PDF A Simple Guide to Eating Disorders (A Simple Guide to Medical Conditions)

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It is important that providers not make comments or treatment suggestions that induce shame around binge eating or weight. Providers should know what weight cycling is and not be a part of the problem of exacerbation of weight cycling. Can you please explain why an increase in reported symptoms during BED recovery may actually be a sign of improvement?


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BED can be a very isolating and may be associated with a tremendous amount of shame. Like any problem any of us deal with, becoming aware of our issues, and facing our problems is essential to dealing with them successfully.

What is anorexia nervosa?

Isolation, when faced with any form of mental health issue, is generally not a helpful thing. Describing the problem of Binge Eating from a stance of self-compassion is a powerful experience. Sharing the problem with providers, family, and friends can be a huge relief, can help build a foundation of support, and is a sign that the patient is understanding the struggle they are experiencing with more awareness and less shame.

In the darkest moments of binge eating, perhaps alone in a dorm room, alone in a home, or driving alone in a car, shame, despair, a sense of isolation is blurred together with a state of dissociation that somehow also activates some level of euphoria, pleasure, or release. It is hard to fathom recovery when one is wrapped up in this behavior.

The essential first steps of recovery start with knowing that there is a name for this behavior, and that this behavior is not your fault, that there is a neurobiological component again, not your fault and there are strategies one can start taking right away to leave this darkness and start to enter the light.

Discovering mindful eating is the blessing in disguise for individuals who have lived with this condition and tried dieting and behavioral weight loss. The condition itself is not something I or anyone wants to experience. The pathway to recovery, though challenging, presents the opportunity for growth along many domains, including the domains of self-awareness, self-compassion, and also having a voice and becoming a self-validating person.

Eating disorders

Recovery also often involves a higher-power component and a component that speaks to the condition of self-acceptance, self-respect, and treating oneself with dignity, care, and respect. Wendy served on the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations Technical Advisory Committee and has given frequent presentations at national and international eating disorder conferences. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder are the most common eating disorders. Anorexia an-o-REK-see-uh nervosa — often simply called anorexia — is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by an abnormally low body weight, intense fear of gaining weight, and a distorted perception of weight or shape.

People with anorexia use extreme efforts to control their weight and shape, which often significantly interferes with their health and life activities. When you have anorexia, you excessively limit calories or use other methods to lose weight, such as excessive exercise, using laxatives or diet aids, or vomiting after eating.


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Efforts to reduce your weight, even when underweight, can cause severe health problems, sometimes to the point of deadly self-starvation. Bulimia boo-LEE-me-uh nervosa — commonly called bulimia — is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder. When you have bulimia, you have episodes of bingeing and purging that involve feeling a lack of control over your eating. Many people with bulimia also restrict their eating during the day, which often leads to more binge eating and purging.

During these episodes, you typically eat a large amount of food in a short time, and then try to rid yourself of the extra calories in an unhealthy way. Because of guilt, shame and an intense fear of weight gain from overeating, you may force vomiting or you may exercise too much or use other methods, such as laxatives, to get rid of the calories. If you have bulimia, you're probably preoccupied with your weight and body shape, and may judge yourself severely and harshly for your self-perceived flaws. You may be at a normal weight or even a bit overweight.

When you have binge-eating disorder, you regularly eat too much food binge and feel a lack of control over your eating. You may eat quickly or eat more food than intended, even when you're not hungry, and you may continue eating even long after you're uncomfortably full. After a binge, you may feel guilty, disgusted or ashamed by your behavior and the amount of food eaten. But you don't try to compensate for this behavior with excessive exercise or purging, as someone with bulimia or anorexia might.

Embarrassment can lead to eating alone to hide your bingeing. A new round of bingeing usually occurs at least once a week. You may be normal weight, overweight or obese. Rumination disorder is repeatedly and persistently regurgitating food after eating, but it's not due to a medical condition or another eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia or binge-eating disorder. Food is brought back up into the mouth without nausea or gagging, and regurgitation may not be intentional. Sometimes regurgitated food is rechewed and reswallowed or spit out. The disorder may result in malnutrition if the food is spit out or if the person eats significantly less to prevent the behavior.

The occurrence of rumination disorder may be more common in infancy or in people who have an intellectual disability. This disorder is characterized by failing to meet your minimum daily nutrition requirements because you don't have an interest in eating; you avoid food with certain sensory characteristics, such as color, texture, smell or taste; or you're concerned about the consequences of eating, such as fear of choking.

Food is not avoided because of fear of gaining weight. The disorder can result in significant weight loss or failure to gain weight in childhood, as well as nutritional deficiencies that can cause health problems.

Eating disorders

An eating disorder can be difficult to manage or overcome by yourself. Eating disorders can virtually take over your life. If you're experiencing any of these problems, or if you think you may have an eating disorder, seek medical help. Unfortunately, many people with eating disorders may not think they need treatment. Throwing up after eating — Frequently disappearing after meals or going to the bathroom. May run the water to disguise sounds of vomiting or reappear smelling like mouthwash or mints.

Compulsive exercising — Following a punishing exercise regimen aimed at burning calories. Exercising through injuries, illness, and bad weather. There are no simple answers to the causes of anorexia. Anorexia is a complex condition that arises from a combination of many social, emotional, and biological factors.

While the causes of anorexia are uncertain, the physical effects are clear. Essentially, your body begins to consume itself.

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If self-starvation continues and more body fat is lost, medical complications pile up and your body and mind pay the price. Deciding to get help for anorexia is not an easy choice to make. But while change is hard, it is possible. Admit you have a problem. Talk to someone. You may be ashamed, ambivalent, or afraid. Find a good listener—someone who will support you as you try to heal. Stay away from people, places, and activities that trigger your obsession with being thin.

Seek professional help. The advice and support of trained eating disorder professionals can help you regain your health, learn to eat normally again, and develop healthier attitudes about food and your body. The first priority in anorexia treatment is addressing and stabilizing any serious health issues.

Understanding your loved one’s eating disorder

Hospitalization may be necessary if you are dangerously malnourished or so distressed that you no longer want to live. You may also need to be hospitalized until you reach a less critical weight. The food and weight-related issues are in fact symptoms of a deeper issue: depression, anxiety, loneliness, insecurity, pressure to be perfect, or feeling out of control. Problems that no amount of dieting or weight loss can cure. In order to overcome anorexia, you first need to understand that it meets a need in your life.

For example, maybe you feel powerless in many parts of your life, but you can control what you eat. Anorexia may also be a way of distracting yourself from difficult emotions. Restricting food may provide an emotional numbness, anesthetizing you from feelings of anxiety, sadness, or anger, perhaps even replacing those emotions with a sense of calm or safety.

Unfortunately, any boost you get from starving yourself or shedding pounds is extremely short-lived—and at some point, it will stop working for you at all. The only way to do that is to identify the emotional need that self-starvation fulfills and find other ways to meet it. While your weight usually remains quite constant over the course of, say, a week, feelings of fatness can fluctuate wildly. Often, feeling fat is a mislabeling of other emotions, such as shame, boredom, frustration, or sadness. Identifying the underlying issues that drive your eating disorder is the first step toward recovery, but insight alone is not enough.

When you take that coping mechanism away, you will be confronted with the feelings of fear and helplessness your anorexia helped you avoid. Reconnecting with your feelings can be extremely uncomfortable. Is it guilt? Avoidance and resistance only make negative emotions stronger. Dig deeper. Where do you feel the emotion in your body? What kinds of thoughts are going through your head? Distance yourself. Realize that you are NOT your feelings.

Emotions are passing events, like clouds moving across the sky.