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Eating Disorder Essay

eating disorder essay

Example #1 – Eating Disorders And Society

Eating disorders are complex illnesses that affect adolescents with increasing frequency. They rank as the third most common chronic illness in adolescent females, with an incidence of up to 5%, a rate that has increased dramatically over the past three decades.

Two major subgroups of the disorders are recognized: a restrictive form, in which food intake is severely limited (anorexia nervosa), and a bulimic form, in which binge eating episodes are followed by attempts to minimize the effects of overeating via vomiting, catharsis, exercise or fasting (bulimia nervosa).

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These eating disorders are complex illnesses, which is 90% of the cases affect young women in their teen years and early 20?s. This has become a serious issue in our society, which has been brought on by society itself. In this paper, I will examine the effects of these eating disorders, and the role that society has played, and continues to play in perpetuating their existence while making inadequate attempts to slow down its progress.

Anorexia Nervosa is a state of starvation and emaciation, which can be accomplished by severe dieting or by purging. People with anorexia nervosa become emaciated to the point of actual starvation, losing at least 15% to as much as 60% of normal body weight for age and height.

Patients normally reduce weight by severely restricting their diets. Vomiting and abuse of laxatives, diuretics, or exercise may also be part of this misplaced attempt to control weight. Anorexia nervosa occurs in ?% to 1% of girls aged 13 to 17, peaking at age 15. If not treated, anorexia can lead to serious physical problems such as malnutrition, damage to the heart and kidneys, and even death.

Bulimia nervosa, which is more common than anorexia, describes a cycle of bingeing and purging. A person with bulimia nervosa eats large amounts of high-calorie food in a short period of time, then uses vomiting and/or laxatives to purge the food before it can be absorbed by the body. Bingeing and purging are recurring events that typically alternate with extreme dieting. Weight usually stays within a fairly normal range, though there may be large fluctuations.

The eating binges average about 1,000 calories but can be as high as 20,000 calories or as low as 100. Patients diagnosed with bulimia average about 14 episodes per week. Dentists may be the first to suspect bulimia because stomach acid from frequent, induced vomiting may damage tooth enamel and gums. Other health problems may include dehydration, the depletion of important minerals, and damage to vital organs. Bulimia nervosa is more common than anorexia, increasing at a greater rate over the past five years.

One study of high school students reported that 2.7% of girls and 1.4% of boys engaged in bulimic behavior. College-age students are at even higher risks. Estimates of its presence among young women range from about 3% to 10%. Some studies report that 80% of female college students have binged at one time; young people who occasionally force vomiting after eating too much, however, are not considered bulimic, and most of the time this occasional unhealthy behavior does not continue beyond youth.

It is not surprising that eating disorders are on the increase because of the value society places on being thin. Women are given the message at a very young age that in order to be happy and successful, they must be thin. Every time you walk into a store you are surrounded by the images of emaciated models that appear on the front cover of all fashion magazines.

Thousands of teenage girls are starving themselves to attain what the fashion industry considers to be the ideal figure. The average model weighs 23% less than the average woman and since maintaining a weight that is 15% below your expected body weight fits the criteria for anorexia, medically speaking most models would be considered anorexic.

Recently, some modeling agencies have begun to put some emphasis on the larger “queen” size look in its new fashions. These, however, are still small in number and have yet to carry the impact necessary to change the perception of the ideal image. Teenagers need to realize that society’s ideal body image is not achievable. Striving to attain the unattainable will just end up increasing their feelings of inadequacy.

Television also plays a big part in presenting a picture that to be accepted and fit in means to be thin. A young audience will watch such shows as Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place, and Baywatch, and believe that they need to look as thin as the actresses on these shows do. Whether it is a daytime soap opera or primetime drama, television portrays the handsome, beautiful, slim, and shapely as those who achieve success and tranquillity.

Television consistently airs diet and exercise commercials depicting “before” pictures of an unhappy and unattractive person, with the “after” picture of a thin, happy, and self-assured image. Richard Simmons strikes at every emotion of this belief with his telling pictures, poignant interviews, and exuberant exercise programs. In response to television, the demand by consumers for low calorie and reduced fat goods is booming and sales on these products are very substantial. Society is brainwashing young people into believing that being thin is important and necessary.

The diet and fashion industries are not totally responsible for society’s obsession with thinness. We are the ones keeping them in business. Do we buy into the idea that we can attain the “ideal” body image? We allow ourselves to believe the lies being thrown at us constantly.

We buy their magazines, watch the television shows and movies, purchase the shapely dolls, diet books, and exercise products, and much more, propelling the concept of “thin is beautiful”. We are throwing away our hard-earned money trying to live up to the standards that society has set for us. Be prepared to spend lots of money on your quest for the perfect body and be prepared to never find it, because there isn’t one.

Schools should take an active role in preventing eating disorders by educating the students on the dangers of eating disorders and helping to teach them that in order to prosper in life, their weight does not matter. Young people need to be encouraged and accepted and taught that you do not have to be thin to succeed in the career of your choice. Teachers and school counselors should also be made aware of the signs to look for. If eating disorders are caught early, and the person is willing to accept the help that is available to them, the chances of recovery are greater.

The family environment can also play a big role in a teenager developing an eating disorder. If they are in a family where emotional, physical, or sexual abuse is taking place, or they are a weight-conscious family, the teen may develop an eating disorder to gain a sense of control. This control is used to block out painful feelings and emotions, or as a way to punish themselves, especially if they assume responsibility for the abuse. Being a teenager is not easy and there are many pressures that they face daily.

Eating disorders can be very much about control, so if they feel like everything around them is out of control, they may develop one to gain a sense of control. It is important for families to raise the teenager to be proud of who they are and not place any importance on their appearance. We need to remind them that people come in all shapes and sizes, and we need to teach them to accept everyone for who they are. Parents need to also teach their children the value of healthy eating and not send the message that being thin is important. Many children, under the age of 10, are becoming obsessed with dieting and their bodies.

They are afraid of becoming fat. They don’t just learn this from the media; they also learn this from their parents. If their mothers are constantly dieting and expressing their desire to be thin, these young children will start to believe they also need to be thin. We need to encourage and support our children, especially teenagers. They need to feel good about themselves and their accomplishments, they need your approval and they need to know that you are proud of them. If a child is raised to love and accept who they are and what they look like, they will be less likely to strive to fit into society?s unattainable standards.

Assure them that they can come to you with problems and that you will listen to them and not judge them or put them down. They should be given the motivation to do their best but not to be perfect. They need to be encouraged to be themselves and to be proud of who they are so that they will not give in to the pressures from their peers to try and fit in. If they are happy with themselves and love who they are, they will be less likely to try and attain society’s unattainable “ideal” body image.

It’s unfortunate, but in today’s society, people have forgotten that it’s what’s inside a person that counts, not what’s on the outside. We need to start loving and accepting each other for who we are not what we look like. Next time you decide that you are going to start another diet because you feel you are too fat, stop; sign up for a self-esteem class instead.

That would be money well spent. If we learn to love and accept ourselves, we will also begin to love our bodies, no matter what size we are. This is what we need to teach our children, to be proud of whom they are.


Example #2

During any given day, American society is inundated by our perception of the ideal woman. The ideal of a slim and slender body bombards young women on television, in magazines, and even while walking across the campus of their University. It is this idea that is prevalent in our society that drives women and some men to starve and deprive their bodies of the necessary nutrients in order to achieve what appears to be most desirable.

The motives behind each individual can vary, but most women do this to themselves because of their fear of fatness. These women suffer from low self-esteem and a distorted body image. (Crystal, 2000) However, these terms are how we define an eating disorder in Western society. There is no guarantee that these traits are universal for all cultures. Since one’s culture defines who they are and what they believe in, the culture one lives in is one of the etiological factors leading to the development of eating disorders.

As expected, rates of disorders appear to vary among different cultures and change as cultures evolve. For this reason, it is important to examine each culture individually and according to that culture s values and norms in order to accurately evaluate the psychopathologies. By looking at pathologies with a culturally universal perspective we risk entering a slippery slope to a worldwide misdiagnosis in which we are depriving some societies of the necessary therapy for the actual pathology at hand.

Historically, eating disorders have been a pathology concentrated within the white middle to upper-class females in Western societies. (Bruch, 1966) However, it is wrong to assume that eating disorders are isolated to Western civilizations since they receive the majority of attention and research. There have been many studies that show the existence of eating disorders in non-Western cultures.

Due to each culture s distinct history, beliefs, and values, it is obvious that every culture will not share the same norms and values. For this reason, the manner in which disorders are precipitated in individual cultures is bound to vary.

For instance, in western society, the precipitators of anorexia nervosa have been found to be puberty and traumatic life stressors such as a move or family stress. (Crystal, 2000) These girls are often obedient, conscientious, and characterized as anxious, guilty, and working to live up to the demands of others. (Berenstein et al., 1991) Since Western society is individualistic, these characteristics are stressed. It is not certain that in other, non-individualistic societies that these are the qualities that cause eating disorders. By defining these characteristics as the cross-cultural that factors influence the onset of eating disorders, we are excluding cultures in which these qualities may not be prevalent, therefore they may not act as precipitating factors.

In Western culture, the characteristics defined above are what trigger a young woman s fear of fatness, which is the underlying disposition behind an eating disorder. It is this intense and persistent fear of gaining weight that an anorexic is driven to continue dieting regardless of dramatic weight loss. (Worsnop, 1992) However, the fear of fatness does not hold true for every culture across the globe.

A study in Hong Kong and India showed that anorexic individuals are not motivated by a fear of fatness and their distorted body image but rather by the desire to fast for religious purposes. During fasting, they are blinded from the subsequent health problems from following their religion. (Castillo, 1997) It is evident that the disease is present in instances, but the underlying goals differ across cultures.

In another instance, researchers sampled Australian and Hong Kong-born college students and looked at their eating attitudes. (Lake, 2000) The researchers found no difference in eating attitudes, but they did find a difference in body shape perceptions between the Australian-born and Hong-Kong-born individuals. Hong-Kong-born women had little body dissatisfaction when compared with Australian-born women.

The traditional Chinese women showed more influence by Western values than the acculturated group. Their eating attitudes and body image perception was most similar to Australian-born women, which the authors felt supported the idea of the two cultures clashing then converging to one ideal. (Lake, 2000) The traditional group was more influenced by Western values than the acculturated group.

A possible explanation for this is that traditional Chinese women feel in conflict with their family values when trying to emulate Western independence. Since the Australian and Hong Kong groups showed similar attitudes toward eating, but different body image perceptions, the authors thought that body image might not be a strong factor contributing to eating disorders in Hong-Kong-born women. (Lake, 2000) Once again, the motives behind the eating disorder vary cross-culturally and are not clear. It is impossible to universally define a disorder when the motives setting off the pathology diverge.

When you classify a disorder according to one culture, you may be overlooking key aspects such as language and emotional expression within that culture. For instance, a study was done by Waller (1999) compared the relationship of eating problems to mood, since emotional eating is a factor sometimes associated with eating disorders in Western society.

It is difficult to define this as a factor associated cross-culturally with eating disorders because rules for emotional expression vary in non-Western cultures. In this study, Waller compared emotional eating and bulimic attitudes among women in Japan and the United Kingdom (Waller, 1999). It is not well known whether or not emotional eating exists among Japanese women or if it is associated with eating disorders because of the differences in rules of emotional expression between Western and non-Western cultures.

In Japanese culture, women are found to be reluctant to express emotion and are poor at recognizing negative emotions through faces and body movements. (Waller, 1999) Alternatively, this may not be the case when examining the United Kingdom sample. When we examine one culture using the constructs of another, you are attributing aspects of the culture that are foreign to it. For this reason, it is necessary to define disorders within a culture according to its own values and traditions.

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When we try to define a disorder universally, there is the possibility of finding cultures that do not fit the criteria. If there are exceptions to the rule, then the definition we are using should not be held true cross-culturally. Frederick and Grow (1996) did a study which looks at how autonomy is related to self-esteem and the development of eating disorders.

They define autonomy as freedom of being in control. The study found that “underlying deficits in autonomy were associated with reduced self-esteem, which, in turn, was related to eating disordered attitudes and behaviors” (Frederick &Grow, 1996). This says that cultures in which female social roles are restricted have lower rates of eating disorders. This is found to be true in cultures such as Muslim societies, where men dictate the behavior of women and the prevalence of eating disorders is close to none. (Bemporad, 1997)

However, this does not hold true for American society itself. It has been found that eating disorders are prevalent in upper-class women. (Bruch, 1966) It is often in upper-class society that men have traditionally held a large amount of control over their wives because it is the men who are earning the income. Many of these women go to drastic measures to control their weight because they feel as though it is the only aspect of their lives they have control over. When we try to define a disorder universally then we clump all cultures into one category resulting in an incorrect description of the disorder for some cultures.

Another problem with defining a disorder cross-culturally is that not every culture adheres to the same ideologies. Their separate identities may or may not facilitate the occurrence of a disorder. In many non-Western societies, plumpness is considered attractive and desirable and may be associated with prosperity, fertility, success, and economic security. (Nassar, 1988) Obese bodies are desired in these countries because fat deposits are beneficial for survival when food is limited.

A thin, lanky body is considered malnourished and unhealthy. (Nassar, 1988) In such cultures, eating disorders are found less commonly than in Western nations. It is due to the cultural identity in the specific culture that determines whether the development of an eating disorder will occur.

However, if we look at the same culture with Westernized constructs and study individual s insecurities and self-esteem, it is possible, not acknowledging the cultural identity, to see someone who is poor and cannot afford food as anorexic. Where, in fact, these feelings and emotions can be a result of some separate, unrelated aspects of their life. It is here that we see the problem with ignoring the cultural aspect of pathologies and adopting a universal method for diagnosis.

It is obvious that there are drastic differences between cultural values and ideas. The values that we have in American culture are another factor that may affect other cultures as a precipitator for eating disorders. The ideals of self-control and success are values of American society; being unable to live up to the ideal image causes feelings of failure and self-hate (Berenstein et al., 1991).

For individuals from non-Western cultures that do not share these ideals, but have recently moved to western culture, this may add extra pressure and stress on their lives. These people may strive to integrate themselves into the lifestyle and therefore may be more likely to develop an eating disorder because the stresses affect them more severely than someone native to American life. In fact, many studies have shown that the incidence of eating disorders tends to increase in non-Western women who enter Western society.

This was evident in a study done by Nassar (1986) comparing the eating attitudes of Arab female undergraduates at London and Cairo Universities. The study showed that significantly more Arab females in London scored positively with eating disturbances. The author attributed the finding to a difference in the student’s levels of Westernization.

Nassar (1986) noted the London Arab students were more similar to Europeans in their behavior and dress. It is possible that the style of clothing in London is more revealing and less conservative than the dress in their native Arab culture.

Therefore, the girls feel more self-conscious about the way they look, thus forcing them to be more concerned about their physical appearance due to the influence of Western culture. It is also suggested that London students have become more achievement-orientated and more competitive. (Nassar, 1986) Once again, competitiveness is an attribute commonly linked to western culture, so these girls are adopting that ideology into their lifestyle. It is evident that the Arab students in London have assimilated themselves into western culture and adapted their ideas.

This adaptation has caused them to be more prone to eating disorders than the Arab group in Cairo. It is the western ideals that precipitate the disorder. By defining the disorder cross-culturally, we ignore alternative aspects that may facilitate the occurrence of an eating disorder such as the stress of fitting in when moving to western culture.

Disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia have been historically associated with Western society. Eating disorders themselves are becoming more prevalent worldwide, appearing in numerous cultures as Western values are becoming widespread. However, even though we have distinct methods of diagnosing eating disorders within western cultures, these methods cannot be universally extended to all cultures. Each culture has its own ideologies and beliefs that they live by.

It is these ideologies that may influence the onset of a disorder differently than in western culture. If we use a universal description and definition of eating disorders we may be ignoring the individual constructs within a culture that cause the disorder to develop.

Additionally, by ignoring cultures’ individuality and imposing western treatment we will not be caring for the disorder at hand correctly, thereupon denying the person s opportunity for rehabilitation. Since we are all influenced and affected by the environment we grow up in, it is apparent that examining a disorder according to the beliefs and ideas of the culture it is emerging within is of utmost importance.


Example #3 – Eating Disorders Among Athletes

Susan is a long-distance runner who was at the top of her sport in high school and was even given a scholarship to college. When she got to college she realized that the competition was much steeper and she was no longer the best. Susan did not know how to handle this, she was used to being at the top. She started working out more often and even cut back on what she was eating.

She was sure that this would improve her athletic ability. She thought she was doing nothing wrong, her coach had said her speed was increasing so she continued with her new routine. Susan proceeded to do this for a while, increasing her running and decreasing her eating. Pretty soon she was not eating at all and running three times a day for extreme amounts of time.

Over time her athletic ability began to diminish. She was getting slower and when they lifted weights she was becoming weaker instead of stronger. Some of her teammates had noticed how thin she was and began to talk, they knew she had an eating disorder. When they confronted her, she denied it and made excuses for the way she was looking. She then tried to hide what she was doing by not eating with the team and wearing baggy clothes. This went on for a long time until everything came crashing down. Susan was at a big race and feeling very weak, but she raced anyway.

While running up a hill she passed out and landed on her hip fracturing it. When she awoke she was in the hospital with a cast. The doctor had told her that she had passed out from dehydration and malnutrition; because she had not been eating her bones were not receiving calcium. The result of this was the fractured hip, this was because her bones were in the same state as an eighty-year-old woman, and Susan was only twenty-one.

Eating disorders are becoming increasingly common among athletes. Athletic participation may hide the signs of an eating disorder because of the expectations that exist within athletics (Lemberg/Cohn 78). Studies have shown that athletes, as a group, appear to be more at risk for eating disorders that the rest of the population. There are many factors that contribute to this theory.

One is thought to be because so much emphasis is put on the body. Individuals involved in sports such as distance running, ballet, gymnastics, wrestling, figure skating, and bodybuilding, which require a lean body mass for best performance, are at a higher risk for developing an eating disorder than an athlete in another sport. In addition to the leanness factor, there are other aspects of a sport that can contribute to an eating disorder.

The mere competitiveness of the sport, its emphasis on appearance, the amount of stress put on the body, and emphasis on individual instead of team success (31-32). As discussed et al. (1992), an examination of the known risk factors for eating disorders suggests that athletes might be at an increased risk since they often train in an environment where the emphasis is placed on leanness. They exist in a highly competitive culture in which the manipulation and control of body weight/fat are thought to be essential for both performance and appearance (Burke/Deakin 289). Female gymnasts and distance runners are shown to have the least amount of body fat of all women athletes.

This creates a great deal of pressure to remain thin. Gymnasts and runners present the highest rate for developing an eating disorder, twenty to twenty-five percent go on to become bulimic (Yates 66). It is hard to say whether athletes engage in eating disorders or eating disorders engage in athletes. Naturally, when someone puts so much pressure on his or her body weight, the individual becomes very compulsive about it.

Most people would assume that only female athletes suffer from eating disorders. Although studies have shown that female athletes are more prone to eating disorders than males, there are still some males that suffer from disorders. Only five to ten percent of males experience eating disorders and this does not include the number of males who suffer from sub-clinical eating disorders.

Females and males normally have different reasons behind their eating disorder, but both tend to have the same personality traits. They are usually characterized by high self-expectations, perfectionism, persistence, and strenuous exercise (Lemberg/Cohn 32). Males usually become overly active instead of developing a classic case eating disorder. They tend to become obsessed with bodyweight for better physical performance instead of body image as in females (Yates 105).

It is seen more in sports such as bodybuilding or weightlifting that emphasize appearance and individual performance. Women tend to decrease their food intake and/or increase exercise that may lead to a state of physical deprivation. The deprivation then begins to contribute substantially to the clinical picture. Females tend to become far more introverted, depressed, and obsessional (141).

Only a portion of athletes studied go on to develop a full-blown eating disorder. Athletes with disturbed eating and exercising practices far outnumber those who meet the strict diagnostic criteria for eating disorders. As pointed out in Clinical Sports Nutrition, the use of definitions of eating disorders should be challenged, both in the detection and treatment of individual athletes with problems as well as in the interpretation of studies of the prevalence of eating disorders in athletic groups.

Dealing with the clinical entities of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa fails to recognize a great many sub-clinical problems such as preoccupation with food, obsessive thinking about weight and disturbed body image. It is particularly at the sub-clinical level that the distinction between disordered eating and the jealous pursuit of diet and training to optimize sports performance becomes blurred (Burke/Deakin 288).

There are several unusual diets that athletes use to lose weight. Some of which include fruits only, herbal supplements, or totally cutting out all fats and/or meats. Then there are the more popular methods of anorexia and bulimia such as laxatives and diet pills. There is also always the over-exercising factor to consider. Large sweat loss prose a risk to an athlete’s health by inducing severe dehydration, impaired blood circulation and heat transfer, leading to heat exhaustion and causing a person to collapse (Brouns 4).

Many athletes do not eat enough food to provide enough energy, or kilojoules, to accommodate their activity level. This is a major problem that reduces resting metabolic rate, which leads to unhealthy muscle loss. Low kilojoules diets slow down weight loss and are followed by a more rapid weight gain in the long run (Burke/Deakin 286-287). What is good or bad for you has a lot to do with the other foods a person eats. No matter how good a food is for the body it is not healthy to consume too much of it, just as it is not healthy to totally cut something out of a diet.

Each nutrient is essential for one thing or another and it is impossible to think that a person can do well athletically if any nutrients are totally eliminated from his or her diet. Some athletes will totally avoid eating animal products thinking it will give them more energy and help lose body fat, but they are wrong. Some fat, called essential fat, is required for the brain, nerves, bone marrow, heart tissue, and cell walls. Females have approximately twelve to fifteen percent of total body weight as essential fat.

This fat is used for reproductive organs and is associated with breast tissue (Benardot 101). Inadequate protein intake induces protein loss, especially of muscle, and eventually a negative nitrogen balance and reduced performance (Brouns 15). Anorexia Athletica, a form of anorexia nervosa, including caloric restrictions, fear of weight gain excessive exercise, sometimes even the use of laxatives, and diuretics or self-induced vomiting is common among some athletes with a disorder (Lemberg/Cohn 80).

Many of these problems are a result of the athletes not being educated enough in nutrition. It is not just the athlete’s fault. The coaches and parents do not know enough about the athlete either. Studies have shown that seventy-nine percent of the athletes surveyed chose their coach as an important source of nutrition information. This is not good because another study reported that coaches were not, as a group, one of the most educated people surveyed (Leaning 23).

Those who are more knowledgeable in nutrition may be better able to evaluate fads and can better distinguish between fact and misinformation (25). Fitness oriented people should be informed by professional organizations about the factors affecting food selection, food intake, nutrition utilization, and the needs of active people (Brouns 8). Restricting diets lead to a lot of physical problems.

The body has different components each with its own purpose and density. The energy needed for a sedentary adult is significantly lower than what is needed for a person engaged in intense physical activity. For this reason, athletes must increase their food consumption instead of decreasing it (10).

The results of eating disorders could include numerous consequences. Loss of muscle mass and functions, inadequate glycogen stores, depression, impaired tolerance to cold, and endocrine abnormalities are just some. Restricting diets can also affect athletic performance including decreasing endurance, strength, reaction time, and speed (Lemberg/Cohn 83). Low calcium intake can stimulate osteoclast recruitment and increase bone absorption. Malnutrition may also cause a decrease in bone turnover and result in bone loss (Brouns 79). Females run the risk of developing reproductive problems.

The list includes irregular periods but also includes more serious things such as oligomenorrhea and amenorrhea. Low estrogen production increases a girl s risk for osteoporosis, which leads to fracture risk. In order to maintain a normal menstrual cycle, a woman needs seventeen to twenty-two percent body fat (Benardot 101). Binging and purging can lead to tooth decay because of the acids in the stomach constantly coming up. A dentist is often the first person to discover that a person is bulimic for that very reason.

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There are many directions a person can take to help someone suffering from an eating disorder. The best way is to say something before it becomes serious. That way the person will be aware that you are watching them. There are numerous signs of anorexia to look for including, significant weight loss, fear of gaining weight, recurrent stress fractures, in females irregular periods, growth of fine hair on the face and arms, inability to concentrate, hyperactivity, and wearing baggy clothes to hide thinness.

The signs of Bulimia are a little different, they include swollen glands and bruised fingers due to inducing vomiting, feeling a lack of control over eating habits, bloodshot eyes, disappearance after meals, ability to eat enormous amounts of food without gaining weight, and compulsive exercise and depression (Burke/Deakin 287-288).

Once someone is sure that an athlete is suffering from an eating disorder there are many steps to be followed to ensure that the person obtains the most help. The first step is to approach the athlete with the problem gently, showing concern for their behavior. Do not come out and accuse him or her of an eating disorder; it will scare the person and put them in a state of denial. Give the athlete a chance to feel comforted with someone who can help. No one is going to come right out and admit that he or she has an eating disorder; it takes time (Benardot 103).

Avoid any mention of his or her eating habits, concentrate on other life issues. Point out how tired or unhappy they have seemed lately and asked if there is anything they want to talk about. Offer the athlete a list of some professional resources that they might be interested in checking out. Do not try to solve the problem alone. It is more complex than eating and exercising. It becomes a psychological issue. Share concerns with others such as coaches, parents, teammates, and friends (Clark 6).

Most importantly, be patient. The healing process can take a long time and the person may also experience many setbacks. Some athletes may be able to do well for a while without any obvious alteration in their performance, but eventually, the injuries and lack of energy will catch up with them.

Many athletes believe that restricting their food intake to lose weight will enhance their athletic performance. Ironically, restricting food in an attempt to improve performance can actually result in serious problems and even impair athletic performance. A great deal of this pressure and preconception about weight control has much to do with the environment and athlete is surrounded by. The fierce competition an athlete goes through puts them at a greater risk than a normal person. The constant battle with food endangers

an athlete s physical and mental health and overall well-being. Unfortunately, too many coaches, parents, friends, and teammates shy away from the thought of someone who seems so happy and content could be struggling with such a stressful, self-imposed disorder.


Example #3 – Eating Disorders: Anorexia

Each year millions of people in the United States are affected by serious and sometimes life-threatening eating disorders. The vast majority are adolescents and young adult women. Approximately one percent of adolescents girls develop anorexia nervosa, a dangerous condition in which they can literally starve themselves to death. Another two to three percent develop bulimia nervosa, a destructive pattern of excessive overeating followed by vomiting or other ” purging ” behaviors to control their weight.

These eating disorders also occur in men and older women, but much less frequently. The consequences of eating disorders can be severe. For example, one in ten anorexia nervosa leads to death from starvation, cardiac arrest, or suicide. Fortunately, increasing awareness of the dangers of eating disorders, sparked by medical studies and extensive media coverage, has led many people to seek help. Nevertheless, some people with eating disorders refuse to admit that they have a problem and do not get treatment. Family and friends can help recognize the problem and encourage the person to seek treatment.

Anorexia nervosa is a disorder where people intentionally starve themselves. It usually starts around the time of puberty and involves extreme weight loss. Sometimes they must be hospitalized to prevent starvation because food and weight become obsessions. For some, the compulsiveness shows up in strange eating rituals, some even collect recipes and prepare gourmet feasts for family and friends. Loss of monthly menstrual periods is typical in women with this disorder and men with this disorder usually become impotent.

People with bulimia Nervosa consume large amounts of food and then rid their bodies of the excess calories by vomiting, abusing laxatives, or exercising obsessively. Some use a combination of all these forms of purging. Many individuals with bulimia ” binge and purge ” in secret and maintain normal or above normal body weight, they can often successfully hide their problem from others for years. As with anorexia, bulimia typically begins during adolescence.

The condition occurs most often in women but is also found in men. Many individuals with bulimia, do not seek help until they reach their thirties or forties. By then, their eating behavior is deeply ingrained and more difficult to change.

Medical complications can frequently be a result of eating disorders. Individuals with eating disorders who use drugs to stimulate vomiting may be in considerable danger, as this practice increases the risk of heart failure. In patients with anorexia, starvation can damage vital organs such as the heart and brain. To protect itself, the body shifts into ” slow gear “: monthly menstrual periods stop, breathing, pulse and, blood pressure rates drop, and thyroid function slows.

Nails and hair become brittle, the skin dries, yellows, and becomes covered with soft hair called lanugo. Excessive thirst and frequent urination may occur. Dehydration contributes to constipation, and reduced body fat leads to lowered body temperature and inability to withstand cold.

Mild anemia, swollen joints, reduced muscle mass, and lightheadedness also commonly occur in anorexia. If the disorder becomes severe, patients may lose calcium from their bones, making them brittle and prone to breakage. Scientists from the National Institute of Mental Health ( NIMH ), have also found that patients suffer from other psychiatric illnesses. They may suffer from anxiety, personality, or substance abuse disorders, and many are at a risk for suicide.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, an illness characterized by repetitive thoughts and behaviors, can also accompany anorexia. Bulimia nervosa patients- even those of normal weight-can severely damage their bodies by frequent binge eating and purging. In rare instances, binge eating causes the stomach to rupture, purging may result in heart failure due to loss of vital minerals, such as potassium. Vomiting causes other less deadly, but serious, problems.

The acid in vomit wears the outer layer of the teeth and can cause scarring on the backs of hands when fingers are pushed down the throat to induce vomiting. Further, the esophagus becomes inflamed and glands near the cheeks become swollen. As in anorexia, bulimia may lead to irregular menstrual periods and interest in sex may also diminish.

Some individuals with bulimia struggle with addictions, including abuse of drugs and alcohol, and compulsive stealing. Like individuals with anorexia, many people with bulimia suffer from clinical depression, anxiety obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other psychiatric illnesses. These problems place them at high risk for suicidal behavior. People who binge eat are usually overweight, so they are prone to medical problems, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Research, from the NIMH scientists, has shown that individuals with binge eating disorder have high rates of co-occurring psychiatric illnesses, especially depression.

Eating disorders are most successfully treated when diagnosed early. Unfortunately, even when family members confront the ill person about his or her behavior, or physicians make a diagnosis, individuals with eating disorders may deny that they have a problem. Thus, people with anorexia may not receive medical or psychological attention until they have already become dangerously thin and malnourished.

People with bulimia are often normal weight and are able to hide their illness from others for years. Eating disorders in males may be overlooked because anorexia and bulimia are relatively rare in boys and men. Consequently, getting and keeping people with these disorders into treatment can be extremely difficult.

In any case, it cannot be overemphasized how important treatment is for the people who have these disorders. The longer eating behaviors persist, the more difficult it is to overcome the disorder and its effect on the body. If an eating disorder is suspected, particularly if it involves weight loss, the first step is a complete physical examination to rule out any other illnesses.

Once an eating disorder is diagnosed, the clinician must determine whether the patient is in immediate medical danger and requires hospitalization. While most patients can be treated as outpatients, some need hospital care. Conditions warranting hospitalization include excessive and rapid weight loss, serious metabolic disturbances, clinical depression or risk of suicide, severe binge eating, and purging, or psychosis.

The complex interaction of emotional and physiological problems in eating disorders calls for a comprehensive treatment plan, involving a variety of experts and approaches. Ideally, the treatment team includes an internist, a nutritionist, an individual psychotherapist, and a psychopharmacologist. To help those with eating disorders deal with their illness and underlying emotional issues, some form of psychotherapy is usually needed. Group therapy, in which people share their experiences with others, has been especially effective for individuals with bulimia.

NIMH-supported scientists have examined the effectiveness of combining psychotherapy and medications. In a recent study of bulimia, researchers have found that both intensive group therapy and antidepressant medications, combined or alone, benefited patients. In another study of bulimia, the combined use of cognitive-behavioral therapy and antidepressant medications was most beneficial.

This combination treatment was particularly effective in preventing relapse once medications were discontinued. For patients with binge eating disorder, cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressant medications may also prove to be useful. For anorexia, preliminary evidence shows that some antidepressant medications may be effective when combined with other forms of treatment. Fluoxetine has also been useful in treating some patients with binge eating disorder and depression.

The efforts of mental health professionals need to be combined with those of other health professionals to obtain the best treatment. Physicians treat any medical complications, and nutritionists advise on diet and eating regimens. The challenge of treating eating disorders is made more difficult by the metabolic changes associated with them.

Just to maintain a stable weight, individuals with anorexia may actually have to consume more calories than someone of similar weight and age without an eating disorder. This is important because consuming calories is exactly what the person with anorexia wishes to avoid, yet must do to regain the weight necessary for recovery. In contrast, some normal-weight people with bulimia may gain excess weight if they consume the number of calories required to maintain normal weight in others of similar size and age.

Treatment can save the life of someone with an eating disorder. Friends, relatives, teachers, and physicians all play an important role in helping an ill person start with a treatment program. Encouragement, caring, and persistence, as well as information about eating disorders and their dangers, may be needed to convince the ill person to get help, stick with treatment, or try again.

Family members and friends can call local hospitals or university medical centers to find out about eating disorder clinics and clinicians experienced in treating the illnesses, for the college students, treatment programs may be available in school counseling centers.

Family and friends should read as much as possible about eating disorders, so they can help the person with the illness understand his or her problem. Many local mental health organizations and self-help groups provide free literature on eating disorders. Some of these groups also provide treatment program referrals and information on local self-help groups. Once the person gets help, he or she will continue to need lots of understanding and encouragement to stay in treatment.

NIMH continues its search for new and better treatments for eating disorders. Congress has designated the 1990’s as the ” Decade of the Brain, ” making the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of all brain and mental disorders a national research priority. This research promises to yield even more hope for patients and their families by providing a greater understanding of the causes and complexities of eating disorders.


Example #4

What do you think when you hear eating disorders? You think only girls right? wrong both males and females suffer from eating disorders. Between 10 – 20 percent of anorexia and bulimia survivors are male. But did you actually know that eight million Americans suffer from anorexia and bulimia? Of these eight million, 85 percent of them are girls between the ages of thirteen and twenty. If this really surprises you, then just listen to this. About 40 percent of nine and ten-year-old girls are trying to lose weight. All eating disorders occur for a reason and they can be prevented. Social, peer, and genetic pressures can all cause an eating disorder in anyone.

In conducting this research, eating disorders are really brought into focus. Having an eating disorder is something on one should deal with; they are emotionally and physically harmful. Overcoming an eating disorder requires a person that doesn’t quit and is determined.

Determining warning signs us quite difficult if you don t know what to expect. The number of persons who experiment with excessive dieting, unparalleled binging, eating laxatives, and self-induced vomiting far exceed the number of college students that develop eating disorders.

The first problem you have to face is deciding whether or not the person in question is a falling ( or has fallen) survivor to an eating disorder. The person who is a victim of an eating disorder must realize he or she has a problem.

The danger signs that a person might have an eating disorder are significant or extreme weight loss, regular visits to the bathroom after each meal, unusual swelling around the jaw, developing rapid mood shifts, making frequent excuses to skip meals or eating alone, and constantly discussing food, weight, and body shape continually. If you pay attention, these signs should not be hard to see. Also, it is common to see an eating disorder in athletes.

Three features of disordered eating and exercising in women athletes can cause especially dangerous situations. First, an eating disorder that excludes certain nutrients from the diet; second missing periods due to starvation and excessive exercise, third early osteoporosis, which causes broken bones.

Not only older people suffer but so do young ones. Approximately 80 percent of girls under the age on thirteen say they have already tried dieting. ( Moe p. 4) Although adolescence is the prime time for the development of an eating disorder, the teenage years are not the only time a disorder can develop, Eighteen is the average age for bulimia to begin. ( Moe p. 5) Many experts have observed that anorexia often begins when a teenager is moving into adulthood and facing bodily changes. By facing all of these changes with their body and looks, eating disorders will probably develop because a girl may not like how she looks and it may make her feel better to lose weight.

About 95 percent of the three thousand patients who have undergone treatments at the George Washington University Medical Center are females from middle and upper-class families. With an eating disorder your body doesn’t always get the nourishment it needs, so adequate nourishment allows your body to perform vital processes for survival and health; however, in anorexia and bulimia sufferers, food moves beyond the role of nourishment for the body and starts to dominate their lives. Not only females suffer from eating disorders, but also

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males suffer. 10- 20 percent of adolescent males in fact suffer also. Girls who participate in elite competitive sports where body shape and size are a factor ( ice-skating, gymnastics, crew, dance) are three times more at risk for eating disorders than any other sports. Boys who participate in similar sports or wrestling are also at increased risk. Many studies of adolescent girls have been conducted.

A study of 238 junior and senior high school girls found 16 percent had full-blown eating disorders and 33 percent showed serious symptoms, 40 percent needed counseling with the full-blown and 65 percent of those with serious symptoms believed they did not have a problem. Counseling is only one way to help a person through an eating disorder. More than five million Americans suffer from eating disorders. Eating disorders affect everyone, not just teenage females. Whether a survivor of one yourself or not, you can and should always learn more about them. ( Macalester p.1)

Well, you have heard the saying, Like mother like daughter, This saying goes hand in hand for people with eating disorders. Kids whose parents constantly diet will probably do the same. About 40 percent of nine and ten-year-old girls are trying to lose weight. ( Hittner p. 45) A lot of this comes from genetic traits that have been passed down through generations.

Genetics may because of anorexia: girls with anorexic siblings are ten to twenty times more likely than others to develop an eating disorder themselves. Those with family histories of alcoholism and/ or depression are also at risk. A news report called dieting America s Obsession. (Moe p. 25) Health and Beauty factors are big. People between the 1880s and until 1930 considered plumpness a sign of health and beauty. A lot of the causes of an eating disorder are due to psychological, biological, and even social attitudes.

Biological, social, and psychological factors are implicated in the causes of anorexia nervosa. The pressure on adolescents for more independent and increased social and sexual involvement has also been implicated in the development of anorexia nervosa.

The pressure on adolescents for more independence and increased social and sexual evolvement has also been implicated in the development of anorexia. I patient psychiatric programs for anorexia patients generally use a combination of behavioral therapy, individual psychotherapy, family education and therapy, and in some cases psychotropic medications. Clinicians have found some recent success treating these illnesses with antidepressants, which seem to mitigate the low self- esteem and anxiety commonly seen in eating disorder patients.

Teenagers who have chronic illnesses such as diabetes and asthma are most likely to be dissatisfied with their bodies and develop eating disorders. Most people with eating disorders lack confidence in themselves. An eating disorder can cause you to feel worthless or no good.

On the other hand, you may have developed an eating disorder partly as a response to feelings of worthlessness. Having an eating disorder is the way some people avoid dealing with painful thoughts. ( Moe p. 7) Concerns about body image is another reason eating disorders occur. Perfect breasts, flawless skin, gleaming hair, slim legs-one after another these fetishes accumulate until the chief mantra for American girlhood was I hate my body.

Concerns about body image are surfacing much earlier than in past generations. ( Hittner p. 86) Physical Fitness and Physical conditions play a big role in young girls. People in the nineties want to be thin and physically fit. They seem to be trying to obey the media s image: Be skinny. Weight loss attributed to anorexia may also cause harmful and potentially life-threatening physical conditions. Many people with eating disorders exercise excessively to burn off calories. Excessive combined with inadequate food intake places great strain on your heart.

In conclusion, as you can see that eating disorders are common among teenage girls and boys. An eating disorder is not only harmful to you but also emotionally harmful to the people you love. Realizing that by making choices each of us has the power to change, even if we have made the wrong choices in the past…


Example #5

Imagine a thirteen-year-old girl who weighs 60 pounds because she is starving herself. Every time she looks in the mirror, she sees herself as fat. Picture her parents watching their daughter literally disintegrating into thin air. This is the life of a family dealing with an eating disorder. Eating disorders are a major problem with the young people of today’s society. While anorexia and bulimia are sociological problems plaguing the world’s youth, there are also other eating disorders.

This “fatphobia”, or fear of being over-weight, disturbs people to the point where they are in a way, committing suicide. Eating disorders have been termed the disease of the 1980s. An eating disorder is defined as “a dangerous and intense striving to become thin (Macionis 350). Even though it has been found that “95% of people who suffer anorexia or bulimia are women, mostly from white, relatively affluent families” (Macionis 350), “the pre-occupation and obsession with food are not limited to women” (Meadow 24). Although some men also deal with eating disorders, most research has been done on women.

In 1985, 95% of women felt they were overweight, while only 25% were actually considered medically overweight (Marshall 124). By the age of thirteen, approximately 53% of females are unhappy with their bodies, and by the age of eighteen, approximately 78% are unhappy (Marshall 124). Our culture could be seen as a narcissist society. Narcissism is a preoccupation with one’s self, a concern with how one appears to others, and with living up to an image (Meadow 127). It seems that appearance is an important factor in our everyday life.

According to Michael Levine, who is 1987 said, “Our culture transmits powerful messages that, just as men can not be too rich, women can not be too thin” (Macionis 350). While all women want to look as perfect as “Barbie”, for some it just isn’t possible. For women, being slender is almost synonymous with being successful (Macionis 350). It is also thought that 40% of the adult US population is significantly overweight (Meadow 24). Some experts feel that eating disorders are reaching epidemic proportions and estimate the national rate to be as high as 12% of women (Meadow 24).

In fact, according to the Phoenix Gazette on November 7, 1985, “Almost one out of three women diet once a month, and one in six considers herself a perpetual dieter” (Meadow 24). It is considered that 54-86% of college women binge eats (Eating and Sexuality 24). They do this and still, research shows that most college-aged women:

1) widely accept the idea that “guys like thin girls”,

2) think being thin is crucial to physical attractiveness, and

3) believe that they are not as thin as men would like them to be (Macionis 350).

While in fact, most college women want to be thinner then most college men say women should be (Macionis 350). In the United States alone, our society spends $33 billion on the diet industry, $20 billion on cosmetics, and $300 billion on plastic surgery (Marshall 124). This just proves the fetish Americans have with their looks. Unfortunately being thin does play a role in our society.

According to Dr. John R. Marshall, it is a fact that attractive defendants seem to receive more positive courtroom judgments and a company is more likely to hire a tall thin man than a short pudgy man (Marshall 125).

These factors are just increasing the chance of eating disorders throughout society. The most common eating disorder being experienced in today’s youth is anorexia nervosa. Anorexia is usually defined as “willful starvation-deliberate and obsessive starvation in the pursuit of thinness (teenhope. com 1). This “willful starvation” is seen as the only way to lose weight. Anorexics who are close to their deaths will show you the spots on their body where they feel they need to lose weight (Thompson 1).

An estimated 10- 20% of anorexics will eventually die from complications related to the disorder (Thompson 1). Some signs and symptoms of anorexia are noticeable weight loss, becoming withdrawn, excessive exercise, fatigue, always being cold, muscle weakness, excuses for not eating, guilt or shame about eating, mood swings, irregular menstruation, evidence of vomiting, laxative abuse, or diet pills, and the frequent checking of body weight on a scale (Thompson 2). Some theorists believe that these disorders may be caused by the mass media’s presentation of the ideal body.

But according to the ABNFV or the Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa Foundation of Victoria, “it is an oversimplification to blame the mass media’s presentation of the ‘ideal’ shape; though western society’s increased emphasis on the slim, fit body places pressure on many people” (vicnet. net. au 2). So there is no conclusive evidence on exactly what causes anorexia. Another common eating disorder seen in society is bulimia. Bulimia involves binge eating accompanied by induced vomiting to inhibit weight ain (Macionis 350).

The average women in the United States between the ages of 19 and 39 periodically go on food binges where they eat extremely high quantities of high-calorie foods in a short space of time (Eating and Sexuality 24). Bingeing varies for all people, for one person a binge may range from 1000 to 10000 calories, for another, one cookie could be considered a binge (Thompson 1). Bulimics are usually people that do not feel secure about their own self-worth and usually strive for the approval of others (Thompson 1).

Food becomes the only source of comfort for a bulimic, and usually serves as an unction for either blocking in or letting out feelings (Thompson1). Unlike anorexics, bulimics do realize they have a problem and are more likely to seek help (Thompson 1). The likely hood of a bulimic seeking help decreases the percentage of people who die from this disorder. A third eating disorder experienced in our society is body dysmorphic disorder. This is defined as “imagined ugliness”, or where the person sees herself/himself as ugly no matter what (Marshall 124).

This disorder is much harder to recognize then anorexia or bulimia. “Clues to this disorder are slight and often subtle”, says Dr. John R. Marshall, “but they indicate an estrangement from the body and a distorted self-image that reflects an underlying mental illness” (Marshall 127). Some people feel this is a new disorder because they haven’t heard about it as much, but the truth is that in 1891 an Italian physician named Morselli discovered it, the root word dysmorphia literally means ugliness, so this disorder is actually the fear of one’s own ugliness (Marshall 127).

This preoccupation with one’s looks tends to be persistent and eventually leads to marked social dysfunctional and, occasionally, behavioral extremes” (Marshall 127). This disorder can literally drive people crazy. The number of eating disorders in athletes is on the rise, especially in sports like gymnastics, figure skating, dancing, and swimming. According to a 1992 American College of Sports Medicine study, eating disorders affected 62% of females in sports like figure skating and gymnastics (Thompson 1).


Interesting Ideas

“Eating disorders are a group of serious conditions in which you’re so preoccupied with food and weight that you can often focus on little else. The main types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.

Eating disorders can cause serious physical problems, and at their most severe can even be life-threatening. Most people with eating disorders are females, but males can also have eating disorders. An exception is a binge-eating disorder, which appears to affect almost as many males as females.

Treatments for eating disorders usually involve psychotherapy, nutrition education, family counseling, medications, and hospitalization.”

All in all, don’t starve yourself or make yourself puke because that’s so wrong and you should never think about doing so. I hope this helped some!

How to avoid an eating disorder?

Never weigh yourself? 🙂

If you’re comfortable with and confident about your body and not hung up on what other people think of you, you’re probably not at risk.

*Some* eating disorders don’t have to do with weight loss. To avoid those, just avoid being stressed out! Find healthy ways to deal with stress.

What is an eating disorder?

An eating disorder is a psychological condition that manifests itself in unhealthy eating habits. These habits fall on a continuum, from eating a healthy, balanced diet on one end, to serious eating disorders on the other end. Eating disorders have serious emotional and physical effects. However, with proper treatment, control and recovery are possible.

Eating disorders involve disturbances in eating, such as:

  • not eating enough,
  • repeatedly eating too much in a short period of time, or
  • taking drastic measures to rid the body of calories consumed (purging through vomiting; overuse of diuretics or laxatives; excessive exercise; or fasting)
  • You might think that your efforts to control your eating are a healthy way to achieve the body you want, but if your eating habits consume your thoughts and dictate your social activities, things have gotten out of control. What may have started as a plan to lose a few pounds might have turned into an unhealthy eating disorder.


What are the warning signs and symptoms of eating disorders?


Eating disorders can go undetected for several reasons:

  • It can be difficult to distinguish a warning sign or symptom from a consequence.

Eating disorders are secretive by nature.

Some warning signs (such as moodiness) can be consistent with normal adolescent development, making it difficult to distinguish an eating problem from normal behavior.

Early detection can be improved by being aware of clusters of symptoms from behavioral, physical, social, and emotional or psychological categories.

People develop and experience eating disorders differently. Therefore, some people exhibit many of the following warning signs or symptoms, while others may exhibit only a few.

Emotional and psychological warning signs of eating disorders

  • preoccupation with body appearance or weight
  • moodiness, irritability
  • reduced concentration, memory, and thinking ability
  • anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts
  • anxiety around mealtimes
  • guilt or self-dislike

Behavioral warning signs of eating disorders

  • dieting or making frequent excuses not to eat
  • overeating
  • obsessive rituals such as drinking only out of a certain cup, or eating certain foods on certain days
  • wearing baggy clothes, or a change in clothing style
  • hoarding food
  • trips to the bathroom after meals

Social warning signs of eating disorders

  • social withdrawal or isolation
  • avoidance of social situations involving food
  • decreased interest in hobbies

Physical warning signs of eating disorders

  • weight loss or rapid fluctuation in weight
  • changes in hair, skin, and nails (dry and brittle); dehydration
  • edema (retention of body fluid, giving a ”puffy” appearance)
  • loss or irregularity of menstrual periods (females)
  • reduced metabolic rate (can lead to slow heart rate, low blood pressure, reduced
  • body temperature, and bluish-colored extremities); sensitivity to the cold
  • hypoglycemia (low blood glucose levels), which can cause confusion, illogical thinking, coma, shakiness, and irritability
  • faintness, dizziness, or fatigue
  • reduced concentration, memory, and thinking ability
  • bowel problems such as constipation, diarrhea, or cramps
  • sore throat, indigestion, and heartburn
  • easy bruising

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Eating Disorder Essay. (2020, Sep 29). Retrieved February 7, 2023, from