It's no secret that many people struggle with body image issues. The build-up of cultural pressure, negative media, family influences and emotional stress can lead to an eating disorder, such as bulimia and anorexia, especially among teens and young adults.
But eating disorders are not just a passing phase of youth. They are serious medical conditions that need treatment.
What you can do to prevent and treat eating disorders
Building your self-esteem and developing a positive attitude toward food and nutrition are important ways to prevent an eating disorder. If you have kids, beliefs and behaviors also influence them. Consider these prevention tips:
- Avoid using food as a reward or punishment.
- Don't label food as good/safe or bad/dangerous. Aim for balance, variety and moderation.
- Emphasize fitness as a way to stay healthy and maintain a reasonable weight.
- Prohibit teasing about body shape and size.
- Manage the media by not letting it influence your perceptions of what's normal or ideal.
- Be a model of healthy self-esteem and body image.
Your chances of recovering from an eating disorder are greatest when the disorder is discovered early. If you've been diagnosed with an eating disorder, work with your doctor to:
- Develop a plan to restore normal weight.
- Treat any physical complications associated with your condition.
- Explore medication options.
- Learn healthy eating and exercise habits.
- Build a positive body image.
How to talk to your doctor
If you think you or your child might be developing an eating disorder, make a list of symptoms and concerns to discuss with your doctor.
Some symptoms of anorexia include:
- Excessive thinness with irrational thoughts of being overweight
- Intense fear of gaining weight
- Not eating for long periods of time, eating very little at meals or not eating in front of others
- Infrequent menstrual periods among girls and women
- Dry, yellowish skin and thin hair
- Hypersensitivity to cold and dressing in layers
Some signs of bulimia include:
- Chronically inflamed and sore throat
- Swollen salivary glands in the neck and jaw area
- Regular trips to the bathroom after meals to vomit
- Binge eating
- Red eyes due to broken blood vessels from vomiting
- Dry mouth, cavities, sore gums and enamel erosion from vomiting
- Acid reflux disorder and other gastrointestinal problems
- Severe dehydration from purging of fluids
- Intestinal distress and irritation from laxative abuse
- Cuts or calluses on fingers from induced vomiting