Adolescence is a threshold stage where choices affect quality of life. As kids we are pampered by our loved ones who guide us at every single step-right from choosing the right dress to eating the right foods to staying healthy. But as we grow up, our independence spectrum widens and we are given choices for many things and eating habits too fall under this umbrella. Adolescence is also the period wherein individuals start to bother about their appearances, looks and personality to a great extend and are ready to take drastic steps to achieve this feat. Girls especially are swayed by flashy magazine covers and trendy outfits, desire to imitate the models/fashion divas and end up causing more trouble for themselves and their parents. Many start skipping their meals, eat tiny portions or stay away from definite food groups to prevent weight gain. Such restrictions can turn out into debilitating health conditions and one such is anorexia nervosa-a severe, chronic disorder that’s third-most common in adolescent females.
Weight Gain Phobia
Anorexia nervosa (AN) strikes 2-3% females while in males it is extremely rare (.25%) but definitely present. Overpowering fear of weight gain, maximized energy restriction and a distorted body image are typical of AN and the individual refrains from eating the required portions of food needed to maintain a healthy body weight for the person’s body mass index. Weight gain is scary when you have reached your threshold weight. Overweight/obesity does bring in certain changes to the individual’s eating habits and lifestyle practices to ensure a smooth weight loss journey and every individual who has lost weight remains focused on keeping off the lost weight forever. He/she is ready to take any drastic steps to stay thin-even starve! On the other side, some people feel bulkier despite staying on the same weight or being normal. Individuals with AN experience a feeling-as though they have put on fat in certain parts of the body and hate/fear the weight gain process.
Staying on a healthy diet after getting help from a professional is good for your weight loss routine. Here, you are given a well-balanced diet chart where you tend to eat different foods from various food groups and manage to consume aplenty nutrients as recommended. Whereas, individuals with AN even go as far as measuring portions of food and consuming them, avoid anything that seems to be high caloric in their eyesight and eat only a limited number of foods limiting their quantities even more. You might not believe it but some of them stand in front of their food cabinets for hours together trying to choose something to eat and end up staying hungry as they are not satisfied (health-wise) with any of the options available. These people also have the habit of checking their body weight repeatedly and don’t hesitate to try their hands on laxatives and diuretics. There are two subtypes of anorexia nervosa:
Eat to Not Repeat
What’s the great deal in treating anorexia nervosa when all you need to do is eat and gain weight! If this lingers in your mind, then you are absolutely mistaken. Statistics show that one in five patients die due to chronic anorexia either due to starvation, malnutrition or commit suicide. Although AN has become quite popular these days there were not many cases that came into limelight until the 1980s. Also, If you still have the idea that AN is restricted to the female population, you are under misconception. Earlier, it was thought of a problem that occurred owing to the girl’s thought process of staying thin, attractive and fashionable. But when physicians started getting cases of AN, the whole concept of the problem changed.
Treatment for AN is to eat but how do we make an individual who treats food as poison to treat it as a cure? Maybe, motivate him/her to take it as a medicine? Eat your meds (food) five times a day-morning, mid-morning, afternoon, evening and night! Be with the patient throughout the day ensuring that he/she takes food and most importantly, doesn’t vomit it out!
AN is not a disorder specific to those who bother about weight alone but individuals with personalities such as perfectionism, living by the rules, inflexibility, excessive doubt and caution are at a greater risk of the disease. Hunger makes us angry, irritated and out of energy. But, how do these patients cope with hunger? One main reason is during hunger the part of the brain that should be driving reward and motivation isn’t activated. Advanced stages of the illness are characterized by lack of hunger and the only goal that remains is to stay thin in life. Family members and friends can play a pivotal role in helping the patient overcome the eating phobia and motivate him/her to lead a normal life. Their support is critical to fulfill therapy and treatment. Work with the patient instead of against the patient which would reward you better (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/mar/29/anorexia-you-dont-just-grow-out-of-it) Still, people who have recovered from the disease must be kept under long-term support and care to avoid any relapse of the disease.
Anorexia nervosa becomes increasingly common in today’s world that bothers more about attractiveness equating slim to sexy. We remain unbothered about the health consequences giving greater priority to our outer beauty.
Anorexia Nervosa: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/anorexia-nervosa
Anorexia Nervosa: What is it? https://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/a19949207/anorexia-nervosa/
My son had anorexia: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jun/20/son-anorexia-helpless-see-stronger-surviving-it
Preventing Side Effects in Anorexia Nervosa: https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0517p16.shtm
AVOID FRAUD. EAT SMART.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.