By Sharon Witt
Eating disorders are becoming increasingly common amongst young people, particular girls and it’s hardly surprising. Young people face a daily barrage of toxic messages both in the media and amongst their peers relating to body image. It is almost impossible to escape the highly manipulated and digitally altered images of celebrities and models on the covers of our magazines.
Recent statistics states that 90% of 12-17 years old girls and 68% of 12-17 year old boys have been on a diet of some type. This is distressing! We have all been created with unique and beautiful bodies and this makes us who we are. We are not meant to be carbon copies of each other.
Unfortunately, many young people will develop an eating disorder of some description.
Eating disorders is the term used to describe a group of illnesses where someone has a false or untrue view of their body image and suffer from extreme disturbances in their eating habits. Commonly known eating disorders include Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. There are many reasons why a person might develop an eating disorder and they will vary from person to person. It might be brought on by one of the following triggers:
● thinking about weight and being skinny all of the time
● loss and grief
● brain chemistry
● physical, emotional or sexual abuse.
No matter what the cause, if you feel that you might be suffering from an eating disorder, it’s important that you share this with someone you trust, and ensure that you are able to receive the help that you need.
Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder that is probably the most commonly known about. A person suffering from Anorexia will often show symptoms of extreme weight loss and will most likely have a distorted (wrong) view of how their body actually looks to every else. It’s a bit like going to the show grounds and standing in front of one of those crazy mirrors. You look at yourself in the mirror and you look all weird and fat. That’s not how you really look, but your mind thinks it’s a truthful image. Girls with Anorexia will often have an intense desire for weight loss and to appear thin. Food, weight and appearance often become the main focus for someone who has Anorexia. Concentration on food and weight becomes a way with dealing with or managing intense emotions or difficulties they may be experiencing.
Common symptoms of Anorexia:
● fear of putting on weight
● avoiding fatty foods
● extreme loss of weight
● not wanting to eat
● over exercising
● constantly weighing yourself
● getting cold easily
● thinking you are fat/ overweight
● nails and hair become brittle and break easily
● dry and yellow skin
● the appearance of Lanugo (fine body hair)
● irregular periods or stopping of periods altogether
● wearing oversized/ baggy clothes to cover up the loss of weight
Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder that involves regular binges (excessive amounts of eating). A person may feel hungry and out of control and can eat large amounts of food, followed by the intense desire to then get rid of it (usually by vomiting).
Sufferers of Bulimia may experience feelings of being out of control. The binge eating is usually followed by extreme feelings of guilt and anxiety about becoming fat and this results in the need to get rid of the food.
Sufferers of Bulimia may often make themselves ill after consuming a large amount of food. They may get rid of the food by throwing up or taking laxatives, over exercising or not eating for several days after the binge.
Common symptoms of Bulimia :
●eating unusually large amounts of food (often the wring types of food such as fatty foods and junk food)
*Please don’t confuse this with just having a good, healthy appetite!
●Being secretive about what is being eaten
●visiting the bathroom/ toilet after eating
● extreme moodiness/ depression
● being over critical of yourself and your body
● feeling tired and often lacking in energy
● sore throat (from the acids coming up during vomiting)
● decaying teeth (caused by the acids in the stomach coming up)
What to do if you think you are suffering from an eating disorder
It is absolutely important that you seek help if you think you may be experiencing the symptoms of an eating disorder. If left undiagnosed and untreated, eating disorders can lead to permanent damage of vital organs in your body. Eating disorders also can put a lot of pressure on your heart and other vital organs in your body that are trying to make up for the lack of food and nutrients in your body.
what you can do…
• talk to your mum, dad, teacher, friend or school counsellor.
• Call Kids Help Line or one of the other help lines
• Tell a friend who can then talk to an adult on your behalf or come with you to talk to an adult
• Ask a parent or adult to take you to see a doctor
There are many experts on Eating disorders who have a lot of experience in helping young girls with these types of issues. Although you might feel this way, it’s important to know that you are never alone! If you don’t feel comfortable telling someone face to face, please make sure you call a help line. Help is out there for you and may include counselling, hospital treatment (on severe cases) and other types of therapy. Just know that you never need to suffer alone and you can get better!
Where to go for help!
Ph: 1800 55 1800 (for confidential support and counselling)
The Butterfly Foundation
Support, programs and information on Eating Disorders
Ph: 1800 33 4673 (support line)
“Even the Models we see in magazines wish they could look like their own images”
Cheri. K. Erdman
“Body and Soul, I am marvellously made!
I worship in adoration- what a creation!”
Psalm 139 Vs 16 & 17