When does a diet become an Eating Disorder?
Many of us have experimented with crash diets, trendy exercise routines, calorie counting and a love-hate relationship with the bathroom scale because we may be dissatisfied with our bodies. But when does common concern become an obsession, and ultimately lead to an eating disorder?
“An eating disorder begins to develop when an individual demonstrates goal-directed behaviour to lose weight, even when they are already clinically underweight,” says Joanna Blanchard, Mental Health Therapist at The Scarborough Hospital. “Pressure can come from media images that have likely been manipulated, and individuals aim for the physically impossible.”
However, many people are exposed to the same media, but do not develop an eating disorder. While societal and familial pressures or existing mental health issues such as depression can play a role in developing this mental illness, the direct cause remains unknown.
Some signs that an individual may be struggling with an eating disorder include:
• Restricted calorie intake
• Excessive exercise
• Excessive use of laxatives and/or diuretics
• Rapid weight loss
Often considered a ‘women’s disease,’ research shows that over the past few years, eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are affecting an increasing number of men.
“Traditionally men aspired for a muscular figure, but the modern male model is slim, which can put pressure on men to lose weight,” says Stephanie Luke, Child and Youth Worker at TSH.
Stephanie adds that athletes, who gain a competitive edge from weight control, are a high risk group. For example, wrestlers are seven to 10 times more likely to develop an eating disorder from a constant pressure to maintain a specific weight range.
Despite the goal, an eating disorder is the most lethal mental health disorder. It damages normal body functions, which can lead to several physical conditions including malnutrition, dehydration, esophageal damage and heart failure.
To learn more about eating disorders and other health and nutrition topics, please join us for the It’s Time to Talk Speakers’ Series, “Food for Thought: You Are What You Eat,” on March 1. Click here for more details.