National Eating Disorder Awareness Month

  • As many as 20 million women and 10 million men experience an eating disorder at some point in their lives (Wade, Kelski-Rahkonen, & Hudson, 2011)
  • The average age that eating disorders begin:
    • Anorexia Nervosa: 19 years old
    • Bulimia Nervosa: 20 years old
    • Binge Eating Disorder: 25 years old
      (Hudson, Hiripi, Pope, & Kessler, 2007)

What causes the development of an eating disorder?

There is no “one cause” of eating disorders. Eating disorders may develop as the result of a combination of biological, psychological, social, and familial issues.

Types of eating disorders Types

  1. Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS), and Binge-Eating Disorder. 

Anorexia Nervosa Symptoms:

  • Not maintaining body weight at, or above, a minimally normal weight level based on age and height
  • Having an intense fear of weight gain, even when underweight
  • Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight
  • For post-pubescent females, the absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles
    (American Psychiatric Association, 2000)

Bulimia Nervosa Symptoms:

  • Binge eating, which consists of the following:
    • In a specific period of time, eating substantially more food than others in a similar period time, and under similar circumstances, would eat
    • Feeling no control, or a lack of control, of the binge eating session
  • Engaging in behaviors in order to prevent weight gain
    • These behaviors may include self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise, or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, and/or enemas
  • The binge eating and inappropriate behaviors occur at least twice a week for 3 months
  • Overly concerned with how one’s body shape and weight affects self-worth
    (American Psychiatric Association, 2000)

Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (NOS)

Eating Disorder NOS has a combination of symptoms from the category of eating disorders, but does not meet the criteria of a specific eating disorder.

Binge-Eating Disorder has similar symptoms to Bulimia Nervosa (e.g. eating large amounts of food in short time periods and feeling a lack of control when eating). Individuals suffering from this disorder will exhibit three or more of the following:

  • Eating more rapidly than normal
  • Eating until physically uncomfortable
  • Eating when not hungry
  • Eating alone because of embarrassment
  • Feeling disgusted, depressed or guilty after overeating

Individuals with Binge-Eating Disorder do not engage in behaviors to prevent weight gain, such as fasting, dieting, excessive exercise, using laxatives, etc.

(American Psychiatric Association, 2000)

Society and culture

Media in today’s society is filled with images which skew the definition of a “healthy” body.

  • In various studies, girls and boys as young as 4 and 5 years old recognized that the unhealthy images of thinness in mass media are portrayed as ideal (as cited in Levine & Murnen, 2009).

The meaning of body image

The meaning of “body image” varies for every individual. In publications by Levine and Smolak, (2006) females interpret body image as being influenced by multiple components. These include the following beliefs:

  • Being slender is idealized in society,
  • One should fear being fat, and
  • A person’s weight and shape greatly influence their overall identity as cited in Levine & Murnen, (2009)

Men also suffer from eating disorders

Although more women than men suffer from eating disorders, men may also fall victim to the symptoms of these disorders.

Preventing eating disorders

Effective prevention of eating disorders should address the following:

  • Learning how to live a healthy lifestyle through nutritious eating and physical activity
  • Understanding that self-worth is not purely defined by physical appearance
  • Challenging society’s misleading messages about beauty
  • Developing realistic expectations of self and body image
  • Accepting one’s physical characteristics

Calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI)

  • Body Mass Index (BMI) is the measure of body fat based on a person’s height and weight.
    • Underweight = <18.5
    • Normal weight = 18.5–24.9
    • Overweight = 25–29.9
    • Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater
  • BMI can be used for both men and women.
  • Be aware that the BMI scale may overestimate body fat in athletes and those who have a muscular build, and may underestimate body fat in older persons.
  • Calculate your BMI.

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