Eating Disorders – A Growing Epidemic
WHAT IS ANOREXIA?
Anorexia is an intestinal pursuit of thinness. A person with anorexia starves themselves, becomes dangerously thin and denies them the pleasure of eating even though they are hungry. Eating or not eating becomes a way to cope with feelings, emotions and life circumstances. Anorexia affects people of all ages and backgrounds. An estimated one out of every 100 adolescent girls has the disorder, and and more than 1000 women die from anorexia each year in the US alone.
An eating disorder begins as a diet to lose weight and / or the pressure to be thin and attractive. Then the weight loss becomes a sign of mastery and control. A strong determination to become thinner and thinner takes over and the person significantly restricts their food that becoming dangerously thin. A person with anorexia has a distorted image of their body, themselves and the world and thinks and believes they are fat even when emaciated.
Sufferers generally experience out-of-control fear, depression and anxiety and often become irritable and withdrawn. Unusual behaviors may include compulsive rituals, bizarre eating habits, and dividing food into categories. Food, calories, weight, and weight management occupy most of the anorexic's attention and they frequently become angry when someone tries to interfere with their habits. The process of eating becomes an obsession.
Fear becomes associated with food, even the sight of food causes fear reaction. Food = Fat and Fat = Rejection, so it all becomes enmeshed together. People with anorexia may continuously weight themselves and engage in techniques to control their weight, such as compulsively exercising, vomiting and abuse laxative, enemas and / or diuretics.
Anorexics use the behavior as a way of dealing or not dealing with emotions or problems in their life. They weigh themselves frequently, wear baggy clothes to cover up thinness and repeatedly look in the mirror for flaws. Some may have decreed sexual desire and miss menstrual periods. The majority of their time is spending talking and thinking about food and weight and might develop a sense of self by being labeled "anorexic." It becomes a banner, a shield and an identity. Individuals with anorexia often attempt to hide the disorder and frequently are in denial.
There is no definite cause of anorexia; however some experts believe that demands from society and families, and a poor self-image can be contributing factors. Most anorexics fear growing up and use restrictive dieting to prevent their bodies from developing so they can maintain the parent-child relationship.
WHAT IS BULIMIA?
Bulimia is a diet, binge, purge behavior. A person with bulimia also has an intense fear of being fat and most feel intensely dissatisfied with their bodies. They may look happy on the outside, yet feel lonely, wrinkled and empty internally. This person often notices out of control while eating and is unable to stop until the food is gone. When the food is gone, guilt about eating takes over and they have to get rid of the food by vomiting, exercising, using laxatives, diuretics or enemas.
Many bulimics consume as much as 20,000 calories at a time in a rapid, automatic way. The foods consumed are often sweet or high-calorie foods such as ice cream, cake, bread, or pasta. An individual may binge anywhere from twice a day to many times a day.
As with anorexia, the process of eating becomes an obsession, a way to cope with feelings. The act of stuffing one with food and then purging gives the person a sense of relief. Unlike people with anorexia, you can not immediately identify the behavior. They often weigh an average weight; however one might see weight fluctuations in a person. People with bulimia often do their behaviors in secrecy attempting to conceive their symptoms, yet feeling ashamed when they binge, and relieved once they purge. Typically people with bulimia are very body and weight conscious and are frequently dieting.
Harm on the body
Eating disorders can have harmful effects on the body. They may possibly lead to death by starvation, heart failure or suicide. Specific effects on the body can include irregular heartbeat; hair loss; low blood pressure; damage to organs, especially the heart, brain, muscles and kidneys; loss of thyroid function; anemia; swollen joints; brittle bones (osteoporosis) and fatigue. A person with bulimia can also get swollen glands; damage the esophagus; wear down the teeth from the acid in vomit; and have ulcers in the mouth and throat.
My 23 year struggle
My name is Debra. I did not come into this world with this name and I did not choose it. It was given to me when I arrived. I came here as a shining diamond ….. but somewhere along the way, just as my name was "given" to me, so was guilty, shame, blame, positive and negative thoughts, words and actions from myself and others. The negative outweighed the positive. This was how I experienced myself and the world. I did not know how to reject it; instead I took it into my consciousness and created a "negative" self-image. My diamond went from shiny to dull.
From my earliest memory food was an issue. I felt very uncomfortable with myself and my surroundings and turned to food for love, comfort and safety. At age 13 I weighed 140 pounds when my doctor told me to "go on a diet." I started losing weight and received a lot of positive recognition which made me feel good. I started to associate feeling good with losing weight. Unconsciously I became trapped in a vicious cycle. I had to continue to lose weight in order to feel good. My weight dropped down to 80 pounds and I was hospitalized.
For the next 23 years I was in and out of hospitals, and living in an eating-exercising trance. At the beginning it gave me a sense of power and control, but after awhile I was being controlled by it. By focusing on food, weight and exercise I did not have to deal with the pressures of growing up and making decisions like; what I want to do with my life, dating, drugs, career etc. (I did not know that I was doing this at the time, all I know is I was frustrated and confused.) By doing the anorexic behaviors, my life was contained and controlled. I stopped the process of growing up, nothing new could come in and I would not come out. Gaining and losing weight, eating very little and constantly exercising was the focus of my life.
In the hospitals I would gain weight, but as soon as I left I focused all of my energy on losing it, it was the only way I knew how to cope in the world. Because I was so afraid to gain weight, whenever I ate, I made myself exercise for hours so I would not get fat. I unconsciously regressed back to that lonely child who never felt loved or good enough, staying small so someone would take care of me.
I associated food with negative feelings. Whenever I ate, my emotions became more intense, I felt the "yucky" feelings in my body and I hated myself even more. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I directed those feelings into a fat image of myself. It was like looking into a mirror at a fun house where you see yourself five times the size you really are.
Eating became my sacred time, something I did in private. No matter what "no one can see me eat." It was as if I was doing something "bad." I also had rituals of eating certain foods at a certain time in a certain way. By doing this I felt powerful and in control of my life.
By continuously doing the behaviors over and over again, I made an imprint in my subconscious training my body to respond and exercise whenever I ate or had feelings or emotions. In other words, if I was not eating, I was exercising. If for any reason I could not exercise, I would get a sick feeling in my stomach, my heart would race and I'd sweat. The physical feeling and thoughts would not go away until I exercised. I was like a hamster on a wheel, moving very fast but not getting anywhere, with a very narrow focus of life. (Food and exercise)
Because the subconscious is the driving force of our behaviors, I would automatically exercise after I ate and no longer felt like I had a choice. My subconscious mind was now dictating my life. I was a robot, being controlled by unseen commands.
When I exercised "I thought" I was getting rid of the negative thoughts and feelings that I felt in my gut. However, by running I just pushed the "yuck" deeper inside myself and I ever had to deal with it. No wonder I felt "so fat" even at 80 pounds; I was fat with the feelings I stuffed inside.
I was so scared of change so I stayed in my "familiar zone" even if I was going to die. I knew that if I ate the same foods and exercised everyday then I was sure to stay the same weight or get even thinner. I did not feel capable of taking good care of myself, nor did I want to because I did not have any beliefs to support this. By looking so thin and gaunt I was telling the world, "I'm empty, lonely and angry, please someone show me you love me by taking care of me." For me, the anorexia kept me small (literally). It was a shield (a trance) and a "safety blanket" I used so I did not have to make choices and it protected me from the world in which I felt so unworthy.
How I overcame the eating disorder
I became empowered by having the courage to sit through my discomfort and take charge of my life on a conscious and sub-conscious level. Bringing myself back to the here and now helped me to be present with my feelings. By being present with my feelings I was able to connect with my true self. Doing the anorexic behaviors kept me in constant fear, and I could never attain what I really wanted.
Everyday, I took one action different from what the eating disorder behavior dictated. Slowly my life started to change. The anorexia served a purpose in my life, it was my safety, comfort and "my friend." I had to find new healthy ways to get these needs met. I was starting to take charge of my life from my true internal desires. I started reading books on spirituality and discovered that I was more than just my body and the negativity that was piled on me from a very young age. There is a tender spirit inside me that is happy, joyous and loving. Today, I now take the steps necessary to make my life work on all levels, physical, emotional and spiritual.
I use the power of intention and visualization to create a healthy body and bring fun and happiness into my life. I had to stop running in order to get in touch with my inner desires and true happiness. It was a process, and because I stuck with it, my life continues to get better and better. I also used hypnosis to change my automatic responses and my limiting beliefs that kept me stuck. By aligning my conscious mind with my subconscious mind, I was not in so much conflict within myself and gradually became more relaxed and peaceful. "Everyday in every way I'm getting stronger and stronger, healthier and healthier, happier and happier."
I use self-hypnosis, meditate, read and say positive affirmations daily. I focus my attention on what I want and change any thoughts or actions that do not serve me to ones that do. I take time everyday to connect with the love deep inside myself and bringing it to others instead of looking for and needing it from them. Every time I do this I feel a glow emanating from my core and all around me. I am a shining diamond here to love, serve and LIVE.
The power of my mind (conscious and unconscious) now continues to help me along the way. Once I made the decision and commitment to being healthy, books, teachers, mentors and seminars started showing up. "I am being divinely guided." I'm constantly looking for ways to help myself and others live a rich, fun and rewarding life.
Source by Debra Mittler