulimia Nervosa is that you can’t control it, and I thought I could. It becomes something your body just does. So, after a while, I couldn’t keep food down. I would feel sick to my stomach after eating, like I HAD TO purge, like I HAD TO throw up. But, for me, it wasn’t just Bulimia. When I got a concussion, and couldn’t workout for two weeks – I went the anorexic route. All I ate for two weeks was yogurt and protein shakes – I was taking in less than 600 calories a day. I made sure of that. And when I could – I would sneak off to the gym and ride the bike until I had burned as many calories as possible (I tried to go for around 500)… Totally healthy
But why? Why would I make the decision to do something that I KNEW could cause long term damage to my body? I wish I could give you an answer.
Why are we so dissatisfied with our body images? Our social world has a huge influence on that. We idealize people of a certain weight, shape or size. We put pressure on each other and ourselves to have the “perfect body”(Fittig & Jacobi, 2010). We culturally value people on the basis of their appearance, not on their inner heart and soul. All of these psychosocial factors are causing our children, by the age of 6, girls especially but boys as well, to start worrying about their weight and the shape of their body. By SIX YEARS OLD!
My eating disorder wrecked my metabolism. It damaged my relationships (sorry Dad, I know you’re not going to be happy when you read this). It hurt my pride – because admitting that you have a problem, is always the hardest part.
I shared my story with you to show you that this can happen to anyone. Honestly, someone you know is probably going through something similar right now.
Please, if you know someone who has an eating disorder, have the courage to talk to them about it.
Let’s get REAL about why people develop eating disorders.
Let’s get uncomfortable together, and discuss the whole story.
Jacobi C, Fittig E (2010) Psychosocial risk factors for eating disorders. In: Agras W (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Eating Disorders. New York: Oxford University Press, 123–136.
Neumark-Sztainer, Dianne, Michael P. Levine, Susan J. Paxton, Linda Smolak, Niva Piran, and Eleanor H. Wertheim. “Prevention of Body Dissatisfaction and Disordered Eating: What Next?” Eating Disorders 14.4 (2006): 265-85. Web.
Neumark-Sztainer, D., French, S.A., Hannan, P.J. et al. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition Phys Act (2005) 2: 14.
Stice, Eric. “Risk and Maintenance Factors for Eating Pathology: A Meta-analytic Review.”Psychological Bulletin 128.5 (2002): 825-48. Web.
“11 Facts About Eating Disorders.” DoSomething.org | Volunteer for Social Change. Do Something.Org, n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2017.
“Prevalence vs. Funding.” Get The Facts On Eating Disorders | National Eating Disorders Association. National Eating Disorders Association, n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2017.
“Teen Eating Disorders.” Walden Center. Walden Center for Education and Research, n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2017.
Featured image via: http://eating-disorders.emedtv.com/