In a survey conducted a few years ago noted that 59% of the normal weight people and 21% of the underweight women consider themselves to be overweight. These refer to the obsession of our society with skewed standards of physical fitness.
Because we are tuned to watching slim feminine and 6-pack muscular figures on fashion magazines, we believe them to be the standards against which we should compare our pot bellies.
Funnily enough, we Pakistanis live on the extremes for everything and rarely do we ever take the middle ground. Either we spend our lifetimes munching on fast-food and potting the belly further, or we starve our stomachs out. These two diversities refer to the eating disorders which have been characterized as serious mental illnesses.
What are Eating Disorders?
There are three main types of eating disorders; Anorexia nervosa, Bulimia nervosa and binge-eating.
People suffering from anorexia view themselves to be overweight and therefore they become extra-controlling when it comes to food, eating and weight.
They end up consuming small portions of selected food items or dieting extremely, watching weight repeatedly, exercising exhaustively and self-inducing vomiting.
Symptoms of anorexia include:
- Sever food restriction
- Reluctance or unwillingness to maintain a healthy weight.
- Distorted body image and low self-esteem.
- Lack of menstruation or disruption of menstrual cycle among women.
These symptoms may worsen to develop severe medical conditions including:
- Severe constipation
- Dry and pale skin
- Low blood pressure
- Brain damage
This condition refers to the episodes of over-eating or consuming larger portions of food without feeling the power to stop or restricting them. Due to these periods of over-eating, the people may continue to feel the need to induce vomiting, fasting, increase the use of diuretics or engage in excessive exercise.
Unlike anorexics, bulimics are more prone maintaining a healthy or normal weight or be slightly overweight. However in situations where they end up gaining weight, like anorexics, they suddenly feel the urge or obsession to lose it and develop feelings of disgust and unsatisfactory association with their body image.
The symptoms of bulimia nervosa include:
- Inflamed and sore throat
- Swollen salivary glands
- Increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Dehydration from decreasing the use of fluids (electrolyte imbalance)
We are more than familiar with this phrase because that is what our parents always refer to when we demand an infinite supply of chips and cold drinks.
Binge eating refers to the disorder in which people lose their conscious control over their eating. These periods are not followed by feelings of guilt and attempts to reverse the damage, like in bulimia. Instead, people continue to have disrupted eating habits and are often overweight or obese.
However, the feeling of guilt and shame is strong with binge eaters too, however, the high level of psychological stress induces more binge eating than motivation to control it.
Why are eating disorders serious mental illnesses?
Therefore, because of the lack of mental faculties being in control of our eating patterns, eating disorders have been categorized as biological illnesses. Furthermore, they have been medically tagged so due to multiple other reasons:
- They can be biologically inherited like other mental disorders including depression and bipolar disorder.
- The habits of excessive eating or purging eating altogether have been proven through research as having strong impact on our body’s metabolism and brain structure. The results of which are that people find it increasingly difficult to change their behaviors, eventually.
- Eating disorders also lead to the disruption of cognitive and emotional faculties, decreasing efficiency in daily life activities.
- They are directly linked to the development of serious medical conditions and therefore are life threatening forms of illnesses.