More than 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life. These statistics include the four main disorders which are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and OSFED, or other specified feeding or eating disorder. Many go unreported and untreated. In addition, it is unknown how many people struggle with body dissatisfaction and eating attitudes and behaviors defined as being sub-clinical in nature.
If you have an eating disorder, then you have an unhealthy relationship with food that is interfering with your life. You might eat little or no food, or eat excessively large amounts of food. You also may be obsessed with thoughts of food and/or exercise, and have a distorted body image. The most prevalent signs of an eating disorder vary but usually include the refusal to eat, excessive exercising, social withdrawal, and self-induced vomiting or binge eating.
While there is no cure for these ailments, treatment is available and is usually designed to restore the person to a healthy weight, treat any psychological problems, and reduce behaviors or thoughts that contribute to the eating disorder. It also includes nutrition therapy so that the affected person can learn to eat right and regain his or her health.
Suffering from an eating disorder can lead to a number of health problems. Many can be resolved with the help of medical nutrition therapy. If you or someone you know has anorexia nervosa, he or she may also end up with osteoporosis, as well as muscle loss and weakness and dry hair and skin. Hair loss is also common.
Bulimia sufferers usually have electrolyte imbalances that are caused by dehydration and a loss of potassium, sodium, and chloride from the body as a result of his or her purging behaviors. This imbalance can cause irregular heartbeats, heart failure, or death, as well as chronic, irregular bowel movements and constipation if he or she also abuses laxatives.
Binge eaters often experience peptic ulcers and pancreatitis, as well as both high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Heart disease can be a result of elevated triglyceride levels. He or she may also end up with either Type II diabetes or gallbladder disease.
An eating disorder tends to distort the patient’s perceptions of what a healthy diet includes. Nutrition therapy helps in the form of an eating plan that will allow you to obtain and maintain a healthy weight. It also helps to instill normal eating habits.
Both underweight and overweight patients can benefit from a medically supervised diet to return them to a healthy weight as they need to learn their body’s cues for hunger, fullness, and satiety. They may also need to re-establish blood-sugar levels through portion re-distribution and Improve food-related behaviors and develop a neutrality toward food.
If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, get help as soon as possible because the sooner a person with an eating disorder gets help, the greater the likelihood of both physical and emotional recovery.