How to Avoid or Prevent an Eating Disorder
Eating disorders such as anorexia bulimia and binge eating disorder are most prevalent in countries and cultures which place a high degree of importance upon being thin and presenting an appealing image. Most people with an eating disorder feel that they are not as thin, and therefore as successful, as they would like to be and use their eating behaviours to either attempt to rectify this (by restricting calories and losing further weight), or find relief from this (such as by binging and/or purging). Unfortunately there are no cures for eating disorders, but there is much that can be done to prevent an eating disorder from developing.
Common Eating DisordersThe three most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa (anorexia) bulimia nervosa (bulimia) and binge eating disorder. Anorexia is an eating disorder in which an individual is terrified of gaining weight and so decreases the amount of food that (s)he will eat until (s)he literally begins to starve. Bulimics, in contrast, consume an excessive amount of food in one sitting and then purge by making themselves sick or taking laxatives/diuretics. Binge eaters eat excessively in one sitting, or eat constantly and excessively such as by “grazing” all day, but do not engage in any purging behaviours afterwards.
Although eating disorders manifest themselves in varying ways, the underlying themes are the same. Sufferers of eating disorders can not separate their emotions from their eating habits and this influences the way, and the amount, that they eat. Most often those with eating disorders feel overwhelmed by life, have low self-esteem and self-confidence and believe that they are physically unattractive and weigh too much (regardless of how much they truly weigh). Although those with eating disorders rely on their eating behaviours as a way of coping with these emotions, often, behaviours such as binging and purging bring further feelings of guilt, shame or remorse.
Preventing Eating DisordersMaintaining a healthy balance and healthy outlook on life are the two key means of preventing an eating disorder. A healthy balance in life means that an individual is able to balance work/school and personal life, a healthy diet with occasional treats, and exercising for fun with an appropriate amount of rest and relaxation. A healthy outlook is such that an individual can recognise the “big picture”, that weight and appearance are just one facet of a person. What is more, maintaining a healthy outlook allows an individual to remember that (s)he has both strengths and weaknesses, but does not allow him/her to get caught up in flaws.
To this end, individuals who routinely express dissatisfaction with their work, their personality or their appearance should consider getting expert advice before these thoughts take root. Family and friends can help individuals stay strong and prevent an eating disorder by:
- Praising an individual’s talents and strengths.
- Listening to, and discuss, an individual’s thoughts, feelings and fears.
- Supporting an individual’s hopes and dreams.
- Reminding an individual that a healthy body, not necessarily a slim body, is best.
- Encouraging an individual to explore hobbies in which (s)he shows an interest.
- Helping an individual make new friends who are also supportive.
- Barring unrealistic and unhealthy diets and excessive exercise regimes.