What Do We Know About Eating Disorders?
There are four main eating disorder diagnoses. There are significant differences between each, but common features across all.
Every person suffering with an eating disorder will be preoccupied with food, weight and diet and have a distorted body image where their body perception is much bigger than the truth. Negative thoughts such as “I’m fat” will mirror the unhappiness they feel inside.
- Anorexia nervosa is related to severe weight loss, which can result in osteoporosis, infertility and starvation affecting every system in the body. Unfortunately this can cause death as in the case of Karen Carpenter who was on a water only diet.
- Bulimia involves binging on large amounts of food and purging by vomiting or using diet pills and laxatives, often disappearing to the toilet soon after meals. This results in bloating, stomach pain, mood swings and weight change.
- Binge eating disorder is on the increase and involves eating large amounts of food in a short of space of time but this does not mean eating big portions, binge foods are often ‘planned rituals’ and usually bought in secret with no purging. This can result in obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease.
- Over 50% of those with eating disorders are diagnosed have an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS). This is classified when the criteria doesn’t meet anorexia or bulimia but is just as severe.
I think hard when writing about my story. So many people choose the route to shock by mentioning weight, showing photos and sharing tips which assisted their drastic loss.
I’m not comfortable with this. In truth, this style of writing could trigger someone with an eating disorder who is keen to learn how to perfect their weight loss objective. I am therefore mindful when telling my story.
I was a very sensitive child. I grew up with wonderful parents but they wanted the best for me, so at times could be highly critical. If I showed my dad my homework he drew red lines through it. Instead of appreciating my young, conversational tone of writing, he wrote it ‘his way’.
My mum was a dancer and her family were always focused on food and weight and I remember one family member jovially naming me the ‘buffet diver’. I also remember being in the throes of my eating disorder and receiving a comment saying “You’re back to how you used to look now.” I was a 24-year-old woman with curves being compared to a photo of me as an 18 year old. These comments carved onto my brain.
Years on, the relationship with my father and his alcohol misuse broke down and it made it difficult to see my family as much. The man I loved didn’t love me back. This affected me terribly.
I was highly productive at work and over achieving, but escaping through drink and drug fuelled binges at the weekends. In order to ‘feel good’ I fell into the trap of, ‘If I just lose a few pounds…’ I was thrown into the safety and comfort of striving for perfection.
Exercise escalated from three times a week to twice a day. I got a personal trainer who started me on food diaries, which led me to my dangerous obsession with food, counting calories and replacing wholesome nutrition with small portions of nothingness.