The Best Way To Help Your Child With Their Weight & Body Image + Chaos

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If you have kids in your life, you’re probably already aware that body image challenges start early. Numerous studies have shown that even elementary school children, especially girls, believe they need to change something about their body, whether it’s their weight, their hair, their freckles, or something else. It can be heartbreaking to watch the children we care about struggling with these issues, and so many grown-ups want to know what they can do to help. As it turns out, there IS one thing that we, as adults, can do to create an environment that truly supports our kids’ development of a healthy, positive body image. It’s something we actually have a lot of control over, and best of all, when we start doing this, it will immediately make our own lives better, too.

I would like to share my thoughts on the best way to help children with their weight and their body image. Though I do not have credentials behind my name….yet (another six months and I will!), I have struggled with anorexia nervosa for almost 20 years. I have been in recovery for four years so I give myself a bit of credibility when it comes to this subject. I also do a ton of research!

We live in a time when so many people, young and old, are experiencing an epidemic of body hate and body dissatisfaction. You can read the statistics. Nine out of 10 women polled are hitting on their bodies, and 40% of girls, three to six years old, are already dieting. They’re hating on their body. They’re wanting to change their body parts.

This is crazy! This is the kind of challenge that cuts me to the core….and I hope yours as well.

Hating our body, judging it, and believing that it’s unlovable in some way is the royal road to misery and an unhappy life.

Think about it. When we’re born into this world, watch a baby. They’re not sitting there worried about how they’re looking or running around naked or if they’ve got little bits of body fat here and there. Babies and infants are in love with their physiology. It’s just all one. It’s pleasure. It’s play. However, so many people are struggling in silence with self-defeating thoughts about their own physical form. We’ve got to change that.

An unhappy and unresolved body image keeps us small in our sense of self. It limits our personal growth. It stops our best creativity, and it leaves us far short of the beautiful potential that we are born with. Body hate shuts down the soul. It ruins us. It’s a soul crusher!

If you’re a parent or you have kids in your life and you really want to help the child, especially if you’re a parent, then you want to give them the best chance of a loving relationship with their body….OR at least I hope you do! An unhappy body image these days often starts at a young age. However, there is one strategy that will help you succeed in such a brilliant and beautiful way:

Heal your own relationship with your body!

That’s it. Work on you. Work on your relationship with your body. Get to a place, please, as fast as you can where you forgive your own imperfections and where you let go of your own self-criticism. Stop the fight. Just stop the war because your children, our children pick up on who we are. Children are brilliant observers. They’re not good interpreters, but they’re brilliant observers. They will observe mommy, daddy hating on their own body. They’ll feel it. They’ll absorb it through the airwaves.

In a way, this is the beauty of our young ones. They want to be like us, and they will be like us. Therefore, it is best to look in the mirror and start to work on SELF. It is going to save your kids so much heartache and unnecessary waste of life energy as they get older.

SO AGAIN!!…….the greatest gift you can give your kids is to do your own work and do it now and stop the nonsense in your own head! Here’s how you start: Call a cease-fire on self-attack, and mean it! Just wake up and say cease-fire! Consciously choose to begin to love yourself in small ways. It’s a practice. You’ve got to practice every day.

Every day practice gratitude in some way, shape, or form, for the body that you’ve been given. I know you’ve got complaints about it and this and that and all that. However, balance out all those crazy complaints with some gratitude. Find ways every day to affirm love for your body.

Honestly, it is as simple as that because when you do work on yourself, you save future generations from pain and suffering. However, I know for some…..it isn’t that simple. Your “leading by example” will uplift them in ways that they’ll never know, and when you do that, when you do your work on self so your kids don’t have to finish up that work, we create such a better planet and such a better environment for all of us to thrive in. This is the magic of the world!

 

Chaos: Emily Rosen

 

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Enjoy fish high in omega-3 fatty acids. Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout and albacore tuna are good choices!

 

Daily Inspiration 

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Does Facebook Lead Young Women to Dangerous Diets?

A new study provides insight into how Facebook use by young women can lead to poor body image and risky dieting. The study included 128 college-aged women who completed an online survey about their eating habits and their emotional connection to Facebook, such as how much time they spent on the social networking site and number of Facebook friends and whether they compared their bodies to friends’ bodies in online photos. Women who had a greater emotional connection to Facebook were more likely to compare their bodies to their friends’ bodies and to engage in more risky dieting, the study found. However, those who did not use the site to compare themselves to others were less likely to be concerned about body image or engage in risky dieting, the research showed.

The University of North Carolina School of Medicine study is published in the August issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health. “I think that Facebook could be an amazing tool to nurture social support and connections with friends and families. And if you’re getting that kind of social support from the site, you might be less likely to be worried about your body size,” senior author Stephanie Zerwas, assistant professor of psychiatry, said in a university news release. “But if you’re using it as a measuring stick to measure how your body appears in pictures compared to your friend’s body, Facebook could also be used as a tool to foster dangerous dieting behavior,” she added.

Health Day

Tip of the day

Make the most of your coupons. Will your store match competitors’ coupons? Many stores will accept coupons from other places as long as they are for the same item. See the service desk for more details.

Daily Inspiration 

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Eating Disorders-General Knowledge

Eating disorders are psychological illnesses defined by abnormal eating habits that may involve either insufficient or excessive food intake to the detriment of an individual’s physical and mental health. Bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa are the most common specific forms of eating disorders. Other types of eating disorders include binge eating disorder and OSFED (Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders). Bulimia nervosa is a disorder characterized by binge eating and purging. Purging can include self-induced vomiting, over-exercising, and the usage of diuretics, enemas, and laxatives. Anorexia nervosa is characterized by extreme food restriction to the point of self-starvation and excessive weight loss.

The extreme weight loss often causes women and girls who have begun menstruating to stop having menstrual periods, a condition known as amenorrhea, although some women who meet the other DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th editions) criteria for anorexia nervosa still report some menstrual activity. The DSM-5 currently specifies two subtypes of anorexia nervosa: Restricting and binge/purge type. Those who suffer from the restricting type of anorexia nervosa lose weight by restricting food intake and sometimes by over-exercising, whereas those suffering from the binge/purge type overeat and/or compensate through some method of purging. The difference between anorexia nervosa binge/purge type and bulimia nervosa is the body weight of a person. Those diagnosed with anorexia nervosa binge/purge type are well under a healthy bodyweight, while those with bulimia nervosa may have a body weight that falls within the range from normal to overweight and obese. 

Though primarily thought of as affecting females (an estimated 5–10 million being affected in the UK), eating disorders affect males as well. An estimated 10 – 15% of people with eating disorders are males. Although eating disorders are increasing all over the world among both men and women, there is evidence to suggest that it is women in the Western world who are at the highest risk of developing them and the degree of westernization increases the risk. Nearly half of all Americans personally know someone with an eating disorder. The skill to comprehend the central processes of appetite has increased tremendously since leptin was discovered, and the skill to observe the functions of the brain as well. Interactions between motivational, homeostatic and self-regulatory control processes are involved in eating behavior, which is a key component in eating disorders.

The precise cause of eating disorders is not entirely understood, but there is evidence that it may be linked to other medical conditions and situations. Cultural idealization of thinness and youthfulness have contributed to eating disorders affecting diverse populations. One study showed that girls with ADHD have a greater chance of getting an eating disorder than those not affected by ADHD. Another study suggested that women with PTSD, especially due to sexually related trauma, are more likely to develop anorexia nervosa. One study showed that foster girls are more likely to develop bulimia nervosa. Some think that peer pressure and idealized body-types seen in the media are also a significant factor.

Some research shows that for certain people there are genetic reasons why they may be prone to developing an eating disorder. Recent studies have found evidence of a correlation between patients with bulimia nervosa and substance use disorders. In addition, anxiety disorders and personality disorders are common occurrences with clients of eating disorders. People with eating disorders may have a dysfunctional hunger cognitive module which causes various feelings of distress to make them feel hungry. While proper treatment can be highly effective for many suffering from specific types of eating disorders, the consequences of eating disorders can be severe, including death.

Tip of the Day

Dessert? Try the salad bar. Enjoy sliced fruit from the salad bar as your dessert when dining out. This will help you resist other dessert options that may be higher in calories.

Daily Inspiration 

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

~ John 19:30

Eating Disorders and Teens

Eating disorders are so common in America that 1 or 2 out of every 100 students will struggle with one. Each year, thousands of teens develop eating disorders, or problems with weight, eating, or body image. Eating disorders are more than just going on a diet to lose weight or trying to exercise every day. The disorder represents extremes in eating behavior and ways of thinking about eating; the diet that never ends and gradually gets more restrictive, for example or the person who can’t go out with friends because he or she thinks it’s more important to go running to work off a snack eaten earlier. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa (usually called simply “anorexia” and “bulimia”). However, other food-related disorders, like avoidance/restrictive food intake disorder, binge eating, body image disorders, and food phobias, are becoming more and more commonly identified.

Anorexia:

People with anorexia have a real fear of weight gain and a distorted view of their body size and shape. As a result, they eat very little and can become dangerously underweight. Many teens with anorexia restrict their food intake by dieting, fasting, or excessive exercise. They hardly eat at all and the small amount of food they do eat becomes an obsession in terms of calorie counting or trying to eat as little as possible. Others with anorexia may start binge eating and purging; eating a lot of food and than trying to get rid of the calories by making themselves throw up, using some type of medication or laxatives, or exercising excessively, or some combination of these.

Bulimia:

Bulimia is similar to anorexia. With bulimia, people might binge eat (eat to excess) and then try to compensate in extreme ways, such as making themselves throw up or exercising all the time, to prevent weight gain. Over time, these steps can be dangerous both physically and emotionally. They can also lead to compulsive behaviors (ones that are hard to stop). To have bulimia, a person must be bingeing and purging regularly, at least once a week for a couple of months. Binge eating is different from going to a party and “pigging out” on pizza, then deciding to go to the gym the next day and eat more healthfully

People with bulimia eat a large amount of food (often junk food) at once, usually in secret. Sometimes they eat food that is not cooked or might be still frozen, or retrieve food from the trash. They typically feel powerless to stop the eating and can only stop once they’re too full to eat any more, or they may have to go to extreme measures (like pouring salt all over a dessert to make it inedible) in order to get themselves to stop eating. Most people with bulimia then purge by vomiting, but also may use laxatives or excessive exercise.

Although anorexia and bulimia are very similar, people with anorexia are usually very thin and underweight, but those with bulimia may be an average weight or can be overweight.

Binge Eating Disorder:

This eating disorder is similar to anorexia and bulimia because a person binges regularly on food (at least once a week, but typically more often). However, unlike the other eating disorders, a person with binge eating disorder does not try to “compensate” by purging the food. Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder all involve unhealthy eating patterns that begin gradually and build to the point where a person feels unable to control them.

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID):

ARFID is a new term that some people think just means “picky eating,” but a number of other eating issues can also cause it. People with ARFID don’t have anorexia or bulimia, but they still struggle with eating and as a result don’t eat enough to keep a healthy body weight. Types of eating problems that might be considered ARFID include:

  • Difficulty digesting certain foods
  • Avoiding certain colors or textures of food
  • Eating only very small portions
  • Having no appetite
  • Being afraid to eat after a frightening episode of choking or vomiting

Because they don’t get enough nutrition in their diet, people with ARFID lose weight, or, if they’re younger kids, they may not gain weight or grow as expected. Many people with ARFID need supplements each day to get the right amount of nutrition and calories. People with ARFID also might have issues in their day-to-day lives, at school, or with their friends because of their eating problems. For example, they might avoid going out to eat or eating lunch at school, or it might take so long to eat that they’re late for school or don’t have time to do their homework. Some people with ARFID may go on to develop another eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia.

Signs of Anorexia and Bulimia:

Sometimes a person with anorexia or bulimia starts out trying to lose few pounds or are hoping to get in shape. However, the urge to eat less or to purge or over-exercise gets “addictive” and becomes too hard to stop. Teens with anorexia or bulimia often feel intense fear of being fat or think that they’re fat when they are not. Those with anorexia may weigh food before eating it or compulsively count the calories of everything. People to whom this seems “normal” or “cool” or who wish that others would leave them alone so they can just diet and be thin might have a serious problem. How do you know for sure that someone is struggling with anorexia or bulimia? You can’t tell just by looking; a person who loses a lot of weight might have another health condition or could be losing weight through healthy eating and exercise. However, there are signs to watch for that might indicate a person has anorexia or bulimia.

Someone with anorexia might:

  • Become very thin, frail, or emaciated
  • Be obsessed with eating, food, and weight control
  • Weigh herself or himself repeatedly
  • Deliberately “water load” when going to see a health professional to get weighed
  • Count or portion food carefully
  • Eat only certain foods, avoiding foods like dairy, meat, wheat, etc. (of course, lots of people who are allergic to a particular food or are vegetarians avoid certain foods)
  • Exercise excessively
  • Feel fat
  • Withdraw from social activities, especially meals and celebrations involving food
  • Be depressed, lethargic (lacking in energy), and feel cold a lot

Someone with bulimia might:

  • Fear weight gain
  • Be intensely unhappy with body size, shape, and weight
  • Make excuses to go to the bathroom immediately after meals
  • Only eat diet or low-fat foods (except during binges)
  • Regularly buy laxatives, diuretics, or enema
  • Spend most of his or her time working out or trying to work off calories
  • Withdraw from social activities, especially meals and celebrations involving food

What Causes Eating Disorders?

No one is really sure what causes eating disorders, although there are many theories about it. Many people who develop an eating disorder are between 13 and 17 years old. This is a time of emotional and physical changes, academic pressures, and a greater degree of peer pressure. Although there is a sense of greater independence during the teen years, teens might feel that they are not in control of their personal freedom and, sometimes, of their bodies. This can be especially true during puberty.

For girls, even though it’s completely normal (and necessary) to gain some additional body fat during puberty, some respond to this change by becoming very fearful of their new weight. They might mistakenly feel compelled to get rid of it any way they can. When you combine the pressure to be like celebrity role models with the fact that bodies grow and change during puberty, it’s not hard to see why some teens develop a negative view of themselves. Celebrity teens and athletes conform to the “Hollywood ideal;” girls are petite and skinny, and guys are athletic and muscular, and these body types are popular not only in Hollywood but also in high school. Many people with eating disorders also can be depressed or anxious, or have other mental health problems such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). There is also evidence that eating disorders may run in families. Although part of this may be genetics, it’s also because we learn our values and behaviors from our families.

Sports and Eating Disorders:

Athletes and dancers are particularly vulnerable to developing eating disorders around the time of puberty, as they may want to stop or suppress growth (both height and weight). Coaches, family members, and others may encourage teens in certain sports, such as gymnastics, ice skating, and ballet, to be as thin as possible. Some athletes and runners are also encouraged to weigh less or shed body fat at a time when they are biologically destined to gain it.

Effects of Eating Disorders:

Eating disorders are serious medical illnesses. They often go along with other problems such as stress, anxiety, depression, and substance use. Eating disorders can lead to the development of serious physical health problems, such as heart conditions or kidney failure. Someone whose body weight is at least 15% less than the average weight for that person’s height may not have enough body fat to keep organs and other body parts healthy. In severe cases, eating disorders can lead to severe malnutrition and even death. With anorexia, the body goes into starvation mode, and the lack of nutrition can affect the body in many ways:

  • A drop in blood pressure, pulse, and breathing rate
  • Hair loss and fingernail breakage
  • Loss of periods
  • Lanugo hair — a soft hair that can grow all over the skin
  • light-headedness and inability to concentrate
  • Anemia
  • Swollen joints
  • Brittle bones

With bulimia, constant vomiting and lack of nutrients can cause these problems:

  • Constant stomach pain
  • Damage to the stomach and kidneys
  • Tooth decay (from exposure to stomach acids)
  • “Chipmunk cheeks,” when the salivary glands permanently expand from throwing up so often
  • Loss of periods
  • Loss of the mineral potassium (this can contribute to heart problems and even death)

A person with binge eating disorder who gains a lot of weight is at risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and some of the other diseases associated with being overweight. The emotional pain of an eating disorder can take its toll, too. When someone becomes obsessed with weight, it’s hard to concentrate on much else. It can be exhausting and overwhelming to monitor food intake and exercise, and be in a constant state of stress about food and how your body looks. It’s easy to see why when you develop an eating disorder you could become withdrawn and less social. It gets too hard to join in on snacks and meals with friends or families, or too hard to stop the addictive exercising or working out to have fun. Having an eating disorder also can use up a lot of mental energy planning what to eat, how to avoid food, planning a binge, getting money to buy food or laxatives or other medications, making up reasons to use the bathroom after meals, or figuring out how to tell people around you that you want to be alone after a meal.

Treatment for Eating Disorders:

Fortunately, eating disorders can be treated. People with eating disorders can get well and gradually learn to eat well and more like their family and friends again. Eating disorders involve both the mind and body. Therefore, medical doctors, mental health professionals, and dietitians will often be involved in a person’s treatment and recovery. Therapy or counseling is a very important part of getting better, in many cases, family therapy is one of the keys to eating healthily again. Parents and other family members are important in supporting people who have to regain weight that they are afraid of, or to learn to accept the body shape that their culture, genes, and lifestyle allows for.

If you want to talk to someone about eating disorders but are unable or not ready to talk to a parent or close family member, try reaching out to a friend, teacher, school nurse or counselor, coach, neighbor, your doctor, or another trusted adult. Remember that eating disorders are very common among teens. Treatment options depend on each person and their families, but many treatments incorporate journaling, talking to therapists, and working with dietitians and other professionals. Learning to be comfortable at your healthy weight is a process. It takes time to unlearn some behaviors and relearn others. Be patient, you can learn to like your body, understand your eating behaviors, and figure out the relationship between feelings and eating, all the tools you need to feel in control and to like and accept yourself for who you are.

Teens Health

Tip of the Day

Avoid oversized portions. Use a smaller plate, bowl, and glass. Portion out foods before you eat. When eating out, choose a smaller size option, share a dish, or take home part of your meal.

Daily Inspiration

“He will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away all the tears from all faces.”

~ Isaiah 25:8.

Victor Hugo said of death: “When I go down to the grave I can say, like so many others: I have finished my work but I cannot say I have finished my life. My day’s work will begin the next morning. My tomb closes in the twilight to be opened in the dawn.”

The Devil Wears Prada but Also Rose-Colored Glasses

Leaders of the three leading eating disorders organizations expressed disappointment after an “invitation-only panel discussion on beauty and health in the fashion industry” held early in New York City, February 5, 2007 during New York’s semi-annual Fashion Week. Members of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) and the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC) urge the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) to improve its health initiative and take the problem of eating disorders more seriously. “We commend the CFDA for its initiative. However, it seems that the devil not only wears Prada, but also rose-colored glasses,” said Lynn Grefe, CEO, NEDA. “Our goal is to protect the health and lives of young women in the fashion industry. Clearly the catwalk is a dangerous balance beam for some, who will not be helped by such baby steps. We urge the Council to take a position of leadership and to take the next step.”

The panel presented the Council’s recommendations to promote health and wellness among models. Missing from those guidelines is a requirement for an annual physical exam certifying that models are healthy to work. Recommendations did include educating the industry about eating disorders; requiring models with eating disorders to seek professional help; not permitting models with an eating disorder to work without a doctor’s approval; and promoting a healthy backstage environment. States Dr. Eric van Furth, president of the AED, which issued its own guidelines for the fashion industry in January (www.aedweb.org/public/AED_Guidelines_for_Fashion_Industry.pdf), “Requiring yearly physicals is a practical and effective solution to monitoring health in the fashion industry. Such an exam should include a comprehensive evaluation for eating disorders.” Kitty Westin, president, EDC, who believes that external regulation may be required, said, “We are concerned that a federal response to industry practices may become necessary if the industry is not able or willing to adopt meaningful self-regulation and protect the health and well-being of models. As a mom who lost her daughter, I am here to help save lives.”

Eating disorders are serious illnesses with a biological basis modified and influenced by emotional and cultural factors. Nearly 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life-and-death battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. In May of 2000, the British Medical Association identified a link between the images of “abnormally thin” models, which are increasingly common in the media, and a rise in eating disorders. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), headquartered in Seattle, Wash., is a not-for-profit organization advocating prevention, treatment and research funding for eating disorders; expanding public education and awareness; promoting access to quality treatment for those affected; and providing support for their loved ones. Since the inception of its Helpline in 1999, NEDA has referred more than 50,000 people to treatment and tallies more than 40 million hits annually on its Web site. NEDA’s 20th annual National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is Feb. 25 – March 3. For more information on eating disorders visit www.NationalEatingDisorders.org

The Academy for Eating Disorders is an international, trans-disciplinary professional organization with over 1,400 members worldwide. The AED promotes excellence in research, treatment and the prevention of eating disorders. It provides education, training and a forum for collaboration and professional dialogue. Visit www.AEDweb.org for more information.
The Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action is a cooperative of professional and advocacy-based organizations committed to federal advocacy on behalf of people with eating disorders, their families and professionals working with these populations. Visit www.EatingDisordersCoalition.org.

Eating Disorders: About More Than Food

What are eating disorders?

The eating disorders anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder, and their variants, all feature serious disturbances in eating behavior and weight regulation. They are associated with a wide range of adverse psychological, physical, and social consequences. A person with an eating disorder may start out just eating smaller or larger amounts of food, but at some point, their urge to eat less or more spirals out of control. Severe distress or concern about body weight or shape, or extreme efforts to manage weight or food intake, also may characterize an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are real, treatable medical illnesses. They frequently coexist with other illnesses such as depression, substance abuse, or anxiety disorders. Other symptoms can become life-threatening if a person does not receive treatment, which is reflected by anorexia being associated with the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. Eating disorders affect both genders, although rates among women and girls are 2½ times greater than among men and boys. Eating disorders frequently appear during the teen years or young adulthood but also may develop during childhood or later in life.

What are the different types of eating disorders?

Anorexia nervosa:

Many people with anorexia nervosa see themselves as overweight, even when they are clearly underweight. Eating, food, and weight control become obsessions. People with anorexia nervosa typically weigh themselves repeatedly, portion food carefully, and eat very small quantities of only certain foods. Some people with anorexia nervosa also may engage in binge eating followed by extreme dieting, excessive exercise, self-induced vomiting, or misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas. Symptoms of anorexia nervosa include:

  • Extremely low body weight
  • Severe food restriction
  • Relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a normal or healthy weight
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Distorted body image and self-esteem that is heavily influenced by perceptions of body weight and shape, or a denial of the seriousness of low body weight
  • Lack of menstruation among girls and women.
  • Some who have anorexia nervosa recover with treatment after only one episode. Others get well but have relapses. Still others have a more chronic, or long-lasting, form of anorexia nervosa, in which their health declines as they battle the illness.

Other symptoms and medical complications may develop over time, including:

  • Thinning of the bones (osteopenia or osteoporosis)
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Dry and yellowish skin
  • Growth of fine hair all over the body (lanugo)
  • Mild anemia, muscle wasting, and weakness
  • Severe constipation
  • Low blood pressure, or slowed breathing and pulse
  • Damage to the structure and function of the heart
  • Brain damage
  • Multi-organ failure
  • Drop in internal body temperature, causing a person to feel cold all the time
  • Lethargy, sluggishness, or feeling tired all the time
  • Infertility

Bulimia nervosa:

People with bulimia nervosa have recurrent and frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food and feel a lack of control over these episodes. This binge eating is followed by behavior that compensates for the overeating such as forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, or a combination of these behaviors. Unlike anorexia nervosa, people with bulimia nervosa usually maintain what is considered a healthy or normal weight, while some are slightly overweight. But like people with anorexia nervosa, they often fear gaining weight, want desperately to lose weight, and are intensely unhappy with their body size and shape. Usually, bulimic behavior is done secretly because it is often accompanied by feelings of disgust or shame. The binge eating and purging cycle can happen anywhere from several times a week to many times a day. Other symptoms include:

  • Chronically inflamed and sore throat
  • Swollen salivary glands in the neck and jaw area
  • Worn tooth enamel, and increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth as a result of exposure to stomach acid
  • Acid reflux disorder and other gastrointestinal problems
  • Intestinal distress and irritation from laxative abuse
  • Severe dehydration from purging of fluids
  • Electrolyte imbalance—too low or too high levels of sodium, calcium, potassium, and other minerals that can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Binge-eating disorder:

People with binge-eating disorder lose control over their eating. Unlike bulimia nervosa, periods of binge eating are not followed by compensatory behaviors like purging, excessive exercise, or fasting. As a result, people with binge-eating disorder often are overweight or obese. People with binge-eating disorder who are obese are at higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. They also experience guilt, shame, and distress about their binge eating, which can lead to more binge eating.

How are eating disorders treated?

Typical treatment goals include restoring adequate nutrition, bringing weight to a healthy level, reducing excessive exercise, and stopping binging and purging behaviors. Specific forms of psychotherapy, or talk therapy, including a family-based therapy called the Maudsley approach and cognitive behavioral approaches, have been shown to be useful for treating specific eating disorders. Evidence also suggests that antidepressant medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration may help for bulimia nervosa and also may be effective for treating co-occurring anxiety or depression for other eating disorders. Treatment plans often are tailored to individual needs and may include one or more of the following:

  • Individual, group, or family psychotherapy
  • Medical care and monitoring
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Medications (for example, antidepressants)

Some patients also may need to be hospitalized to treat problems caused by malnutrition or to ensure they eat enough if they are very underweight. Complete recovery is possible.

What is being done to better understand and treat eating disorders?

Researchers are finding that eating disorders are caused by a complex interaction of genetic, biological, psychological, and social factors but many questions still need answers. Researchers are studying questions about behavior, genetics, and brain function to better understand risk factors, identify biological markers, and develop specific psychotherapies and medications that can target areas in the brain that control eating behavior. Brain imaging and genetic studies may provide clues for how each person may respond to specific treatments for these medical illnesses. Ongoing efforts also are aimed at developing and refining strategies for preventing and treating eating disorders among adolescents and adults.

Where can I find more information?

To learn more about eating disorders, visit:
MedlinePlus (National Library of Medicine)

For information on clinical trials, visit: ClinicalTrials.gov

For more information on conditions that affect mental health, resources, and research, go to MentalHealth.gov

Eating Disorders-Finding Help and Support

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) partners with Screening for Mental Health, Inc. (SMH) to provide an online eating disorder screening tool. This website provides people with the option to take a free, anonymous self-assessment to gauge their risk of an eating disorder. The anonymous SMH online screening takes only a few minutes and consists of a series of questions, developed by treatment professionals in the eating disorders field, which are designed to indicate whether clinical help is needed. The availability of such a “low pressure” first-step towards recovery is a vital tool. After completing a screening, participants (if indicated) will receive referral information through NEDA’s Helpline for personal evaluation by a medical professional and treatment. There are two screenings available, one for college students – a particularly vulnerable demographic for the development of eating disorders – and a standard screening for other demographics. This is an outstanding resource for people who may need help or know someone who may need help and don’t know where to begin. Take Screening