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Eating Disorders
by Stephen A. Peterson
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Eating Disorders


Stephen A. Peterson

Eating is essential to a person’s well-being. It is necessary for a person to eat on a daily basis for their bodies to function properly and efficiently. Everyone at some point in their life finds it difficult to eat in ways that are healthy. Work, loss, stress, illness, peer pressures, self-evaluation can cause a person to eat in unhealthy ways. These may result in eating disorders. In this paper, the four (4) major eating disorders will be discussed and what causes them and what is recommended as way to help someone who suspected of having an eating disorder.

Eating disorders were reported to occur among all types of people. However, empirical research has found that more females than males are affected but disorders are found in both genders. Eating disorders were reported to occur at any age but occur most often during the adolescent and young adult years. In the United States, persons of all economic statuses, ethnic groups, races, and religions are found to exhibit eating disorders.

Among industrial nations, people eat for a variety of reasons. But just like nations of the rest of the world, people in the United States eat primarily to sustain life. But unlike those in poorer less food rich-nations, eating can be for reasons other than for survival. Many Americans eat when they stressed out, for recreational reasons, bored, depressed, angry, and lonely or trying to lose weight. In these instances, eating is just something to do, to deal with a problem or because it is a way to show other that we appreciate them cooking or preparing food for a given occasion.

From activity or a lack of activity, eating disorders can often arise. Person of all shapes and sizes can easily develop eating disorders. Surprisingly, the largest numbers of persons who develop eating disorders are those people who are normal with respect to their weight. These individuals develop a desire to have a thinner body to meet what they perceive to be the social norm. The desire to meet a social standard in many circumstances is unreal and unreasonable. In many instances, people who have eating disorders are people that we believe meet the ideal body image and who are the most admired because of other qualities such as: intelligence, talents or athletic skills. Findings suggest that such people need to be above the norm to meet the standards set by the mass media.

Eating disorders also reportedly occur when a person feels out of control. A person is believed to try to control their body size and shape in compensation for a lack of control in other areas of life. People are thought to attempt to control their body’s size to get back to a particular stage in life (For a teen, the prepubescent stage; for a young adult, the adolescent stage; for the middle age adult, the young adult stage).

Eating when a person is not hungry can also make a person feel out of control. In order to regain control, a person will try to take drastic measures to lose weight---exercise, dieting, purging, fasting and even starvation. This type of eating disorder is now the most commonly discussed and known of the disorders. These eating disorders are typically known as the binge-purge cycle of bulimia or the self-starvation method referred to as anorexia.

Lastly, eating disorders can be the result of past physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse or neglect. Individuals with attachment disorders, traumatic stress, or psycho-social problems, will generally feel empty inside as a result of these experiences and use food to fill this emptiness. Compulsive overeating or the hording of food may result. Individuals, who experienced past abuse, it is thought, overeat to develop a repulsive body as a protective barrier for them against further or future abuse. Hording of food is found to occur when the individual believes that food will not come to them in a timely manner or when they are in competition for food low or limited food resources in a home environment. The individual will either collect food to store in a secret place they believe is known only to them or overeat as though they will not be able to get another meal.

Signs of eating disorders will vary from person to person. Some of the most common signs that an eating may exist are:

Physical Behavioral and Emotional
Significant loss or gain of weight Unreasonable concern with food and calories
Loss of hair Purging behaviors (laxatives, exercise, enemas, vomiting, diuretics)
Significant loss of weight of 10 pounds or more Loathing or fear of foods that have fat
Menstrual cycle irregularities Defining of food as good or bad
Tooth decay Extreme fear of weight gain, becoming fat
Throat irritation or stomach problems Food is restricted in the diet

Physical (con’t) Behavioral and Emotional (con’t)
Tiredness Excessive exercise
Dizziness, fainting spells Avoiding social interaction
Swollenness about the neck and cheeks Depression
Redness of the eyes Withdrawn behavior from the family and friends
Smooth baby-like hair on the body Desire to know their weight
Refusal to acknowledge a weight loss problem

Attempting to identify people suffering from an eating disorder is often difficult. Those with eating disorders will often wear clothing to disguise their loss of weight from others. They will act as though food is important. Some have been found to be excellent cooks and do so when people are present to indicate that nothing is wrong or going on. Still others may basically play with their food eating very small amount or purging themselves or using a laxative to quickly rid themselves of the food they just consumed. Those who horde food will demand large amounts of food taking it to their hiding place. Their hiding place is usually in their bedroom, a closet, under a pillow, under a mattress, in a drawer or any one of a number of places.

What is very important to remember is that eating disorders that are observed are only symptoms of much deeper problems. Until the problem or problems are addressed that are causing the observed problems the disorder will not go away. Professional counseling is needed in order to deal with the eating disorder and not criticism.

Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder wherein the affected person attempts to reduce their weight by self-starvation. In spite of the common belief about anorexia, most of the people affected eat something everyday. These same people will eat any and everything to include what is referred to as “junk food”. Their usual behavior is to eat small amounts of food or what is referred to as “safe” to them. Among many anorexics, in recent years, have used the country’s interest in exercise to contribute to their level of weight loss.

Persons affected with anorexia do not see how under their normal weight they actually are. Generally, another person will see just how much weight they have lost but this will be denied as they usually have an unrealistic view of their body weight.

Persons affected by anorexia commonly have problems with depression as they withdraw from their family and friends. If these individuals do not get professional help and their anorexia goes untreated, death can occur if allowed to persist over time. Anorexia has been found to have a negative affect on a person’s heart and kidneys causing these organs to fail due to an improper amount of nutrients. Suicidal thought and suicide has been found to also occur in the anorexic.


Persons with bulimia have been found to go through binge-purge cycle of attempting to control their weight and food intake. Bulimics are characterized by the person who eats large amounts of food in a short period of time. They want to enjoy the taste of food but not the problems they perceive the food causes

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