One of the most misunderstood groups of mental health conditions is eating disorders. Eating disorders are defined as eating behaviors and attitudes toward food intake and weight, which can have complicated and serious physical and emotional consequences.
Millions of people around the world are suffering from eating disorders. According to a report, at least 9% of people suffer from eating problems worldwide. If ignored, eating disorders can have a substantial negative impact on a person’s physical, mental, and social well-being and can even result in mortality.
Additionally, research says eating disorders develop for various reasons and risk factors such as genetics and psychological factors. Eating disorders often co-occur with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
This article will discuss how eating disorders may develop and why they occur, and also explore practical strategies for managing these complex and challenging conditions.
Types of eating disorders
The fact that eating disorders can afflict persons of any gender, age, race, or socioeconomic background should be noted. If left untreated, these diseases can have grave physical, psychological, and social repercussions and even risk one’s life.
There are numerous eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), and other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED) are some of the most common types of eating disorders.
Extreme dietary restrictions and weight loss characterize this eating disorder due to a fear of gaining weight and getting fat.
This eating disorder is an illness that most typically affects adolescents, but it is now increasingly being identified in youngsters and older individuals. One can’t determine if someone has anorexia just by looking at them. A person can struggle without being underweight or gaunt. People with overweight figures can also struggle with anorexia.
Even when the individual is underweight, people with anorexia may have an incorrect perception of their bodies and think of themselves as overweight. They could also have a phobia of eating in front of others, limit their food intake to very minimal amounts, and exercise compulsively. Malnutrition, cardiac issues, and even mortality are just a few of the severe physical health concerns anorexia can cause.
Bulimia nervosa is characterized by binge eating followed by purging actions like vomiting or overeating. Sometimes, individuals use laxatives or diuretics and practice strict fasting or extreme exercise.
Bulimic individuals frequently lack control over their eating habits and may quickly consume large quantities of food. Bulimics may maintain a normal or slightly overweight body weight, unlike anorexics.
Two of the following characteristics describe an episode of binge eating:
- Eating more food in a short period (say, during a two-hour window) than most individuals would consume in a comparable amount of time and conditions.
- A feeling of being unable to control one’s eating throughout the episode, such as the inability to stop eating or regulate what or how much is consumed.
Another type of disorder, binge eating, is characterized by recurrent periods of overeating without the need for vomiting. People with a binge-eating disorder may overeat quickly, eat when they are not hungry, feel like they have no control over their behavior, and feel guilty or ashamed afterward.
They could also avoid eating with others out of shame. Obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other health issues can result from binge-eating disorders.
Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder
Previously known as “Selective Eating Disorder,” avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is a new diagnosis in the DSM-5.
ARFID and anorexia are similar in that both diseases entail restrictions on the quantity and/or types of food consumed. But this type of disorder does not involve anxiety over body size or shape or a fear of being overweight like anorexia does.
Additionally, ARFID is a type of disorder characterized by limited food intake because of boredom, fear of unpleasant consequences, or sensory difficulties. As a result, this eating disorder involves a chronic lack of interest in food, avoidance or limitation of certain meals, or failure to achieve nutritional demands, which can cause malnutrition and other health issues.
The effects of these eating disorders on an individual can be very serious and impact a person’s mental and physical health such as depression and suicidal thoughts. However, managing the symptoms promptly and adopting healthy eating habits can be highly beneficial for recovery.
Ways to overcome eating disorders
Even though recovering from an eating disorder can be difficult, it is possible with the right strategies and support. Most of the time, experts recommend medical, dietary, and psychological therapies for treating eating disorders. Here are helpful tips that will be beneficial to develop healthy eating habits.
Practicing mindful eating
A common type of mindfulness exercise is mindful eating. Mindfulness practice is a type of meditation that can assist you in becoming more conscious of your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations as they occur.
According to research, practicing mindfulness meditation can help treat mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and eating disorders.
Additionally, mindful eating involves being aware of your food intake, such as paying attention to your body’s signals of hunger and fullness while eating.
Avoid multitasking when eating. This can help enhance awareness of your body’s demands and help you form a healthy connection with food. Furthermore, being aware of your food intake can improve digestion, keep you satisfied with fewer calories, and help you make more informed eating choices.
Keeping a food journal
You can gain more understanding of some of your eating patterns by keeping a journal of where you eat, what else you do when you eat, and how you feel while eating. Monitoring your food intake and emotions might help you spot patterns and eating disorder triggers.
Doing so can assist you in creating appropriate coping mechanisms for dealing with stressors. Below are some recommendations for maintaining a fruitful food diary.
- Write down the meal and drinks you consume as soon as you finish; try to avoid writing them until the end of the day.
- Give as much information about the food or drink as you can. Take notice of the type and size, for instance, if you are drinking a latte.
- Include any alcoholic beverages that you take.
- Use a smartphone app like MyFitnessPal, Recovery Road, or Rise Up + Recover, which provides data on calories and other nutrients.
Creating good habits takes time and effort. During this journey, be kind to yourself, acknowledge your accomplishments, and ask for help when required. You may overcome your eating disorder and have a healthier relationship with food and your body if you are persistent and dedicated to these practices.
If you would like to see more resources on eating disorders, check out the Personal Resilience Science Labs. The lab uses the research of the Institute for Life Management Science to produce courses, certifications, podcasts, videos, and other tools. Visit the Personal Resilience Science Labs today.
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