(The author can be reached at email: [email protected])
Phases, fads or lifestyle choices, whatever we may call them — ‘Eating Disorders’ are on a rise in this part of the world after having affected the West. Although the prevalence of Eating Disorders is much lesser in our country as compared to other countries, we cannot deny the fact that there has been an increasing recognition of Eating Disorders among multicultural Indians. At first, the whole concept was alien to us, but now, thanks to mass media, we are more aware of the symptoms of various Eating Disorders and their consequences.
Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, Night Eating Syndrome, and Restrictive Food Intake Disorder — these names were alien to us once upon a time. Today, it is very common to find young adults showing symptoms of such eating disorders and some of their symptoms are so common today that we do not pay heed to them at all.
Eating Disorders, now officially recognized as mental disorders, do not just affect people physically, but also take a toll on people’s health psychologically and socially. Eating Disorders can have life-threatening consequences, especially when those suffering are unaware of what they’ve pushed themselves into.
What are Eating Disorders? These are conditions where people express abnormal or disturbed eating habits. These are associated with obsession with food, body weight and the shape of one’s body which often result in serious illnesses and in some cases, even death. People suffering from these disorders often tend to restrict intake of food severely or binge inappropriately and also purge after consuming food items by throwing up or over-exercising, so as to get rid of that feeling of guilt caused by eating in the first place.
These aren’t just fads or casual lifestyle choices that one consciously decides to make. It is without a question, absolutely important for one to seek immediate help from a healthcare practitioner if one feels their obsession over food and body image grow. Eating Disorders are among the most common psychological disorders affecting youth internationally. Stress in any form is also a major contributing factor here.
Various personality traits such as neuroticism, impulsivity and perfectionism often are the leading cause of Eating Disorders among most young adults. Some individuals suffer with a disorder called Orthorexia where they display obsessive behaviors of healthy eating to an extent that it ends up disrupting their everyday lives.
Most people suffering from these disorders are those who have been exposed to the western ideals of ‘thin-ness’ from a very tender age. Most girls strive to look like the people they admire, in most cases; these idols are celebrities or models on magazine covers with ‘size-0’ body figures. These are just some of the factors which contribute to the rising number of Eating Disorder cases.
Most girls and boys are bullied at school or at home, by their peers or their own family members from a very small age because of their size or appearance. Adolescents are among the most affected, since they are at a stage where their body is undergoing changes. At a time like this, adolescents must be taught self love and body image acceptance.
In this age of new media technologies, social media too has a strong influence on a person’s relationship with food and fear of gaining weight. Most people in the social media world share their fit bodies, food choices, and rigorous exercise regimes online. However, individuals struggling with Eating Disorders get more conscious about these posts and this may also cause heightened levels of stress and anxiety surrounding the ‘perfect body image’ idea.
In conclusion, it is very important for us to keep our eyes wide open and notice when somebody seems to be showing symptoms similar to that of such Eating Disorders. These disorders are mental disorders which have serious potential of damaging people physically, mentally and emotionally, if not immediately, at least in the long run.