“To eat or not to eat?”… Is that really the question?
OK. Everybody knows somebody who has struggled with an eating disorder. Or maybe you are that someone who battles the daily decision to eat, not eat, under-eat, or over-eat. It is time that we stop pretending that anorexia and bulimia nervosa are “just a control thing”. Eating disorders are complicated and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment and recovery. If you suspect you or someone you know has an eating disorder, there are a couple of thoughts you might like to keep in mind.
Did you know that:
- Eating disorders can cause abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which may mean that the heart muscle is changing. The risk for heart failure rises as the heart rate and blood pressure levels sink lower and lower. An ED (eating disorder) may also cause one/some of the following: reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), which results in dry, brittle bones; muscle loss and weakness; severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure, fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness; dry hair and skin; hair loss, or growth of a downy layer of hair—called lanugo—all over the body, including the face, in an effort to keep the body warm.
- Focusing on body appreciation instead of body criticism is a novel idea. Constantly looking at, touching, or pinching a certain area of the body can lead to self-loathing or guilt. Instead, aim to find some sort of value in that area of the body. For example, I might challenge a woman or teenage-girl who “hates” the part of her belly that makes a “pudge” to appreciate its potential value: it has been or might be the precise place that has/will allow(ed) her to bear a child.
- Providing a good example is more feasible than you think. People, particularly your children and teens, pay attention and learn from the way you talk about yourself and your body. So, refer to yourself with respect and appreciation. Discuss your goals, accomplishments, talents, and character when you are around your family and friends instead of allowing your body weight and shape to determine the course of your day and attitude.
- Talking less, not more, about food and body weight might help to direct the focus away from eating disorder tendencies. Take my week challenge: for 7 days, try not to comment to anyone on what they are wearing, what they are eating, or their weight. Can you do it? Can you see someone and refrain from complimenting their style or beauty? Instead, ask a question about their day or weekend. The goal is to stay neutral about body weight, food choices, and body image. A person’s body weight or muscularity says nothing about their character, personality, or value as a person.
If you think that you or someone you know might have an eating disorder, consider gently expressing concern and support the idea of meeting with an experienced professional counselor and/or dietitian. For this type of support, you can contact us at 713-365-9015 or http://www.heritagebehavioral.com.
For more information or for eating disorder awareness tools/skills, consider visiting the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) at http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/general-information.