Hey beautiful people, I hope you’re all doing well.
Today’s post is a bit different from my usual healthy recipes and nutrition info posts but I feel it’s a very important one nonetheless.
Eating disorders and disordered eating are both very common, especially among young women, however, they are often brushed under the rug and not widely discussed. I rarely see any information online unless doing research myself. This really is a shame because there are so many people suffering from these disorders who may feel alone and like they’re failing – when in fact these disorders are actually quite common. Removing some of the stigma that goes along with these mental and physical disorders might be the first step towards healing for many.
Here I hope to shed some light on the topic, shed some of the stigma surrounding it and also in my next post (coming next week), put forward some practical tips on overcoming them.
This is not my speciality – eating disorders and disordered eating can be very serious psychological and physiological conditions that are incredibly sensitive, complex and can also be very dangerous.
Before I get into anything, if you are suffering from an eating disorder, disordered eating or are struggling with your relationship with food and body image, please seek help. If you’d like more info about the services available here in Malta to deal with eating disorders, please click on the link below which will lead you to ‘Hemm Ghal Sahhtek’ facebook page where you can find out more about their service and get in touch if you need to do so.
Eating disorders affect several million people at any given time, most often women between the ages of 12 and 35. There are three main types of eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.source: psychiatry.org
Being such a complex group of disorders, it is very difficult to state for a fact or pin point what leads to an eating disorder. In many cases, eating disorders are coupled with some form of anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic, low self esteem and even drug and alcohol abuse. Approximately 95% of eating disorders occur in people ages 12 to 25 and several studies point to the idea that peer pressure and media influences play a big role here.
Always keep in mind that people with eating disorders come in all shapes, sizes, sexes, ages and races. While many people suffering from these disorders happen to be young women, this does not exclude any other segment of the population. People suffering from bulimia nervosa are not always thin, likewise, binge eaters are not always heavy. The danger of these invisible illnesses is both physical and psychological and can have a lasting negative impact on both and in extreme cases can even lead to death.
Developing an eating disorder is certainly not something that happens overnight; our relationship with food and with our bodies are highly complex ones that are constantly morphing as we grow older. Peer pressure and media certainly pay a role here and even more so in disordered eating (explained further below).
Think about it, no matter where you look, be it TV, Facebook, instagram, magazines and any other form of media, we are inundated with images women with perfect slim bodies and also with countless diets, weight loss programs, training regimes, detox teas and much more. We are living in a world where being slim and beautiful is seemingly the most important thing. As we grow older, many of us may realise that this is ludicrous and may learn to give this far less importance. However, younger people, and women especially, are certainly more impressionable and are so much vulnerable. That’s why it’s so important for us to watch our language and actions around them.
Even from a young age, different people will have different personalities, different vulnerabilities and are susceptible to different things. Having some form of anxiety, low self esteem or OCD from a young age is incredibly common; the fact that they translate into our relationship with food and with ourselves should come as no surprise.
Speak to yourself and others with kindness, never judge, stop focusing on what you or anyone else is eating and NEVER, EVER comment on someone else’s weight – even if you think it’s a compliment!
Disordered eating is used to describe a range of irregular eating behaviors that may or may not warrant a diagnosis of a specific eating disorder. Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, or bulimia nervosa, are diagnosed according to specific and narrow criteria. This excludes a majority of people suffering with disordered eating.
Signs and symptoms of disordered eating may include, but are not limited to:
- Frequent dieting, anxiety associated with specific foods or meal skipping
- Chronic weight fluctuations
- Rigid rituals and routines surrounding food and exercise
- Feelings of guilt and shame associated with eating
- Preoccupation with food, weight and body image that negatively impacts quality of life
- A feeling of loss of control around food, including compulsive eating habits
- Using exercise, food restriction, fasting or purging to “make up for bad foods” consumed
From my personal experience, I can definitely understand dealing with a few (if not all) of the above mentioned symptoms. Disordered eating is almost normalized; in today’s day and age a difficult / disordered relationship with food, body image, exercise and dieting is often brushed off as ‘normal’ and ‘expected’, especially in women.
Further to what I mentioned above, we’ve become so used to seeing perfect air brushed images of skinny beautiful women that it’s almost expected that we fell uncomfortable in our own bodies if and when we do not look the same. Gaining weight may make us feel ashamed, like failures and disgusted with ourselves, when in truth, OUR WEIGHT HAS NOTHING AT ALL TO DO WITH OUR WORTH and also VERY LITTLE TO DO WITH OUR HEALTH.
Loving yourself and loving the skin you’re in sounds like a cliche – I know. However, when you think about it, it really is so important to work on our relationship with ourselves and fix what needs mending. In reality, it’s the only relationship that will actually last a lifetime. You’re the only one who will always have to sit with yourself, what you look like and who you are. Don’t let your insecurities ever stop you from living the life you want to live.
For instance, I’ve ALWAYS HATED my legs – they’re thick and rippled and have always been heavier than I’d like them to be. BUT the reality is that they’ve held me up for over 31 years, they’re strong and they’re powerful and have taken me everywhere I’ve needed to be. To this day, I struggle with my relationship with food and myself and I have come to realise that it is something I have to accept and work on consistently. We all have insecurities, weight hanging off places we’d rather it wasn’t, places that are wrinkled and rippled.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with working on the way you look by eating well and exercising and just generally looking after your body; I believe that it is incredibly important to do so. BUT if you find yourself demonising yourself for eating something extra, or burning the candle at both ends to get a workout in every day, or even missing out of evenings out with family and friends to stick to your diet, then maybe it’s time to reassess the life we’re living, and who we’re living it for!
And with that, I’m off to have some dinner 😉 I hope you’ve found this informative and helpful, I will be posting another blog post next week with some practical ways and useful products to help deal with eating disorders and disordered eating.
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Until my next post, be well xXx