Eating disorders discussion

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 20, 2000

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Feb.19, 2000 10 PM

Those who think eating disorders are only affecting the California beach girls are sadly mistaken.

The drive toward thinness is going on in our own backyard, said Alan Young, M.D.

Young was one of four panelists who participated in the Eating Smart seminar held in the Troy State University Adams Center Ballroom Thursday.

Young, Jon Adams, P.A, Dr. Faith Weathington, counseling and wellness services director, and Fran Scheel, counseling and wellness services SAVE coordinator, conducted the seminar which targeted TSU students, TSU employees, physical education teachers, coaches, counselors and anyone else who was interested in learning more about eating disorders.

Young said from five to 10 percent of the females in this country have eating disorders and that 91 percent of college women, because of some type of dieting, do not have healthy eating habits. And, 20 percent of third graders think they need to go on a diet.

Society is much to blame for the glorification of thinness, Young said.

"Society has a narrow image of what beautiful is," Young said. "The average woman in the United States in 5′ 4" and weighs 140 pounds. The average model is 5’11" and weights 117 pounds.

"That means the models are thinner than 98 percent of the women in the United States, yet that is the image so many of our young women are striving for. Our perception of what beautiful is has changed."

Marilyn Monroe would not meet the criteria of beautiful in today’s society because the buxom blond had far more curves than straight lines, Young said.

"We are creating an impossible ideal for young women."

And they are paying for it with their health.

Young said there is an underlying cause for eating disorders. There is some reason, the young women feel they must strive for society’s perception of perfection in their appearance.

The reason could be an overcontroling parent, divorce, abandonment, low self-esteem, depression or troubled personal relationships. However, whatever the reason, the sooner an eating disorder is recognized, the better the chance of successful treatment, a better recovery and less disruption of the family.

The disorder often requires the intervention of a nutritionist, a medical doctor, a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist and always the support of family and friends.

Young said he could not stress enough the seriousness of eating disorders. And the competition is tough – television, movies, magazines, radio – all promote the obsession Americans have with diet. However, the serious effects of eating disorders get little play.

Young said those with eating disorders experience a wide range of physical effects. Those with anorexia can experience hair loss, abnormal hair growth, memory loss, poor concentration, poor temperature control, low energy, bruising, hyperactivity, abdominal/bowel problems, kidney and liver problems, headaches, heart problems, muscle loss, osteoporosis, broken bones, brain shrinkage, slow heart rate and sudden death.

Those with bulimia can experience salivary gland swelling, eroded teeth enamel, abdominal and bowel problems, headaches, heart problems, electrolyte imbalance, dehydration, throat tears and bleeding, cancer of the mouth and throat, bad breath, low energy, low concentration, poor attention, stress fractures or overuse, muscular injuries and sudden death.

Young said the probable and possible physical effects of eating disorders are reason enough for parents, family members and friends to watch closely for any sign of eating disorders in a loved one.

"You can’t save them," he said, "but you can help them save themselves."

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Your life or theirs could depend on it.

See related articles page B1.



Eating Disorders

Do you know the warning signs?

Listed below are warning signs that a person may have an eating disorder. Eating disorders are very serious problem that can result in damage to the body, or even death. If you know someone that you believe has an eating disorder, encourage that person to seek medical attention.

Common warning signs of eating disorders

1. Excessive weight loss in a relatively short period of time

2. Continued dieting even when extremely thin

3. Total dissatisfaction with appearance; distorted body image

4. Loss of menstrual periods, In females

5. Prolonged exercise despite fatigue

6. Intense feat of gaining weight

7. Peculiar patterns of food handling

8. Vomiting or use of drugs to induce vomiting, bowel movements, or urination (as an attempt of weight control)

9. Eating patterns which alternate between binges (consuming very large amounts of food) and fasting

10. Obsession with exercise