What are eating disorders?
Worries about weight, shape and eating are common, especially among young girls. Being very overweight or obese can cause a lot of problems, particularly with health. Quite often, someone who is overweight can lose weight simply by eating more healthily. It sounds easy, but they may need help to find a way of doing this.
A lot of young people and children, many of whom are not overweight in the first place, want to be thinner. They often try to lose weight by dieting or skipping meals. For some, worries about weight becomes an obsession. This can turn into a serious eating disorder.
Common eating disorders – anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa
- Someone with anorexia nervosa worries all the time about being fat (even if they are skinny) and eats very little. They lose a lot of weight and for girls, their periods become irregular or stop.
- Someone with bulimia nervosa also worries a lot about weight. They alternate between eating next to nothing, and then having binges when they gorge themselves. They vomit or take laxatives to control their weight.
Both of these eating disorders are more common in girls, but do occur in boys.
They can happen in young people of all backgrounds and cultures.
Obsessional behaviour is often seen in young people with eating disorders. Some people are more at risk than others. Sensitive or anxious individuals, who are having difficulty becoming independent from their families are more at risk. Eating disorders can also run in your family.
What causes eating disorders?
Eating disorders are caused by a number of different things:
- Worry or stress may lead to comfort eating. This may cause worries about getting fat
- Dieting and missing meals lead to craving for food, loss of control and over-eating
- Anorexia or bulimia can develop as a complication of more extreme dieting, perhaps triggered by an upsetting event, such as family break-down, death or separation in the family, bullying at school or abuse
- Sometimes, anorexia and bulimia may be a way of trying to feel in control if life feels stressful
- More ordinary events, such as the loss of a friend, a teasing remark or school exams, may also be the trigger in a vulnerable person.
Signs of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa
- Weight loss or unusual weight changes.
- Periods being irregular or stopping.
- Missing meals, eating very little and avoiding ‘fattening’ foods.
- Avoiding eating in public, secret eating.
- Large amounts of food disappearing from the cupboards.
- Believing they are fat when underweight.
- Exercising excessively,often in secret.
- Becoming preoccupied with food, cooking for other people, calorie counting and setting target weights.
- Going to the bathroom or toilet immediately after meals.
- Using laxatives and vomiting to control weight or sometimes other medications/ herbal remedies to lose weight.
Healthy eating tips
These simple suggestions are useful to help young people maintain a healthy weight and avoid eating disorders.
- Eat regular meals – The British Dietetic Association recommends eating regularly throughout the day which usually means three main meals and three nutritious snacks in between like fruit, yoghurt or nuts.
- Try to eat a “balanced” diet – one that contains all the types of food your body needs including carbohydrate food such as bread, rice, pasta or cereals with every meal.
- Don’t miss meals – long gaps encourage overeating.
- Exercise regularly.
- Try not to be influenced by other people skipping meals or commenting on weight.
How are anorexia and bulimia treated?
Here at Camali Clinic, we offer counselling (such as cognitive behavioural therapy and family therapy) and psychotherapy for eating disorders.
This involves talking to one of our trained therapists about your thoughts and feelings. It can help you to understand how the problem started, and how you can change some of the ways you think and feel about things. It can be upsetting to talk about some things, but our therapists strive to help you to do this in a way which helps you to cope better with your difficulties.
They will also help you value yourself more, and rebuild your self-esteem.