There may be murmurs about that girl who only fixes herself a salad with only vinegar at dining services or suspicious glances at someone who spends 45 minutes on the treadmill and then switches to the stair stepper at the rec. On-campus eating disorders are talked about everywhere and yet are not really talked about at all. There is observation, concern, and gossip, but hushed conversation and larger scale efforts to help and change never seem to earn public attention.
There is this girl that I grew up and graduated with. I talked to her almost everyday at school, but we were never that close. I never saw much of her over the summer except when she was out running after a two to three hour softball practice. At my younger sister's volleyball game about a month or two ago, I saw this girl. She was so thin it was almost disgusting. Her skin was pale, her hair was thin, and I could see her ribs through her shirt. She went from looking healthy and physically fit to looking sick and fragile. This is why I chose this topic. People need to pay more attention to this disease. Anorexics are literally dying to be thin.
Most of you probably already know what anorexia is, however in case you don't anorexia is basically a disease involving self-starvation. Anorexia victims have a very low "ideal" weight. It might begin as a normal diet carried to extremes, reducing their food intake
to a bare minimum. Rules are made of how much food they can eat in one day and how much exercise is required after eating certain amounts of food. With anorexia, there is a strong almost overwhelming fear of putting on weight and they are preoccupied with the way that their bodies look. Anorexia sometimes involves use of laxatives, diet pills
, or self-induced vomiting to lose or to keep weight off (http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/diseases/facts/anorexianervosa.htm). Anorexics may show symptoms such as extreme weight loss for no medical reason. Also, many deny their hunger, chew excessively, choosing low calorie foods and exercising excessively (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/health).
Anorexics do all of those things to become thin, when in reality, it makes your body better at storing fat rather than burning it. Starving yourself to lose weight is not beautiful in any way. Starved bodies ache all of the time. The skin bruises, muscles cramp and deteriorate, and the bowels stop working on their own. There is nothing attractive about that. The body is constantly weak and yet isn't able to sleep because your body thinks it needs to stay awake to find food. The mouth dries and the eyes fog and some actually go blind from food deprivation (http://anorexicweb.com). For women, menstruation stops, body hair starts to grow especially on the face and arms, and the hair on the head falls out. Dehydration, osteoporosis, kidney stones and kidney failure are not uncommon among anorexics. An irregular heartbeat develops because of a change in heart muscle, which can lead to heart failure and even death (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/health). It can also cause osteoporosis. Anorexia can cause difficulties with concentration and can delay the growth of the young. Along with anorexia one might have mental health problems such as depression and increased risk of suicide (http://www.metdoctor.co.uk/diseases/facts/anorexianervosa.htm). Only one third of anorexic patients recover fully; another third improve considerably and the other third never recover. Over 25% of anorexics require hospitalization because they become too weak. Eighteen percent of anorexics die prematurely. Also, the highest numbers of psychiatric deaths are due to anorexia (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/health). So, if you are wondering what this extreme dieting will do to your body, those are only some of the things that anorexia can do to your body, mind and health.
Who would actually do all of this to their body? Most people think that it is only teenage girls that are anorexic, but this is definitely not true. Anyone can develop anorexia; men and women, young and old. There are more cases of anorexia in adolescent girls than other sex and age groups. About one in four teenage girls suffer form symptoms of an eating disorder
. The average age for the beginning this illness is thought to be 16, although the approximate age range is 10 to 40. Around 90 percent of anorexic cases are female, most having no history of being overweight (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/health).
Not only women develop anorexia, although more females than males are diagnosed with anorexia than males. Some think it is because psychiatrists and doctors fail to identify males as having anorexia or men are less likely to admit that they have a problem. A team of researchers analyzed patient records of eating disordered patients admitted to the University of Iowa hospital between 1991 and 1998. They found that 14% of the cases were men. "They may not look drawn and painfully thin like female sufferers, but instead appear muscular, but they are still suffering from the same eating disorder." Men, unlike women, tend to over exercise and cut down the amount eaten instead of simply starving themselves. Another problem is that one major sign of diagnosing anorexics is the missed periods is obviously not observed in anorexic males (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/health).
Like men, most people don't realize that anorexia affects all ages, old and young. Many people just don't recognize when older people, especially the elderly, develop anorexia because they think that it begins in the teen years. It is easier to hide anorexia when they are unsociable, lonely, or depressed, which makes it easy for the elderly to hide their problem. Anorexia in the elderly is much more deadly. In fact 78 percent of anorexic deaths are older anorexics. Out of the anorexics that develop the disease at the age of 40 or above, 21 percent are males (www.guardian.co.uk/health/story). Also, people normally don't think of kids developing anorexia. There are more and more kids coming home with comments like "I'm fat" and "I wish I wore a smaller size". These comments come from kids as young as five, six and eight. The numbers are growing of kids worrying about weight and body image, some being treated for eating disorders. A six-year-old in London was eating paper to subside her hunger (www.healthcentral.com/news).
Many wonder why these young children are developing eating disorders. For a young person appearance is one of the most important areas in their self- esteem. One theory is that they may start in the playground. Children who are teased about their weight can develop psychological hang-ups that may lead to eating disorders. In a survey of 12-year-olds, researchers found that 12 percent of girls and 16 percent of boys were being teased for being "fat". They developed self-esteem problems and became unhappy with the way they looked. Half of the girls responded by dieting and the boys responded by exercising. A psychologist said that eating disorders might be linked to "baggage" carried into adult life after being teased as a child and for a small group it may be the beginning of an eating disorder. Also, thin models have been blamed for eating disorders. Experts say that those images can have an effect of how people perceive themselves but the causes are usually more complex and linked to feelings of general self worth (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/news).
With the portrayal of super-thin models in the media, most people fail to realize unhealthy dieting in people of all ages and sexes. Being aware and helping could save lives. The most important thing we all need to know is that almost all people with eating disorders do not appear drastic in their body weight and, in fact, all people with eating disorders can die at any time and at any weight. Remember, anorexia has no mercy.