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Eating Disorders – What can be done?
Eating disorders are, for the sufferer, painful and isolating. They can make an individual feel miserable in their own skin, lower their self-confidence, and make them believe that there is something wrong with them. According to BeatEatingDisorders.com, eating disorders effect around 1.25 million people in the UK alone, and the numbers are rising. Can anything be done? The best way to begin to solve a serious problem, is to understand it and how it effects victims individually, who is at risk, and finally how to support and help the people suffering.
Types of Eating Disorders
- Anorexia Nervosa: This may be the one that comes to mind when thinking of eating disorders, and the reason for that is most likely because of the physical effects it has on people. Those with this disorder tend to believe that they are overweight, even when they are devastatingly overweight. They believe that they need to take drastic action to lose weight, and to appear beautiful. People with this disorder often skip meals, and eat very little, they can over exercise, and even take medication to make themselves lose weight. They may even make themselves vomit. The illness’ symptoms usually involve, hair loss, dizziness, and light-headedness, among other things.
- Bulimia: This one can tend be confused with anorexia, and they do share some similarities, which can be an unhealthy view of food, and a compulsive need to control it, which leads, to under-eating and over exercising. However, anorexia causes people to restrict themselves with what they eat, and bulimia is a torturous cycle of overeating and purging. Bulimia can usually be connected to compulsive disorders. People who suffer with bulimia could be anyone, as sufferers can have normal body weights.
- Binge eating: This is when a sufferer will overeat, to the point of feeling ill, uncomfortable and depressed. It involves using food, as a coping mechanism. Binge eating, is not to be thought as indulging and treating yourself, it involves feeling great shame, discomfort, but feeling as though you cannot stop.
This is a very short list of some eating disorders. It is only a tiny glimpse into what people experience. And if any of these symptoms seem familiar, then please contact a professional, there is no shame in looking after yourself, ever.
Who does it affect?
In short, anyone can be a victim of an eating disorder. It can be men, women, the elderly and children. It can be someone who looks healthy, confident and happy on the outside, but are in pain on the inside.
Children and teenagers, however, have a high risk. Their young minds, are easily influenced by other people’s judgment and standards of beauty, and that leads them to think they are not good enough. Which is never true. Social media also plays a big part, it often portrays young, slim and unrealistically beautiful people, which can make young people feel unattractive or ugly.
People also tend to associate eating disorders, and a negative self-image with women, but men are at risk as well, according to namedinc.org, 1-in-4 of eating disorder sufferers are men. Men in media and entertainment, are often portrayed as beautiful and in their physical peak. The men that are meant to be their heroes, can end up making them feel inadequate.
How You Can Help
Understanding how it develops is an important way to help people who are at risk. This way we can find ways to build self-esteem, minimize social pressure, and offer support without judgement.
Encouraging your friend to get professional help is always a good start, as a specialist will likely know more than you, and be able to give medical advice. You can be a massive support to your friend by offering to go with them to the doctor.
There are lots of ways to build self-esteem, the best ways are talking and most importantly listening. Validate their feelings, and let them open up to how they feel, ask them questions, and if they don’t want to talk, don’t make them. You can also give them sincere compliments, and tell them how happy you are to have them in your life, that you appreciate them. Try to make it less about how they look, and more about the things that make them unique.
Don’t make your relationship all about you trying to support them, involve them in social activities, talk about random and wonderful things, make them laugh.
Look after yourself.
If you are reading this, and if you have an eating disorder, or even if you don’t, even if you don’t know how beautiful you are, i'm sorry. I wish I could take those horrible feeling away, they are not fair and most importantly, they are not true. You are not alone, and there are always people who are ready to help you. Talk to people, this will be hard, but it will be worth it. Tell them what you need, and how you feel. Do not allow them to make you feel guilty and worse. These people are not worthy of you. Talk to a trained professional, a close friend or family member. Talk to people who will uplift you and be kind to you. Research ways to build your self-esteem and self-image.
Please look after yourself, feed yourself, have fun, listen to music that empowers you, wear your favorite colors, buy yourself some awesome creams or soaps from lush. Know that you are beautiful, and that is all there is to it.