Most people have no idea that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate percentage of any mental illness. In fact, it is estimated that 8 to 10 million Americans have an eating disorder. The problem is that many times an eating disorder can be hidden. You can’t just look at the weight of a person, to diagnose the problem. In general, an eating disorder is characterized by abnormal eating patterns. In other words, eating is for psychological instead of physical needs. Eating Disorder Treatment can be very effective, especially when it is started early.
Main Types of Eating Disorders
Anorexia Nervosa – Self-starvation, rapid weight loss, and a distorted body image.
Bulimia Nervosa – Compulsive eating followed by purging. This does not have to be throwing up. Purging can also be done by abusing laxatives.
ENDOS Types – (eating disorder not otherwise specified)
Binge Eating – Characterized by frequent periods of compulsive, or excessive eating. There is no purging involved.
Orthorexics – An obsession with food quality rather than quantity. A thin body is not the goal here, it’s a drive for personal purity.
Night Eating Syndrome – An individual wakes up during the night and is unable to go back to sleep without eating food. This can happen several times, during the night.
Pica – Compulsion to eat non-food items. It can include things like paper, cigarettes butts, and even sharp objects.
Bigorexia – Compulsive workouts to increase muscle size.
Body Dysmorphic – Seeing something different in the mirror, then those around you.
How to Spot an Eating Disorder (the noticeable signs):
- Secretive Behavior, like hiding food or never eating around other people
- A sudden drop in weight
- Only eating a few foods and eating them in small amounts
- Leaving the table immediately after meal
- Exercising Excessively
- Skipping meals, usually including an excuse like “I already ate”
- Continuous use of laxative, diet pill and diuretics
- You might also notice things, bad breath, thinning hair, watery eyes and or swelling in the cheeks.
Eating Disorder in 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. They represent 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”). But other food-related disorders, like avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, binge eating, body image disorders, and food phobias, are becoming more and more commonly identified.
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 then 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 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 binging 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.
In late 1990,’s a movement called pro-ana or sometimes just “ana” started. It stands for pro-anorexia. There is also one called pro-mia for pro-bulimia. The advocates say that being super thin is not a disease, it is a lifestyle choice. Similarly, the pro-mia members feel that vomiting is not a disease, just a weight controlling activity. These sub-culture movements can easily be seen on websites like Pinterest and Tumbler. Featured are photos of crazy thin people that are called “the inspiration”. Tips are shared on things like “how to deal with hunger pains” or “how to vomit discreetly”. It is a place to find support. One tag line is “I love you to the bones”.
Eating disorders common in certain professions like modeling, gymnastics, and dancing.
People who start an Eating Disorder Treatment Program can recover and go on to live a healthy normal life. Early diagnosis and intervention provide a better chance at recovery. Eating Disorder Treatment normally is in the form of concealing coupled with medical attention. If you are your loved one needs help, please find the courage to make a change.
Avoid: Sugary drinks and excessive amounts of caffeine. Sugary drinks have empty calories and damage tooth enamel. Caffeine should also be avoided in excess, as it can trigger panic attacks in people who have anxiety disorders.0
Try to: Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day (about 2 liters) to prevent dehydration. Studies show that even mild dehydration can cause fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and mood changes1, in addition to physical effects like thirst, decreased or dark urine, dry skin, headache, dizziness and/or constipation. Limit caffeine if you have an anxiety disorder. If you feel like you need some caffeine, try tea. Tea has lower amounts of caffeine than coffee and has lots of antioxidants-chemicals found in plants that protect body tissues and prevent cell damage.
Avoid: Skipping breakfast. Breakfast is needed to fuel your body (including your brain) after going without food during sleep and also jump starts your metabolism for the day. Skipping meals leads to fatigue and feelings of “brain fog.”
Try to: Incorporate a healthy breakfast into your routine. If you’re tight on time in the mornings, grab a whole grain granola bar, yogurt and a piece of fruit to get you off to a good start.
Lunch and Dinner
Avoid: High-fat dairy, and fried, refined and sugary foods, which have little nutritional value. In addition to contributing to weight gain, and conditions like diabetes, research shows that a diet that consists primarily of these kinds of foods significantly increases risk of depression.2
Try to: Eat a diet that relies on fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish and unsaturated fats (like olive oil). People who follow this kind of diet are up to 30% less likely to develop depression than people who eat lots of meat and dairy products.3
Mind and Body Boosting Nutrients
Folate (Folic Acid, Vitamin B9)
Increased intake of folate is associated with a lower risk of depression.4
Folate is especially important for pregnant women, but everyone needs folic acid for production of cells. It is especially important for healthy hair, skin, nails, eyes, liver and red blood cell production.
Leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale, fruits, nuts, beans and whole grains have high amounts of folate, or folic acid.
Rates of depression are higher in people with Vitamin D deficiency compared to people who have adequate levels of vitamin D.5 Lack of Vitamin D is thought to play a role in Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is depression that commonly starts in the fall, lasts through winter and subsides in the sunnier spring and summer months.
Vitamin D is needed to help the body absorb calcium for strong teeth and bones, and the health of muscles and the immune system. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with heart disease and increased risk of heart attacks.6
Most foods do not naturally have Vitamin D, but many are “Vitamin D fortified.” Fatty fish like salmon and tuna have the most naturally occurring Vitamin D. Other foods like milk, orange juice and breakfast cereals have Vitamin D added.
Our bodies also produce Vitamin D as a result of being in the sun. Five to thirty minutes of sun exposure twice a week generally produces enough Vitamin D, with lighter-skinned people requiring less time than those with darker skin.7 Time in the sun beyond the suggested amounts above requires use of sunscreen to prevent skin damage and reduce risk of skin cancer. Vitamin D supplements may be used in fall and winter months.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Some studies suggest that omega-3s may be helpful in the treatment of depression and seem to have a mood-stabilizing effect. Omega-3 essential fatty acids may also help boost the effectiveness of conventional antidepressants and help young people with ADHD.
Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to be important in reducing inflammation, the primary cause of conditions like arthritis and asthma, and play a role in heart health by reducing triglycerides (blood fats). They may also reduce risk for certain kinds of cancer.
Oily fish (salmon, trout, mackerel, anchovies and sardines) are the most highly recommended sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and the American Heart Association suggests eating these types of fish at least twice a week. Omega-3s can also be found in walnuts, flax (or flaxseed oil), olive oil, fresh basil and dark green leafy vegetables.
0.Nardi AE, Valenca AM, Nascimento I, Freire RC, Veras AB, de-Melo-Neto VL, et al. A caffeine challenge test in panic disorder patients, their healthy first-degree relatives, and healthy controls. Depress Anxiety. 2008;25(10):847-53
1.Nauert, R. (2012). Dehydration Influences Mood, Cognition. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 12, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2012/02/20/dehydration-influences-mood-cognition/35037.html
2.Akbaraly TN, Brunner EJ, Ferrie JE, Marmot MG, Kivimaki M, Singh-Manoux A. Dietary pattern and depressive symptoms in middle age. Br J Psychiatry. 2009;195:408-413.
3.Sánchez-Villegas A, Delgado-Rodríguez M, Alonso A, et al. Association of the Mediterranean dietary pattern with the incidence of depression: the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra/University of Navarra follow-up (SUN) cohort. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009;66:1090-1098.
4.University of Eastern Finland. (2013, September 16). Diet is associated with risk of depression. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2014
5.Anglin R, Samaan Z, Walter S et al. Vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Psychiatry, 2013.
6.Giovannucci E, Liu Y, Hollis BW, Rimm EB. 25-Hydroxyvitamin D and Risk of Myocardial Infarction in Men: A Prospective Study. Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(11):1174-1180. doi:10.1001/archinte.168.11.1174.
7.Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency. N Engl J Med 2007;357:266-81.
Grocery Store Tips
Try to concentrate your shopping on the perimeter of the grocery store where the fresh, refrigerated and frozen foods are, rather than in the center aisles where foods like chips, cookies and candy can be tempting.
If fresh veggies tend to expire before you get a chance to eat them, buy frozen ones instead. Stores carry an assortment of steam-in-bag vegetables that keep well in the freezer and cook in the microwave in a matter of minutes.
Choose whole grain pastas, breads, cereals, granola bars and snacks instead of those made with white flour. Whole grains are a good source of fiber, which promotes digestive health, and also provide folate (or folic acid).