Healthy Eating Towards a Healthy Lifestyle: 5 Tips to Overcome Eating Disorders
An eating disorder is a serious medical condition that can be fatal if left undiagnosed or untreated. It’s an unhealthy focus, an obsession even, that people have on what or how much they eat and how they look.
Some may overeat, starve themselves, do not eat enough, and others may purge themselves after eating by vomiting, over-exercising, or use other methods to get rid of the food or calories consumed.
Disordered eating can be caused by cultural (e.g. social pressure to look good), psychological (e.g. as a symptom of depression) or biological factors (e.g. hormonal imbalance).
At present, there are six types of eating disorders classified by the DSM-V:
- Anorexia nervosa
- Binge eating disorder
- Other specified feeding and eating disorder (OSFED)
- Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (AFRID)
- Rumination feeding or eating disorder
- Unspecified (UFED)
Other disorders include orthorexia, pica, and body dysmorphic disorder.
Over the last couple of years, the prevalence of eating disorders has been steadily increasing.
There is also a common misconception that eating disorders affect only the female population, but out of the 9% of the world’s population affected by eating disorders, 25% are male. A vast majority of those affected are between the ages of 11 and 20, but this can vary depending on certain factors listed below.
How Do Eating Disorders Develop?
There are several factors from which eating disorders may develop. Listed below are two of the most widely known risk factors that increase a person’s likelihood of developing an eating disorder:
Eating disorders may develop from the fear of gaining weight or becoming fat.
Today, with social media dictating ideal body types and weights, the social evaluation of a person’s appearance plays a highly influential part in people’s self-evaluation.
Many fall prey to fiercely marketed low-calorie foods, slimming products, or diet fads, in the course of which they forget the adverse effects of these on health and the importance of well-being.
Competitive sports or activities like running, wrestling, ballet, and modelling, equate having a slender, slim, thin body to success and popularity which, in turn, cultivates a wrong notion of body image, thereby leading to body dysmorphic disorders. The characteristics that develop from this disorder are low self-esteem, approval seeking behavior, dependency, and perfectionism.
Psychological and Biological Factors
The most common causes are stress from work, home, the school environment, pressure to meet deadlines or settings where children try to cope with bullying or learning disabilities.
Family or relationship problems, peer pressure or sometimes even parents’ own eating behavior may influence their child’s eating habits. There is a risk of about 28 to 74% of genetic heritability of eating disorders. Certain hormonal imbalances may also influence personality traits and behaviors associated with some of these eating disorders.
How To Recognize the Problem and When To Seek Help
People with eating disorders most often will not accept they have a condition or will be afraid to ask for help. Therefore, it is important for family members or friends to recognize certain warning signs of these disorders, so that they can intervene and help.
The warning signs to look out for include:
- Dramatic weight loss or gain
- Excessive exercise
- Lying about how much they have eaten
- Avoiding eating with others
- Eating very little food
- Having strict routine or food habits
- Spending a lot of time worrying about their appearance or body shape
- Wearing baggy clothes to hide their appearance or weight loss
Tips To Help You Through the Journey
If you or a loved one suffers from an eating disorder, there are concrete steps you can take to develop a better perspective of oneself and healthy eating habits.
Tip #1: Understand and accept yourself.
Being patient and starting the conversation is the first step towards recovery.
Learn to develop your self-confidence and quit being too hard on yourself. Do not compare yourself with others, be secure and comfortable with your appearance and behavior because being you means being a unique person.
Tip #2: Reach out for support.
Getting a diagnosis and finding the right treatments to address every aspect of your problem is crucial to recovery and avoiding relapse.
Apart from consulting doctors, you may also reach out to nutritionists, counsellors, and therapists. Whether they are health therapies like neurofeedback therapy, self-help approaches like cognitive behavioral approach or medication, find what works for you best.
Tip #3: Develop a healthy alternative.
Practice healthier ways to cope with your stressors or triggers. Know what will force you into a relapse and how to tackle those situations.
Call a friend or find a hobby to distract yourself from the urge. Stay active and practice stress management through yoga, meditation and mindfulness to keep your physical, emotional, and mental well-being in check.
Tip #4: Find your circle of positivity.
Develop a solid support system and surround yourself with people who exude good energy and those who genuinely want to see you happy and healthy.
There is no shame in facing a setback in your journey to recovery. Pick yourself back up with some support and encouragement from your loved ones.
Tip #5: Reward yourself.
Maintain a journal with your thoughts and emotions about the journey. Make a note of your triggers and write down your plans for this journey. This way, you will have a goal to look forward to.
Remember to reward yourself for avoiding a trigger successfully or for your good behavior. Keeping track of your journey can serve as a reflection of how resilient and strong you have been every step of the way.
A Step in the Right Direction
Eating disorders affect people of all ages, gender, races, body shapes, weights, and socioeconomic class. It is possible for any two people with the same eating disorder to have different experiences and symptoms.
But what is important is being able to recognize the symptoms or signs that someone may show of an eating disorder in order to get them the right kind of help.
If you or a loved one needs assistance with an eating disorder or a similar concern, please reach out to us at Evolve Brain Training.
Dr. Upasana Gala is the founder and CEO of Evolve Brain Training, a Neurofeedback-centered institute that focuses on using non-invasive brain training techniques to maximize the brain's true potential.