Anorexia nervosa is a relentless pursuit of excessive thinness that interferes with the fulfillment of responsibilities to the self and to others because it produces an intense and irrational fear of becoming fat, an obsession with food and weight control, and a life threatening weight loss. Eventually, a series of starvation-induced physical and psychological changes threatens control over eating and motivates more conscientious efforts to reduce. The result is a truly vicious circle of weight loss, hunger, and fear that will become a deadly noose if the process is not acknowledged and reversed.
Usually the condition occurs during early adolescence to young adulthood, although it may strike later. Some 90 percent of sufferers are female; about 1 percent of American women are afflicted. Anorexia is dangerous, and professional help should be sought early. Prompt treatment will usually keep the condition from progressing, but some cases are very resistant to treatment and may require hospitalization. Some anorexics die from complications.
Anorexia is believed to be primarily an illness of the mind or illness of psychological origin; however, it has significant medical and physical consequences. Often it begins with a relatively normal desire to lose a few pounds. But because dieting only temporarily relieves underlying psychological problems, it soon becomes compulsive; food intake is gradually minimized until eating is almost eliminated. The victim becomes obsessed with his or her body image and frequently sees themselves as fat even though the opposite is true. Ironically, the anorexic ritualizes food preparation and consumption. He or she becomes fasc...
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Sadly, we know that dieting behavior sometimes begins as young as 6 or 7 years of age. By middle school, most girls say they've dieted at least once. So what can be done?
Emphasize "healthy" bodies. The goal should be fitness, not thinness. Praise kids for the things they do, rather than for the way they look. Don't diet yourself. Commit to lifelong healthy eating, rather than quick-fix diets. If a child insists on dieting, insist that the diet be medically supervised. Get rid of the scale. Prepare kids, especially girls, for the changes of puberty, which may be interpreted as "getting fat." Forbid teasing about appearance. Even playful teasing has powerful negative effects. Encourage an active lifestyle. This needn't involve organized athletics, but rather any movement — walking, dancing, biking — that is pleasurable enough to do every day.
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