Only a thin line separates “normal” dieting from an eating disorder. (Hesse-Biber, 1996) Unfortunately for young women in this day and age, social and economic factors pressure them to pursue the thinness ideal, even to the point of dangerous behavior. At one point in time, dieting would have been considered one of the ways to improve one’s health. Today’s society has been brainwashed to believe that in order to be healthy, one has to be painfully thin. This ideology has caused 7 million girls’ lives to be affected with eating disorders (Mooney, Knox, and Schacht, 2006).
Defining Eating Disorders
“A man cannot be too serious about his eating, for food is the force that binds society together.” What Confucius could never have fathomed was that approximately 2500 years after his death, food would actually be the force that disrupts society beyond repair. Who would have ever thought that a simple, life-sustaining function like eating would, one day, turn into a life-threatening, suicide mission for young women and men? Eating disorders do not discriminate amongst who they attack. Man, woman, rich, poor, educated, uneducated, illiterate, Asian, Latino, African, Australian, European, American – every single community is affected by it, and more affected by it than we can ever imagine.
Eating disorder warning signs are when a person’s day to day activities are seriously affected by body image issues: When an individual looks at one’s self in the mirror and can only see themselves as physically unsatisfactory, as is in the case of anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Binge-eating disorder typically occurs not because the person is dissatisfied with the way they appear, but when they go through emotional duress and feel as if eating will make everything alright.
Anorexia nervosa: This is frequently referred to as simply anorexia. The word anorexia actually means “loss of appetite” but people suffering from anorexia (the disease) do not experience loss of appetite. They are still hungry, yet they refuse to eat because they think they are “fat”. They harbor an intense fear of putting on weight even if they are severely emaciated. They tend to go to extremes with clothing, either wearing very loose clothes or wearing very revealing clothes. They value themselves based only on how much they weigh. (Michel & Willard, 2003)
For women, menstrual cycles tend to either delay if they have not started, or cease if they have. If the monthly cycle does not start by the time the severe weight loss begins, the anorexic’s body will stop developing; physically she remains a pre-pubescent girl. (Silverstein, Silverstein and Silverstein, 1991) For men, the levels of testosterone tend to decrease dramatically. Anorexic people are typically 15% or more underweight. (Orr, 2007)
Anorexics tend to count calories like their lives depend on it. They weigh everything they eat or drink, and exercise excessively and compulsively. This compulsive exercising is often referred to by physicians as “anorexia athletica”, an activity disorder. Anorexia can lead to bulimia and bulimia can lead to anorexia typically within five years of the onset of the illness. (Orr, 2003)
Bulimia: The word bulimia means “having the appetite of an ox”. It is four to six times more common than anorexia. Bulimic people tend to overeat and then purge at least twice a week.
Purging is not only vomiting, but can also be characterized as the person taking diuretics, medication, laxatives or exercising. Signs of bulimia are when the person frequently eats a lot of food, very quickly, and in one sitting. The food is typically not cut into little pieces and often not even chewed, but swallowed as quickly as humanly possible. The person cannot stop themselves from eating and it becomes compulsive. They usually eat only when they are alone so as to avoid the “guilt, shame and disgust” they would...