Monday, January 10, 2011

Eating Disorders: The TRUTH

I haven't set any boundaries to this blog - nor have I ruled out anything in particular in what I write about.  Although this intends to be a mainly beauty & fashion related blog, I do want to touch on topics I feel strongly about from time to time. 

Eating disorders is one of them.

If you watched my recent video (see below), you will know I launched into a fit of rage over a young man named Kenneth Tong, who has a Twitter account (and I believe a Facebook page, and soon-to-launch website) endorsing "managed" anorexia.  I was alerted to this man from a Twitter follower of mine, who indicated that I should sign a "Twitition" (get it? Like a petition, only for Twitter) to kick this man off Twitter.  His view is that women who are not a size zero, ARE a zero.  And he encourages women to skip meals in order to achieve this.

If shock and appall were his goals, then boy did he ever meet them.

I know many people who have had eating disorders (past and present) and it is a touchy subject for me.  So, late at night I posted the video encouraging viewers to sign the Twitition and essentially muzzle this man.

However, at much thought, I realized that this isn't the most efficient way to tackle the issue at all.  I strongly believe in everyone's right to free speech, which is well-summarized in the following quote by Evelyn Beatrice Hall (or Voltaire... we aren't sure):

"I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it"

This Kenneth boy (man... not quite mature enough for that title sweetie) has every right to express what he believes is right.  It is our right and our duty to not muffle his words but to demonstrate why he is wrong to as many people as we can.  Knowledge is power my friends, the Truth is an incredibly valuable tool.

So I am here to do my best to briefly explain what an eating disorder is, why it cannot be "managed" and what we can do to prevent it.  I'll also link my sources at the bottom if you want to do more reading on the topic. 

Please take the time to read this, even if you don't know anyone in your life with an eating disorder.  You may be surprised how this information might help you in the future.

Eating Disorders

Defined by Wikipedia as "a group of conditions characterized by abnormal eating habits that may involve either insufficient or excessive food intake to the detriment of an individual's physical and emotional health".  The most common forms are:

Anorexia (an eating disorder characterized by refusal to maintain a healthy body weight and an obsessive fear of gaining weight, often coupled with a distorted self image)

Bulemia (characterized by restraining of food intake for a period of time followed by an over intake or binging period that results in feelings of guilt and low self-esteem)

Binge Eating (Not commonly thought of as an eating disorder, but yet the most common eating disorder in the United States)

I'm not purporting to be an expert on eating disorders, but I will provide some statistics, sources of great information and advice from my personal experience with them.  I hope that these will help arm you with the tools you need to correct individuals like Kenneth, and also guide those in your life that may be suffering from an eating disorder.

The Facts

37% of girls in grade nine and 40% in grade ten perceived themselves as too fat. Even among students of normal-weight (based on BMI), 19% believed that they were too fat, and 12% of students reported attempting to lose weight.
Boyce, W. F., King, M. A. & Roche, J. (2008). Healthy Living and Healthy Weight. In Healthy Settings for Young People in Canada. Retrieved from http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/dca-dea/yjc/pdf/youth-jeunes-eng.pdf.

According to a 2002 survey, 28% of girls in grade nine and 29% in grade ten engaged in weight-loss behaviours.
Boyce, W. F. (2004). Young people in Canada: their health and well-being. Ottawa, Ontario: Health Canada

In a study of 14 – 15 year old adolescents, girls who engaged in strict dieting practices:
-Were 18 times more likely to develop an ED within six months than non-dieters
-Had almost a 20% chance of developing an ED within one year

Girls who dieted moderately were five times more likely to develop an ED within 6 months than non-dieters.
Patton, G. C., Selzer, R., Coffey, C., Carlin, J. B. & Wolfe, R. (1999). Onset of adolescent eating disorders: population based cohort study over 3 years. British Medical Journal, 318, 765-768.

The DANGERS of Eating Disorders

Malnutrition --> Resulting in a deficiency of energy, protein and micronutrients (e.g. vitamin A, iodine and iron) either singularly or in combination. It can cause severe health risks including (but not limited to) respiratory infections, kidney failure, blindness, heart attack and death.

Lanugo - (soft downy hair on face, back and arms). This is caused due to a protective mechanism built-in to the body to help keep a person warm during periods of starvation and malnutrition, and the hormonal imbalances that result.
Edema - swelling of the soft tissues as a result of excess water accumulation. It is most common in the legs and feet of Compulsive Overeaters and in the abdominal area of Anorexics and/or Bulimics (can be caused by Laxative and Diuretic use).

Muscle Atrophy - wasting away of muscle and decrease in muscle mass due to the body feeding off of itself.

Impaired Neuromuscular Function - due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies (specifically potassium), and malnutrition.
Paralysis - extreme weakness of muscles or not being able to move at all -- Caused by low levels of potassium, and/or the degeneration of nerve cells, in the spinal cord or in the brain, which have been deprived of essential nutrients. Left untreated, periods of paralysis may happen more frequently and more severely, lead to permanent muscle weakness, and even result in death.

Tearing of Esophagus - caused by self-induced vomiting (which can lead to acid reflux and esophageal cancer)

Gastric Rupture - spontaneous stomach erosion, perforation or rupture.

Gastrointestinal Bleeding - bleeding into the digestive tract.

...And that's not even half of the dangers associated with all eating disorders.  A full list of health risks and resources can be found here

Excellent Resources

http://www.nedic.ca/knowthefacts/treatmentcare.shtml - a super resource with a huge list of articles to help not only those suffering from eating disorders, but also their family and friends

http://www.something-fishy.org/ - my all-time favourite website.  Full of helpful resources, treatment finders, people you can talk to, recovery stories, information for friends & family and SO much more

http://www.nedic.ca/knowthefacts/foodweight.shtml#what - How to do a rough self-diagnosis to see if you may be suffering from an eating disorder

My Advice

I have known a few people in my life that have had eating disorders; rarely are they ever about the food.  Typically eating disorders stem from a need to have control in their lives, especially when things seem to be out of control.  Controlling food becomes a coping mechanism in order to retain order in their life.  Remember, you are NEVER in control with an eating disorder.  It is an illness, a disease that infects the mind of those affected and it will not STOP until you recognize its existance and make a move to recover.

Recovery is never easy; it won't go away in a matter of days, or even years.  It takes a strong, determined individual to battle that terrible disease, but it CAN be done.  You CAN beat this, but don't try and go at it alone.  I think there is a time for independence and also a time to rely on others to help. We as humans need to work with others as a species... it helps us to grow and develop humanity as a whole! I think that is one of those times. It's okay to ask others for help - that's something I've really learned over the past few years - sometimes you just can't do it alone. There are experts in this field that can help you much more than I ever could. I would ask your doctor for their recommendation.. or go to a eating disorder recovery site like http://www.something-fishy.org and ask them to recommend a great therapist in your area. It may feel awkward at first but being 100% honest and really giving into the treatment will REALLY help you in your recovery.

Here are a few tips that I can give related to eating disorders:
1. No one is perfect. And no one is expected to be perfect. We can't expect us to eat healthy foods all the time (I certainly don't!). If we tell ourselves to be perfect - we're of course going to crave the foods we deem as "off limits"! Better to allow yourself a few things you LOVE a few times a week instead
2. Try eating at a table instead of in front of a TV or computer. That helps you to listen to your body's natural mechanisms that will tell you when you're full.  However, if you've been dealing with an eating disorder for a while now, that feeling of hunger and satiation may be hard to feel.  Therefore, I recommend eating a table completely blindfolded.  Yup, blindfolded.  Eat slowly, taste the food and the nutrients and take deep breaths to calm that anxiety typically associated with eating disorders.  Those with anorexia will probably feel that feeling of fullness earlier than those with buliemia or binge eating issues, but its important to listen to your BODY in this exercise, NOT your mind. 

3. Try yoga - it really helps relieve some of the stress associated with eating disorders.
I hope this helps you in gaining a better understanding of what an eating disorder entails, and what you can do to recover or help loved ones on their path to recovery.

God bless you all.


Terri said...

Hey Rachel, I've gone through some of this boy's tweets and can't help but be completely shocked at what he says. I can't believe he actually feels it is right to starve yourself to be thin! and I also cannot believe some of the people he is classing as 'fat' because they are not fat at all! For example, Holly Willoughby, she's a TV presenter here in the UK and has an AMAZING figure. I can't believe the cheek of this person, it angers me to think he is actually encouraging girls to be a size zero.

Terri xoxo

Antoinette said...

Fantastic video Rachel.
I love how passionate you are about this topic. We need more role models out there like you! I am absolutely loving reading your blog so keep up the great work.



Anonymous said...

Hey, I love all the stuff you write on here. I first watched your video this month actually about high school. I'm in grade 9 right now actually and I just wanted to say what you said helps alot and is very true. I've been so stressed out lately i've already made myself sick, now my back is killing me from my back pack full of books. Enough of my yammering. GREAT WORK! THANKS! BYE!

Sophiecherry said...

You're one of the first who admit that Boulimia is as hard as anorexia !
People think this is a question of will. That bulimics are, lazy and that it's not such a bad disease because boulimics are not as thin as anorexic people. So stupid !
So I really like you're post. Keep going, I love your blog !

(And sorry for my poor english, but I'm not english ^^)

Anonymous said...

It's Voltaire - spoken during the French Revolution

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything that you say here, but I thought you might like to read this: http://swns.com/kenneth-tong-anorexic-hoax-celebrity-twitter-users-slam-big-brother-contestant-120842.html

Veronica said...

Loved that you're talking about this. Keep speaking your mind.

Gooseberryfool said...

Thank you so much for acknowledging that binge eating is an eating disorder too. I've been struggling with it for about 6 months now, and it's just as much of an addiction as anorexia or bulimia. Your videos really inspire me to eat healthier and exercise. Thank you so much!

Anonymous said...

Hee Rachel thank you so much! i reesently discoverd dat two of my best frieds have anorexia it is so onfair becouse the are truly the best friends you could have! I realy didn't know what to do. but now i do.
you realy remind me of an other friend of mine I'm going to ask her for help en we'll take it from there.

ones again thanks!!!

Anonymous said...

Great post.. but just a side note, the free speech quote was Voltaire's.

Anonymous said...

you should do more videos on this

Anonymous said...

Hey :) this is a topic dear to my heart (which I also blog about on my blog) and I think it's awesome how you stand up against anorexia-promotion! Thank you :) Love from Leanne (Holland)

moeri said...

I think, there are also many girls, not to forget boys, who simply want to disappear because of family problems. At least that is what I experienced in my class at school. Then there is a kind of vicious circle, because the illness of the child keeps the family together as long as they are worried. That makes it even harder for the ill child/teenager to recover because s/he is afraid that the family will split up as soon as the recovery is done. It's really really sad and the only thing that can help is that the ill person realizes that s/he needs help, just as you wrote. You cannot force anyone to recover if that person does not want it.

I wish you all the best and thank you for talking about that important topic! Miriam from Germany

Anonymous said...

I've been strugling with anorexia for the past years of my life. I developed t when I was only 10. No 10 year old should feel like they need to loose weight. I was severly bullied throught out lmy life and still struggle to this day and im 15 now. Thnka you so much I'm glad that theres a person out there who actually cares about girls with eating disorders. I have a feeling that you went through some of this stuff, and you really inspired me because you had the courage to stand up against this man and really make a pont out. Love you<3 i love your videos <3

Dallas said...

Great info thanks for posting. Do you need info on outpatient eating disorder treatment? then you should really check these guys out they really take care of their patients.

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