Recognize Eating Disorders

Beyond health, beyond beauty – recognize eating disorders – In today’s world, you can barely go anywhere in New Jersey, Delaware or Pennsylvania or do anything without having a certain body-image ideal brought to your attention. It is the lean, mean, and often very unrealistic “perfect” body that is found on billboards, TV, magazines, and especially in advertisements. Many people feel a little bit of pressure from all these images. Maybe they’d like to be a little closer to that movie-star body, so they try to eat a few less sweets, or go to the Philadelpiha Sports Club, Sweat, or Rittenhouse Gym a little more often. As long as it is only one part of a healthy lifestyle, these activities don’t really hurt anyone…

However, there are cases where the situation gets out of a person’s control and otherrs will need to recognize eating disorders for you. What may have started as only eating certain foods, or just eating smaller portions, becomes eating nothing at all. Dieting becomes starvation. Taking a short walk along South Street to balance out the after-dinner cupcake turns into binge-eating counters by harmful practices such as vomiting or laxatives. The kitchen scale and bathroom mirror become measures of overall self-worth instead of just weight. In short, eating habits and appearance move from being a balanced part of an overall lifestyle to being the controlling factor in a person’s daily routine. When this happens, the individual is suffering from an eating disorder.

There are several types of eating disorder, with a variety of symptoms. Some people suffering from an eating disorder don’t eat anything at all and starve themselves, while others eat excessive amounts and then go to extremes to counter this. But all eating disorders have these two things in common: they are extremely unhealthy and are dangerous to the individual experiencing them, and the person with the disorder usually doesn’t see it. For the most part, people suffering from eating disorders feel that their eating habits, or the way they react to food and self-image, are normal, correct, and proportionate. It is difficult for these people to recognize that they have a genuine medical affliction, or even that anything is wrong at all… but that recognition is the most important part of getting help, and could even save their life. If you pay very close attention to what you eat, when you eat, how much you weigh, and how you look — maybe too much attention — then ask yourself the following questions as honestly as possible.

  •        Is a “normal” weight for your height/age not good enough?
  •       Do you primarily judge your worth as a person by how you look?
  •       Do you feel the need to weigh yourself daily?
  •       Do you feel that you look fat, no matter how much weight you lose?
  •       Do you feel guilty after eating?
  •        Are you unable to take pleasure in food, even foods you know you used to enjoy?
  •        Do you eat alone because you are embarrassed to have others see you eat?
  •       Have you used aids, such as laxatives or enemas, to lose weight?
  •        Have you forced yourself to vomit after meals?
  •       Do you exercise excessively, to the point where you drive yourself to exhaustion?
  •       After you feel you have eaten excessively, do you go to extremes to compensate and offset any possible weight gain?
  •       Are you compulsive about portioning or weighing your food?
  •       Do you feel that you need to be thin to be worthwhile?
  •        Do you feel that others will not like you if you gain weight?

If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, then you may very likely be at risk for an eating disorder, or suffering from one already. If that is the case, then you need to seek professional help. You don’t need to be ashamed or embarrassed — having an eating disorder is not your fault, and it doesn’t mean you are bad or weak-willed. However, it is a serious threat to your physical health as well as your emotional well-being, and you should contact a doctor right away. A doctor can give you a physical evaluation to determine if you are in any immediate danger from weight loss, and prescribe a nutritional plan that will let you reach a healthy weight.

The other professional you should schedule an appointment with is a counselor or therapist. When you are suffering from a mental imbalance such as an eating disorder, it is very important to have someone to talk to who can help you find the root of your self image problems. People with eating disorders are consistently critical about how they look, are unhappy with themselves, and have very low self-esteem — but you don’t have to feel that way. Working with a therapist, you can make your way back to a happy, fulfilling life without the stress of constantly evaluating yourself in the mirror and depriving yourself of food. Through counseling, you can learn exercises to replace negative thought patterns with positive ones and develop a positive self-image. There are even many positive-thinking exercises that you can practice on your own, empowering yourself to move toward a better lifestyle. Many people who have suffered from eating disorders in the past have made a full recovery, and now live happy lives at a healthy weight. You can too. Just remember that your value comes from who you are as a human being, not from how you look. You don’t have to feel unhappy every time you look in a mirror…but only you can make the first step toward recovery by recognizing the problem, and seeking change.

This tip recognize eating disorders, was written specifically for the Center for Growth / Sex Therapy in Philadelphia and represents our values.  You do not have to be alone. Help is available. Call today to schedule an innitial assessment.