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May is around the corner and it is mental health awareness month! It’s only a month away and I’m so excited! Because this is your chance and mine to break the barriers! To fight against the discrimination and stigma that surrounds mental health. You can do this by speaking up and telling your story. In this article, we will discuss eating disorders as they have negative effects on an individual’s mental health and quality of life. These disorders can damage your self-esteem, affect the way you value yourself as a person, and endanger or ruin your relationships with other people. Our special feature will be Georgia Peck who will share with us her Anorexia story.
Eating disorders are quite common, especially now that body shaming and the race for beauty has become the most trending on social media, television and other media platforms. Here is My eating disorder story by Georgia;
Watch her full story here and learn more about eating disorders and how she won the fight against anorexia nervosa.
I really hope you watched the video till the end, please like and share it so it reaches more people that are in need of this enlightenment.
What are eating disorders
National Institue of Mental Health says eating disorders are serious illnesses marked by severe disturbances to a person’s eating habits. They affect people of all ages, racial/ethnic backgrounds, body weight and gender. However, the most commonly affected age group are teenagers. People with eating disorders are usually obsessed with their body weight, body shape and food. Low self-esteem and perfectionism have been found to be closely associated with these disorders.
Eating disorders have a tendency to negatively affect one’s physical and mental health. Without intervention, they have harmful effects on the body systems including the heart, digestive system and mouth. They may cause life-threatening complications including death.
What causes eating disorders?
Experts say you can not point to one particular cause of eating disorders. However, some risk factors include;
- Genetic predisposition
- Existence of other mental health conditions such as clinical depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Toxic external environment ie, a victim of body shaming and bullying, traumatic or abusive childhood, peer pressure, engaging in activities that focus on thinness such as modelling, and many other factors
- Psychological factors such as low self-esteem, low self-worth, perfectionism, etc
- A society that promotes unrealistic ideas of beauty focusing on thinness and masculine body frame.
3 main types of eating disorders
The three main types of eating disorders are;
Anorexia is a serious mental health illness and life-threatening disorder characterised by an intense unrealistic fear of weight gain. People with anorexia are usually underweight but when they look at themselves in the mirror, they perceive themselves as overweight. And this fills them with the desire to shed off more weight from what is barely there. This eating disorder is characterised by starvation, extreme dieting, and excessive exercise. Sometimes, the person may use laxatives or induce vomiting in instances where he/she feel like they ate too much food. Models, actors/actresses and athletes are most at risk of this disorder.
Some common effects of anorexia may include;
- Amenorrhea (little or no menstrual periods)
- Disturbances in cardiovascular function such as low blood pressure and pulse rate
- Dry skin
- Musculoskeletal disturbances such as loss of bone density(osteoporosis), osteopenia and muscle wasting
- A drop in internal body temperature
- Depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, mood disorders, irritability and lethargy
- Fatigue and fainting for no proper reason
- Isolation, self-harm and suicidal attempts
Learn about anorexia nervosa in-depth here.
Bulimia is a serious mental health disorder characterised by binge eating and inducing vomiting or using laxatives to get rid of the food. Individuals that suffer from this disorder are usually of normal weight or even overweight and obese. They ingest a large amount of food uncontrollably especially the kinds of food that they wouldn’t eat normally such as highly fatty or sweet foods. Thereafter, they are filled with guilt and induce vomiting or use laxatives.
Some effects of Bulimia Norvesa include;
- Worn out tooth enamel and tooth decay (from frequent exposure to stomach acids due to vomiting)
- Severe dehydration
- Persistent issues with the throat such as gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD)
- Gastrointestinal issues such as gastric or peptic ulcers
- Puffy face and cheeks from swollen glands in the neck and below the jew
- Depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and mood swings
- Isolation, self-harm and suicidal attempts
Binge eating disorder
Binge eating disorder is another serious mental health disorder characterised by uncontrollably ingesting an excessive amount of food in a short period of time. In this disorder, the individual does not try to induce vomiting or get rid of the food by using laxatives or excessive exercising. They eat large amounts of food and suffer guilt afterwards. They may also be filled with an intense feeling of self-disgust and self-hate. Binge eaters often eat alone due to embracement.
Some symptoms of binge eating disorder disorder may include;
- Rapid weight gain
- Persist fatigue and tiredness
- Bloating and constipation
- Low self-esteem, poor body image, self-hate, feelings of guilt and shame
- Anxiety, depression, and irritability
- Isolation, self-harm and suicidal attempts.
Tips to help you recover from eating disorders
Most often, professional help for eating disorders can be very expensive and hard to access especially in my country Zambia. However, if you have access to professional help, it is most advisable to have an expert help you through to your recovery than to attempt to do this alone through self-help methods. Studies have shown that Anorexia nervosa must be managed by professionals because of the special medical needs required by these individuals.
Here are a few tips to help you recover from eating disorders;
Identify that you have an eating disorder
Georgia tells us that the magic for her began when she recognised that she had an issue and she chose to recover. The first step in resolving any problem is identifying and accepting that there is a problem. Because if you are not feeling the discrepancy, you will not have the motivation to seek correction. Most individuals that have eating disorders hide and deny that they have a problem. This will make it hard for others to help you and for you to seek support.
Recovery is possible
Eating disorders are behaviours that you learned based on the belief that beauty is defined by how thin or small you are and/or an obsession with food. Every learned habit can be unlearned. The recovery process of eating disorders is fairly long and may require help and support from professionals, family and friends. Yes, there will be times when you might give in to the voice of anorexia, bulimia or binge eating in your head during the recovery process, but that should not make you lose hope.
Speak to someone about your problem and allow them to help you. Seek professional help and adhere to the treatment and recovery plan.
Identify and avoid triggers
There is always a trigger for recurring habits, it could be viewing profiles of seemingly “perfect” people on social media or access to fast foods. You have to identify the circumstances in which you find yourself indulging that eating disorder and try to avoid it at all costs.
Avoid comparing yourself to others
If you watched Georgia’s video, you will notice that she spoke about comparison tendencies. She also advises to understand and accept that you are a unique entity. You don’t have to be like your school mates or supermodels. Because you have your own path and destiny in life. Don’t even look at those images on social media with envy. Most of the pictures on social media are either filtered or photoshopped. Moreover, you have no idea the lengths to which people go to look the way they do. You might as well learn how to love and appreciate your body, treat it right and adopt correct healthy methods of staying fit and shapely.
Don’t lose hope
God loves just the way you are and it was not a mistake for you to be created that way. It is for a purpose that can be revealed to you through persistent prayer and supplication. During your recovery phase, you will probably have a few relapses and you might find yourself repeating the habits that you were certain you had dropped. And guilt/self-loathing may accompany those relapses. But don’t despair or lose hope. If you are willing to start living right and healthy, then you have already won no matter how many times you fall. God loves you and forgives you every single time that you fall, get up and start again. Keep getting up.
More tips towards your recovery
- Learn to love yourself
- Work on your self-esteem
- Always remember that you are more than a set of body parts. When you look in the mirror, try to see yourself as a whole person and avoid placing value on yourself based on your outward appearance.
- Respect your body and learn to listen to it.
- Practice gratitude and be content with your life
- Practice self-compassion
- Avoid body shamers, people, and places that make you feel bad about yourself
For more detailed information on recovery and self-help from eating disorders, click here.
I hope you have found this article to be helpful. Please help break the barriers surrounding mental health by sharing your story. You could save a life or two by sharing how you survived a mental health-related problem. The stigma and discrimination that surrounds mental health are what has killed many in silence for fear of being judged, laughed at or scorned. There is help and hope for everyone. And the hope is you and me.
You can share your story by getting in touch with me using this form and I will reach out to you. Or drop a comment in the comments section.