Eat Healthy

Crossing the Line: Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are complex conditions that come from a combination of behavioral, emotional, psychological, interpersonal and social factors.

While eating disorders may begin with a preoccupation with food and weight, they are most often about much more than food. People with eating disorders often use food and control over food as a way to cope with feelings and emotions that may be overwhelming. For some, dieting, binging and purging may begin as a way to cope with painful emotions and to feel in control, but ultimately these behaviors damage a person's physical and emotional health, self-esteem and sense of competence and control. All eating disorders require professional help.

Source: National Eating Disorders Association;

What is Anorexia Nervosa?
Anorexia is an eating disorder characterized by: 1. Intense fear of becoming fat which does not diminish with weight loss; 2. Maintenance of an inappropriate body weight with weight loss 15 percent below that expected for normal health; 3. Disturbance in the way one's body weight, size or shape is experienced, e.g. claiming to "feel fat" even when emaciated; 4. An absence of three menstrual cycles in females.
What is Bulimia Nervosa?
Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by: 1. Recurrent episodes of binge-eating with an average of two or more binges per week; 2. Termination of the binge by purging with self-induced vomiting, use of laxatives and/or diuretics (drugs that make you urinate), strict dieting, diet pills or excessive exercise.

Individuals with either Anorexia or Bulimia practice harmful weight control measures and a denial of their illness. About 33 percent show evidence of having both disorders or switching back and forth between these disorders.

Symptoms and physical signs of Anorexia and Bulimia:

Symptoms Physical Signs
Fear of being fat or gaining weight Complaints of feeling bloated or nauseated when eating normal amounts of food
Feeling out of control; fear of not being able to stop eating voluntarily Swollen and/or infected parotid glands (the glands under the jaw)
Loss of energy, fatigue Dry Skin, thinning hair, brittle nails
Mood swings - depressed, irritable or anxious Calluses or sores on the hand from self-induced vomiting, slow wound healing
Self-disparaging thoughts (reproachful, disapproving) Teeth sensitivity
Intense dieting or exercise when not overweight; denial of hunger Increased discomfort and intolerance to cold
Low self-esteem, which may not be initially apparent Poor circulation, tingling bluish fingers
Excessive concern about food and calories Red eyes from bursting blood vessels
Difficulty concentrating  
Perfectionist thinking; sensitive to changes  
Frequent weighing and overemphasis on scale weight  

Possible Medical Complications:

Symptoms Physical Signs
Arrhythmia (irregular heart beat) Dehydration and kidney failure
Endocrine and electrolyte imbalance (sodium and potassium abnormalities which may cause muscle spasms, kidney problems or cardiac arrest) Severe digestive problems: Hypokalemic alkalosis from vomiting of stomach acid; gastric ulcers, esophageal bleeding
Dental problems: loss of tooth enamel, tooth decay Menstruation irregularities or loss of menstrual periods

Social and Emotional Consequences:

Social Emotional
Social isolation Depression and loneliness
Loss of friendships Loss if self-esteem, lack of self-worth
Absenteeism Sense of increasing shame
Financial loss (medical, dental psychological treatment, plus funding "binge" eating) Numbness, loss of awareness
  Increased anger and irritability
  Problems with drug and alcohol use
  Anxiety, feelings of panic
  Helplessness and loss of control

All eating disorders require professional help. For more information, call the National Eating Disorders help line at 1-800-931-2237, or locally, call 1-801-387-7861. Web sites for eating disorder information are: and (eating disorder referral and information center). 

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