Eating is an action which is usually not given much thought. But this action, crucial for survival and health, can be a source of distress for many among us.
We have all come across people who appear to be fussy about what they eat. Such people can be classified into two categories, ones who are just plain fussy and the ones who have a condition which causes them to be fussy. The condition could be an eating disorder.
Eating disorders have a long history and are relatively old conditions wherein a person either avoids eating or overeats. Such abnormal eating behaviour may be caused by certain biological, environmental or psychological reasons. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are the two most common eating disorders.
Anorexia nervosa is a condition in which a person’s distorted perception of their body compels him or her to starve or drastically reduce food intake in order to achieve a body weight which he or she thinks is ideal. This disorder is more common among women but men can also be affected. The onset of anorexia can be as early as at nine years of age.
Persons with anorexia think of themselves as ‘fat’ regardless of their actual body weight. The reasons for the disorder can be biological or psychological issues aggravated by environmental stimuli such as peer pressure or images in the media. Development of such a condition is harmful for a person’s body and can prove to be fatal if the person is not treated. Many celebrities have struggled with eating disorders. One victim of anorexia is Victoria Beckham, the former Spice girl, who has admitted to having been obsessed with her appearance and starving herself to appear ‘skinny’.
Bulimia nervosa on the other hand, is a condition characterised by two phases — bingeing and purging. Bingeing is when the person eats excessively irrespective of whether they are hungry or not. This is followed by purging wherein the person feels guilty about overeating and induces vomiting to forcefully remove the food from the body. Some bulimic individuals might also try to compensate by exercising excessively.
There are also other eating disorders such as comfort eating (eating to escape stress or avoid difficult situations) and night bingeing (overeating in the night). Any person can be a victim of an eating disorder for a variety of reasons, but it is important to identify and take necessary steps to avoid its further development — in ourselves and in others.
Remember it is more important to have a healthy body rather than a ‘perfect’ body. For starters, eat healthy food at regular intervals. Eat the right amount of food at the right time. Try not to stuff or starve yourself. Also, to be fit and healthy, some amount of exercise should be included in your daily routine.