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Obesity is more often than not associated with eating disorders though these are two different health issues. However, there are similarities in the two issues such as causes and effects, symptoms and complications.
Eating disorder can be described as impaired eating patterns. This impairment in eating patterns can be as a result of different elements but, all in all, there is always an inherent display of low self esteem in many individuals who suffer from eating disorders. Apparently, an eating disorder involves more than just abnormality in eating habit. It is an illness that disfigures many other aspects of the patient’s livelihood. Many times, an eating disorder, may be as a result of emotional attributes and influences that surround the individual. Also, apart from the profound consequences it impacts on the sufferer, it as well affects the people living with the sufferer both mentally and emotionally. (Li and Hooker, 2010)
There are several types of eating disorders that can be distinguishable through their characteristics and the cause of the disorder. These types include:
• Anorexia Nervosa
• Bulimia Nervosa
• Compulsive Overeating
• Binge Eating Disorder
• Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS)
• Compulsive Exercise
• Other Types (Li and Hooker, 2010)
Anorexia can be described as distinct response to internal and external environment. The response is usually as a result of stress, anxiety, fear or even anger. This response is a negative means of becoming tolerant or coping with these internal or external conflicts. Research proposes that anorexia may be attributed to genetic factors, which may play, a role in causing sensitivity to the environmental factors which trigger the reaction. An individual who suffers from this eating disorder has fear of others regarding them as fat or. Such individuals may get afraid of controlling the food amounts and food types that they take bearing in mind their emotional conflicts and fears. In the attempt to get acceptance from their peers, they usually revert to poor dieting patterns which may as well involve instances of starvation as a means to control their weight, emotions and actions resulting from these emotions. (Segal, 2008)
Some of these individuals may also feel that they are not receiving pleasures out of their lives and, therefore; they seek for these pleasures in other situations which they conceive to be pleasurable. Unfortunately, such situations include eating. Without their consent, they fall into the trap of abnormal dietary patterns and consequently they suffer from an eating disorder. (Stone, 2009)
People suffering from anorexia nervosa often display some behavioral signs which include obsessive exercise, starvation, self induced counting, use of laxatives and diet pills to attempt to control weight. These people also display unrelenting concerns about their body shape and image. Anorexics display a restrictive control about the food type and amount that they take. These people may in many instances take normal meals in unusually little amounts with instances of restriction. However, some of these people divert their attention from eating normal meals to taking junk foods. They eat a lot of candy and may as well drink a lot of coffee or tea. In some instances these people also engage in smoking. These people deny hunger, avoid eating by giving excuses, and may use dietary and appetite control pills. Others may attempt to vomit eaten food by using laxatives or self-induced vomiting. (Segal, 2008)
This is an eating disorder where the sufferers seek out purge and binge episodes. These people will intake large volumes of food, within relatively short periods of time and then later they seek to purge the food by use of laxatives or they induce vomiting. This happens many times as a way of punishing themselves because of something they feel they mistakenly did or when they feel deluged by their strong emotions. This can be attributed to how they feel about themselves or to an event or a series of events happening in their lives. Sufferers indulge in episodes of ‘binge and purge’ to let out bouts of their feelings such as anger, stress and depression. New research indicates that genetic factors predispose individuals to this problem while environmental pressures trigger the condition. (Segal, 2008)
This condition displays an episode of rapid consumption of large food quantities followed by a feeling of guilt and attempts to purge the consumed food by use of laxatives or self-induced vomiting. There is also a feeling of lack of control of one's feelings of anger, depression and stress. The patients also engage in rigorous dieting plan, laxatives and dietary pills misuse. It is necessary to point out here that although anorexia appears much similar to bulimia in that, in both cases, there is purging or induced-vomiting, bulimia patients also indulge in compulsive exercise such as excessive jogging. They also engage in fasting to avoid weight accumulation. It is not common for bulimia patients to use dietary pills or to use diuretics to try to lose weight. (Segal, 2008)
Food addiction characterizes this disorder. These people usually use eating as a means of breaking away from their emotions and coping with their daily issues in life. Such people usually gain weight rapidly. They realize that they have abnormal eating habits while there is less that they can do about it. They also suffer from stereotypes from the community they live in, something which further deteriorates their eating habits. Compulsive overeating places the person at risk of developing complications such as high blood pressure, heart diseases, kidney failure and high cholesterol levels. (Stone, 2009)
Compulsive overeating patients usually have low self-esteem. Some traumatic episodes such as rape can induce this condition by making the individual feel that they have not been good enough for themselves. They blame themselves for letting themselves go through what they undergo in life. They find it difficult to forgive themselves and, therefore; they indulge in eating as a consolation step towards their inadequacies. They find solace in eating and they in one way or another feel that this act takes away their pain. (Stone, 2009)
Binge Eating Disorder.
People suffering from binge eating disorder show a combination of symptoms characterizing those of bulimia and compulsive overeating. The causes of Binge Eating Disorder resemble those of Compulsive Overeating. Patients use Binges to hide from the realities of their emotions and as a means to cope with their daily stressing episodes. Sufferers engage in large binges periodically. In this act, they consume abnormally large food quantities in relatively short periods. They eat uncontrollably until their stomachs become abnormally full. These people become excessively huge and overweight because unlike in earlier described overeating habits these people do not purge the consumed binges. (Stone, 2009)
Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS).
This is a complex condition whereby the sufferer can have average healthy weight. They may be anorexic and could engage in anorexic eating patterns as well as showing Bulimic behaviors. This behavior is at some point referred to as Bulimirexic as it involves a combination of the two. Practically this condition has serious psychological effects on an individual. There exists a paradox in the behavior of the individuals because they do this to escape from realities in life. (Stone, 2009)
This is another eating disorder where individuals tend to engage in too much exercise in an attempt to purge or burn calories from taken food. These people, in most cases, suffer from anorexia or the non-purging Bulimia. One of the symptoms of this disorder is engaging in too much exercise beyond the safe standards. Such people may even go to an extra mile to find time at any cost to do such exercise. The main idea behind this is trying to burn calories and relieving guilt of whatever reason. (Ditmier, 2006)
There are other various types of eating disorders including pica, Night Eating Syndrome, Sleep Eating Disorder, Orthorexia Nervosa, Body Dysmorphic Disorder and so on. All these disorders emphasize abnormal eating habits that usually results from psychological disturbances of the sufferer. The patients revert to these habits thinking that they offer solace to their underlying emotional issues. (Ditmier, 2006)
Obesity is a health abnormality where an individual accumulates excessive body fat amounts. Obesity can be determined by measuring the Body Mass Index (BMI) of the individual. BMI is the ratio of one’s weight in kilograms to the square of his or her height in meters. BMI of more than 30 is obese. BMI of 25 or more is overweight. (WHO, 2011)
Overweight or worse still obesity are health risks as they expose the individual to vulnerability of contacting numerous chronic disease conditions. An obese person is at a high risk of contacting diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and even cancer. People believed that these conditions were only common to populations belonging to the developed countries. This trend has since changed making populations of average developed and developing countries vulnerable. (Ditmier, 2006)
Energy imbalance between taken in calories and burned calories in the body poses a significant risk factor for obesity and overweight. Intake of high energy foods that have high fat and sugar contents and low in vitamins, minerals and micronutrients have increased chances on obesity. Changing lifestyle where individuals have reduced activity due to the nature of their work and transportation means, has also led to a significant increase in the chances of one becoming overweight. (WHO, 2011)
Eating Disorders and Obesity.
Obesity can result from one’s eating habits. These habits of course are unhealthy habits and, therefore, can be said to be abnormal habits. Such habits explain eating disorders. Ideally, practices such as Binge eating can result to obesity and overweight. Many obese individuals who are undergoing treatment programmes have confessed problems with binge eating. Causes of binge eating, which includes low self- esteem, stress, depression, shame or loneliness leads to an individual engaging in an eating disorder characterized by overeating. This practice can as well lead to excessive weight gain and obesity. (Stone, 2009)
The environment can also be blamed for sending mixed information through advertisement in mass media. The information could lead to children and adolescents indulging in eating disorders, which in turn, would lead to obesity. Heavy advertisement on High calorie foods has created an enormous believe that such foods would result to excellent body physique. On the contrary, such foods lead to overweight and obesity bearing in mind that these people indulge in no physical activities which would aid in burning the consumed calories. It is, therefore, clear that these two conditions are more or less related in terms of their causes. In fact, obesity is mostly as a result of an eating disorder. (WHO, 2011)
Treatment and Prevention of Obesity and Eating Disorders.
Treatment to eating disorders should address not just the symptoms, but should also look into the causes or the origin of the poor dietary habits. Considering that many of these disorders may be as a result of emotional disturbances, the treatment program should also address the possible solutions to stress, depression and low-self esteem. In cases of obesity, weight loss would be the main treatment procedure that should be given priority. Monitored exercise to burn the excessive calories should be considered a key strategy. Medication to reduce the cholesterol levels in the patient’s body can as well be considered beneficial. However, an overall preventive strategy should aim at closely monitoring the eating habits and the kinds of food consumed by a person. (Li and Hooker, 2010)
Psychological therapy is a substantial treatment and preventive strategy in cases involving eating disorders. Therapy can teach a person how to overcome the compelling forces that cause these eating disorders. It can also instill new dietary habits and help to eliminate the ill-eating behavior. Therapy can train and enable an individual in coping with emotional forces like stress, depression and low-self esteem. Various types of therapy are applicable in this case. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, which focuses on, dysfunctional behavior and thoughts, enhances self-awareness of your eating disorders and how to fight them. Interpersonal psychology helps an individual on how to improve their interpersonal relationships with friends and relatives. This is noteworthy as it helps the person to talk to people about their emotional distress. Dialectical behavior therapy helps the person to tolerate their stress better also to govern their emotions. (WHO, 2011)
Self-help support groups also offer reputable recovery support for the sufferer of obesity and eating disorders. Appetite-suppressants may be essential in treatment and management of obesity and eating disorders characterized by overeating. Other drugs help to increase weight loss and are pivotal in managing overweight and obesity patients. Anti depressant drugs help in managing depression and consequently are useful in eating disorders management.