On posters, on television and in advertising or in the fitness studio: every day we encounter images of supposedly perfectly trained, pretty and well-formed bodies that correspond to the apparent beauty ideal of our time. Especially in fashion and advertising, the supposed ideal of beauty can be measured in waist and hip circumference, weight and dress size. These conditions create uncertainties for some people regarding their own appearance and weight and can lead to severe mental illnesses, such as eating disorders. The causes are manifold. Often there are personal problems behind an eating disorder, which are not clarified, so that the affected persons develop disturbances of their eating behaviour. These can be either anorexia, bulimia or cravings.
Symptoms and signs of an incipient eating disorder
People who develop eating disorders – mostly women/girls are affected, but there are also men/boys with eating disorders – constantly feel too fat, pay extreme attention to their diet and usually eat only very small amounts of low-calorie food. But there is also the exact opposite: 'binge eating', in which those affected are often too fat. Signs of such an eating disorder may include:
- Constant counting of calories.
- Increased eating of light products.
- Eating a lot at times, eating very little at times and consequently strong weight fluctuations.
- Constant fear of gaining weight.
- Physical symptoms such as mild freezing, fatigue, constipation, lack of menstruation.
- For bulimia: swallow large amounts of food in a short time, at least twice a week with subsequent vomiting, laxatives, excessive exercise or dieting.
- Binge eating: Uncontrolled swallowing of large amounts of food in a short period of time, but unlike bulimia no vomiting afterwards. This can lead to weight gain and overweight.
Measures against eating disorders
In order to prevent an eating disorder or to treat an existing eating disorder, there are a number of measures that help those affected. Here are a few tips:
- Avoid dieting. They usually only lead to a short-term effect and do not bring any lasting improvement. If the desired result is not achieved, the diet will be continued and the affected persons will get into a vicious circle. Therefore diets rather avoid and the nutrition completely on a balanced and health-conscious way of life change.
- Hunger correctly interpret: Food, if hunger is present, and stop, if it is past.
- Do not forbid food. The measure is crucial. Sweets and fast food should be eaten very little, fruit and vegetables, on the other hand, can be eaten a lot.
- Enjoy food: Cooking together with family or close friends, because this shows how much fun eating can be.
- Stress as a cause of eating disorders: Causes of stress try to avoid, purposeful relaxation exercises make, sport drive.
- Talk to close friends and family members.
- Sufficient sleep.
Counselling and therapy options
Eating disorders are a serious disease that should be treated professionally. Various facilities are available for this purpose; the general practitioner can be the first point of contact. Psychologists can also help to treat the eating disorder. In the Passau area, Ananke has specialised in the treatment of eating disorders.
As with Studicare, help and advice for those affected is available on the internet via online training courses.
'The Secret Addiction: Eating Disorder.' Published by the Federal Centre for Health Education (BzgA). Text: Monika Cremer, as of : July 2008 and current information on the website. As well as 'eating disorders. Suchtmedizinische Reihe Volume 3, publ. by Deutsche Hauptstelle für Suchtfragen e.V., 3rd edition 2015.