There is a lot of demand on people in today’s culture, especially young women, to have the “ideal body,” which requires being relatively thin. Growing up I experienced these social pressures for thinness in order to fit in. In my teen years, I developed a poor relationship with food while trying to lose weight. What started out as a conscious effort to improve my health, lose weight, eat healthier, and exercise quickly spiraled into an issue. I began to develop a distorted body image, restricting my caloric intake, and exercising intensely twice a day.

Social media had a major influence on my desire to be thin. Social media increased my levels of body dissatisfaction, as a result, I began to compare myself to my peers, influencers and celebrities utilizing these platforms. I was fortunate enough to make a healthy lifestyle shift after I quickly realized I was developing a problem that was becoming dangerous. I still didn’t want to gain weight but this time around I wanted to focus my attention on my actual health, not my image, so I turned to a nutritionist and personal trainer. The encouragement to consume more food made this shift in my life frightening at first, but it enabled me to discover a love for learning about nutrition and healthy lifestyles. Rather than worrying about the amount of food I was consuming, I began to concentrate on what food I was eating. My developed interest and love for cooking definitely played a huge role in this transformation. My relationship with food is still an occasional battle, however, I am now aware of what my unhealthy tendencies are and occasionally allow myself to indulge to remind myself that complete restriction isn’t the answer, you need to listen to your body and satisfy cravings here and there.  

Societal pressures to have the “ideal body” can be detrimental to one’s mental health, fueling unhealthy eating habits. Unfortunately, people who experience a poor relationship with food sometimes end up spiraling into developing a long-term eating disorder. It is important that we promote healthy lifestyles and positive body images in order to reduce self-comparison and judgments that are prevalent today. There needs to be more of a concern to educate society on the serious and sometimes life-threatening risks that eating disorders can have.

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

According to the Mayo Clinic, Anorexia nervosa, commonly called anorexia, is an eating disorder characterized by an abnormally low body weight, an intense dread of gaining weight, and a skewed perception of weight. People with anorexia will take extreme measures to control their weight, such as restricting the types of food and the amount of food they will eat and controlling their caloric intake. People with anorexia may also obsessively exercise and purge after eating by vomiting and laxative use. Individuals with anorexia are in constant fear of gaining weight, even if weight has been lost. 

Anorexia affects people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, races, and ethnicities. Anorexia most frequently begins during adolescence, but there is an increasing number of children and older adults being diagnosed. Teens are more at risk for developing anorexia due to puberty and their bodies going through change, as well as the pressures that peers and society put on them to be thin. Anorexia is most commonly found in girls and women; however, it has become more prevalent among boys and men. There is a common misconception that people struggling with anorexia need to be emaciated or underweight. Individuals of higher weight can also have anorexia; however, they are less likely to be diagnosed due to cultural bias against obesity and being overweight. Anorexia can lead to serious complications in one’s health and sometimes may result in fatality.

What are the Signs and Symptoms?

It can be very challenging to recognize the physical, emotional, and behavioral indications and symptoms of anorexia. The emotional and behavioral symptoms are related to erroneous views of body weight and intense dread of gaining weight and looking fat, while the physical symptoms are related to starvation. Because some people with anorexia binge and purge like those with bulimia do, the two disorders are sometimes confused. However, people with bulimia typically have normal to above-normal weight, whereas people with anorexia typically battle unusually low weight. 

Due to varying opinions on what constitutes a low body weight and the fact that some people with anorexia may not appear to be exceedingly thin, recognizing the signs and symptoms of this condition can be very challenging. Additionally, because those who suffer from anorexia frequently conceal their physical issues, eating patterns, and thinness, it may be challenging to identify the indications and symptoms.

How Can One Overcome Anorexia Nervosa?

If you or someone you know is experiencing the signs and symptoms of anorexia nervosa it is important to contact a professional. This could be a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, or even your primary care physician. These professionals will provide you with the information, tools, and support that will help you in overcoming this disorder.

You may also contact the National Eating Disorder Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. NEDA helps individuals, as well as family members, affected by eating disorders and aims to prevent, cure and guide those to accessible resources.

Your body changing is inevitable, it is important to identify what you can control and how to make those healthy lifestyle changes. Everyone has their own preference on what they aspire their body to look like, but ultimately, body image isn’t what truly matters, it’s your health. It is important to allow yourself to indulge in decadent desserts or a good old slice of pizza while staying conscious of your health. People are so preoccupied with looks that they fail to recognize the other negative effects that coincide with an inconsistent diet. It affects your metabolism, hormones, and even the chemicals in your brain that alter your mood and energy. Limiting unhealthy options without completely avoiding them helped me overcome anorexia. 

Published by anonymous