Self-Help: Is My Eating Normal?
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People today often feel pressure to meet our society's latest preference for looks. It can become hard to imagine that one can succeed in life and love unless you fit a certain image. In the last few decades, the desired look is significant thinness. It is important to be aware that habits you develop to achieve/maintain a low weight can become excessive and make you vulnerable to potential serious illnesses — the eating disorders.
Everyone I know diets. What's the difference between trying to lose a little weight and an eating problem?
Serious eating problems may start out as a simple wish such as fitting into a favorite swimsuit this summer, but eventually become a preoccupation in the person's life. When a person's diet and fitness routine becomes extremely strict and inflexible, interferes with her ability to enjoy her life and stay in good-enough health, and her self worth is determined by her size-that is the sign of disordered eating.
My eating trouble isn't that extreme. Why should I worry?
Ask yourself; "What am I missing out on in my life while I spend so much time being obsessed about being thin?" Disordered eating can create an overwhelming and continuous battleground for individuals, their families and friends. Education and support can go a long way toward winning the battle.
How Common are Eating Disorders on college campuses?
Approximately 15% of women and an increasing number of men in universities around the country struggle with eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and compulsive overeating. 43% of individuals struggling with these issues report an onset of problem-related behaviors between the ages of 16-20.
Tell Me More about Serious Eating Disorders.
There are three common types of eating disorders:
Intense fear of gaining weight and becoming fat. Eating habits are typically characterized by rigid dieting, self-starvation and excessive exercise, and body weight is at least 15% below what is considered normal for age and height. There are many potentially dangerous and life-threatening side-effects to anorexia, but individuals plagued by this disorder often deny that they are experiencing any difficulties.
Tend to be within the normal to slightly heavy range of weight in comparison to their peers, so the problem is often difficult to detect. Bulimia is characterized primarily by uncontrolled binge-eating followed by purging by methods which include self-induced vomiting, use of laxatives, diuretics or other medications. Exercise binges may occur also. Like anorexia, bulimia can impose harmful and dangerous health risks on its victims.
Typically eat large quantities of food to help combat the effects of stress. Excessive weight gain is a common outcome because there is no complementary strategy for eliminating the excess calories.
Maybe My Eating is More of a Problem than I Thought. What Should I Do?
Don't keep it a secret — Do talk to someone you trust, and ask for their support. Usually the best way of dealing with an eating problem or disorder is a change of attitude and behaviors, achieved with the help of a counselor. It is very important to have the support of a medical doctor during this process, to monitor your health. Many people find that nutritionists can be a valuable resource, too.
What Can I Do to Avoid Having an Eating Disorder?
- Eat a variety of foods that come from all the major food groups. Don't label foods as "bad" or "good."
- Give up the myth that being a certain size will erase your problems and make you perfectly happy.
- Don't let your self worth go up and down with the readings on the scale. Identify what other characteristics determine yourself and others' value in the world.
- Remember that most media images exist to sell products — you can choose not to buy the attitudes they encourage.
- Limit the put-downs about yourself. Replace those with positive statements.
- Learn how to cope during hard times without acting out with food. Safe people and strong self care-taking habits can help.
- Make a list of things you have always wanted to do, but postponed until you were the "right size." Choose one and do it now.
The Student Counseling Center will work with you to solve your problem eating.
(Some information adapted from materials from the National Eating Disorders Association and the University of Victoria Counseling Center)