In the UK at the moment the government is considering new legislation in a bid to reduce current levels of obesity in the country. One of these measures include food outlets stating the calories of each of their products on the menu. There’s been a lot of debate about this idea, with some suggesting that there’s more to tackling obesity than placing numbers on foods. Encouraging this method of calorie counting can also be very dangerous for individuals who suffer from an eating disorder. I thought for this weeks ‘60 seconds on’ I could provide an introduction to eating disorders and the effect that the condition can have on an individual’s life.
An eating disorder causes an individual’s life to revolve around food. They can become so obsessed with food that they are unable to live their normal lives from day-to-day. Eating disorders can result in an individual conducting unhealthy eating behaviours, leading to damaging results on their physical and mental health.
There are three types of eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder.
- Anorexia can cause an individual to become obsessed with controlling their own weight. This can cause these individuals to compulsively weigh themselves and obsess over their food portions, ensuring that they don’t eat too much. Individuals may carry out excessive dieting and exercising regimes or may purge themselves in order to lose weight.
- Bulimia can cause an individual to fear gaining weight and carry out behaviours in a bid to lose weight, which include binge-eating and then purging. Often these behaviours are carried out in secret and individuals may appear to be a healthy weight.
- Binge-eating disorder can cause an individual to lose control of their eating behaviours, leading to periods of binge-eating. But unlike those with anorexia and bulimia, individuals do not purge, fast or exercise in a bid to lose weight. This can leads to individuals becoming overweight or obese.
Having an eating disorder can have both physical and psychological effects on an individual which can have an impact on their daily life:
Physical effects include:
- Thinning of bones
- Weakening of body muscles
- Dry skin
- Brittle hair and nails.
- In severe cases, eating disorders can lead to brain damage, infertility and multiple organ failure.
- Damage to an individual’s heart function, resulting in low blood pressure, a reduced pulse and a drop in body temperature.
- Feeling lethargic and tired all of the time, which can make an individuals daily life difficult. For example, they may not be able to leave the house and see their friends because they feel so weak, which could lead to a breakdown in their relationships.
Psychological effects can include:
- A lack of self-worth and confidence in abilities. Individuals may experience low self-esteem and feel worthless some days, which could lead to them contemplating hurting themselves. A lack of self-esteem can cause individuals not to feel motivated at work or school, which can have a devastating impact on their future.
- Finding it difficult to separate their emotions from their eating behaviours, for example someone with anorexia may fast in order to regain a feeling of control after a bad break-up.
- Feelings of guilt and shame surrounding their eating behaviours. This can cause them to hide things from others and become socially withdrawn. Because of this, they may have difficulty in forming and maintaining relationships with family and friends. Others may try to help the individual and ask them about their behaviours which may develop into conflict.
I hope today’s post has been insightful, especially in light of the proposed government plans. I personally can see the damage that placing numbers on foods can have for those struggling with an eating disorder and would urge the government to consider other options.