Tackling the issue of eating disorders

Eating disorders have become common nowadays. Most eating disorders involve focusing too much on weight, body shape and food. This can lead to dangerous eating behaviours. These behaviours can seriously affect the ability to get the nutrition your body needs. This can affect physical as well as mental health. Bulimia, Anorexia, Binge eating and Restrictive eating are some of the most common kinds of eating disorders.


Bulimia is a type of binge eating followed by episodes of purging. Sometimes bulimia also includes severely limiting eating for periods of time. This often leads to stronger urges to binge eat and then purge. In Bulimia they try to eat food in more quantity in a short period of time without any control over food. After eating, due to guilt, shame or an intense fear of weight gain, purging is done to get rid of calories. Purging can include vomiting, exercising too much, not eating for a period of time, or using other methods, such as taking laxatives, changing medicine doses or insulin.


Anorexia or anorexia nervosa an eating disorder includes an unhealthy low body weight, intense fear of gaining weight, and a view of weight and shape. Anorexic people put extreme efforts to control weight and shape which interfere with health and daily life. They often limit calories or cut down certain kinds of foods or food groups from their diet. Sometimes it involves other methods to lose weight such as exercising too much using laxatives or diet aids or vomiting after eating. These can lead to severe health problems.


Binge-eating disorder involves eating food in a short amount of time. People binge or eat food when they are not hungry or eat continuously without any mindfulness. After a binge, people often feel a great deal of guilt, disgust or shame or fear of gaining weight. Embarrassment can lead to eating alone to hide bingeing. They may try to severely limit eating for periods of time. This leads to increased urges to binge, setting up an unhealthy cycle. Embarrassment can lead to eating alone to hide bingeing.

Avoidant/restrictive eating

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder includes extremely limited eating or not eating certain foods or avoiding many foods from their diet. The pattern of eating often doesn’t meet minimum daily nutrition needs. This may lead to problems with growth, development and functioning in daily life. But people with this disorder don’t have fears about gaining weight or body size. Instead, they may not be interested in eating or may avoid food with a certain colour, texture, smell or taste. For example, they may have a fear of choking or vomiting, or they may worry about getting stomach problems. It is common in younger children.

Common symptoms are:

· Skipping meals or snacks or making excuses for not eating.

· Having a very limited diet planned by themselves

· Too much focus on food or healthy eating.

· Withdrawing from usual social activities.

· Complaints about being unhealthy or overweight and talk of losing weight.

· Concern for body images. Frequent checking in the mirror for what are thought to be flaws.

· Repeatedly eating large quantities of foods.

· Using dietary supplements, laxatives or herbal products for weight loss.

· Exercising much more than the average person. This includes not taking rest days or days off for injury or illness or refusing to attend social events or other life events because of wanting to exercise.

Strategies for people with eating disorders:

If a family member or friend who seems to show signs of an eating disorder, consider talking to that person about your concern for their well-being. It is difficult to prevent an eating disorder from developing, but reaching out with compassion may encourage the person to seek treatment.

· Avoid dieting around your child.

· Encourage and reinforce a healthy body image. It’s always better not to criticize body shape in front of others.

· Counselling on a balanced diet can help to avoid this. Taking help from Nutritionists or Professionals may help to plan their diet to maintain their body weight.


Dr Soumita Biswas, Chief Nutritionist, Aster RV Hospital

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