Can you identify with the quote “I eat when I’m happy and when sad, I eat more!”? Irrespective of age, food has always been the friend we fall back on for comfort. Pakodas on a rainy day, midnight snacking, movie marathon, birthdays, anniversaries, or a party night with friends, we invent excuses to let go, aplenty! Conversely, there are sinister examples of crash dieting, malnutrition, and severe deficiencies due to obsessive food control. Are these bouts of unhealthy eating a sign of something more complex than merely bad eating habits? If we look closely, mental health and eating disorders are two sides of the same coin.
I’m a former fat girl transformed into a health and fitness blogger (and soon-to-be expert nutritionist). Think about any body-shaming jab one can hurt you with and I’ve probably heard it, multiple times. Instead of getting motivated I took them all on my chin and chose to go into hiding, with a bag of potato chips. Few people might’ve meant well but didn’t know anything about acting subtly with a hormonal and confused teenager. I can hence vouch that mental health and eating disorders cannot be understood in isolation.
Let’s see some common reasons that lead to eating disorders.
- Personality traits – Perfectionism can push a person to any length to get the ideal body type. Impulsiveness to get results and jumping from one kind of diet to another may make one lose focus and backfire. Neurotic behaviour may make one take drastic and, often, dangerous steps.
- Social media – Glossy magazines and photoshopped images on the internet negate the work done by body positivity activists. An unreal and unachievable body image makes one lose self-confidence and encourages unhealthy eating habits. Comparison, online or offline, is never helpful.
- Cultural ideals – In some cultures, an ideal body type is curvy while in others it is waif-thin. Both men and women are dogged with insufferable expectations. Any which way, anyone differing from the ‘ideal’ stands out and invites harsh reactions, leading to much heartburn.
- Genetics – Many of our eating habits, even disorders, are handed down to us through generations. However, with professional help, one can try and reduce the harmful effects that come with them.
Now that we know the relation between mental health and eating disorders, let us know and understand a few of them.
- Anorexia nervosa – Generally known to develop around adolescence, anorexia is more acute in women than men. Anorexic people with ideal or low body weight tend to consider themselves overweight and relentlessly try to cut down calories by avoiding many food types. They have a distorted body image, live in the intense fear of putting on, and show little to no self-esteem. Also, obsessive-compulsive symptoms are often displayed. Anorexia is of two types – restricting and binge eating.
- Binge eating disorder – This is one of the most common eating disorders that has no age limit. Binge eating is characterised by eating unusually large amounts of food in short intervals, in hiding without any hunger for it, and feeling a total lack of control while doing it. These episodes are often followed by a continued feeling of guilt, shame, and disgust. Lifestyle diseases, obesity, and excess weight are damaging consequences of binge eating.
- Pica – We feel repulsed by people who eat non-edible things like chalk, mud, pencil, cloth, soap, hair, etc, don’t we? Interestingly, this disorder has a name, Pica, and is frequently seen in pregnant women, children and people with mental disabilities. Pica can cause poisoning, deficiencies and depending upon the substance consumed can also prove fatal.
- Avoidant/ Restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) – ARFID can develop in infancy and can well continue to show in both men and women. People with ARFID lack interest in eating or dislike certain smells, tastes, textures or colours. It is different from fussy eating and can lead to incomplete physical development, deficiencies and awkward behaviour when eating socially.
Food is for nourishment and every bite we take should make our body and soul smile. Mental health and eating disorders are hence two crucial health issues that need to be addressed, with professional help if need be. We often choose to overlook their underlying causes and blame them on bad temperament or scant regard to a healthy lifestyle. Let us pledge to show some love, care and concern for ourselves. A healthy mind and a healthy body is a gift we deserve, don’t we?
This post is part of #CauseAChatter with Blogchatter
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