How Our Body Image Perception Can Lead to Eating Disorders

4 minutes

Most of us at some point of our lives have looked into the mirror and wished if we were an inch slimmer. It is common for anyone to feel that way in order to look more attractive and accepting. But talking about eating disorders, it a step forward where an individual eats too much or too less to a point that it gets out of human control. According to American Psychological Association, ‘eating disorders are abnormal eating habits that can threaten our health or even our life’. These cause serious disturbance in the everyday diet that are caused by body image and perception about one’s weight. Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa. These are closely related to physical, social and psychological impairment.

Anorexia Nervosa 

This is one of the most common eating disorder that leads an individual to starve themselves in order to become thin. Although underweight, the individual with Anorexia Nervosa might see themselves as overweight leading to inappropriate eating habits. Low self-esteem, increased fear to put on weight, and body image makes the meal a stress-producing event and hence they tend to avoid any kind of food intake. This can go to a level where no matter how thin the person is it’s will not be enough as they continue to perceive themselves as fat and non-acceptable by others.

People with Anorexia deny having a disorder. They often adopt various means to keep losing weight, this can include excessive exercising, diet acids or even purging – similar to bulimia – but the difference here being people with Bulimia are not underweight. This disorder is not about food, it’s a way to deal with ones emotions. People with Anorexia generally equate being thin with acceptance and self-esteem. A lot of this comes from peer pressure, bullying and the societal concept of body and shape. Although can be life threatening in nature, if not taken seriously, but it is very much treatable. With proper medication and therapy along with support and can speed up the recovery process.

Bulimia Nervosa

This is an eating disorder characterized by frequent binge eating followed by a process of purging it all out in the fear of putting on weight. People suffering from Bulimia follow a certain pattern/cycle that starts by following a restrictive diet in order to maintain a certain body weight. This restriction thus increases tension and food craving. The need to satisfy this urge – the diet control – is then taken over by a compulsive act of binge eating followed by forcefully vomiting it out, in order to compensate for the excessive eating. This act of eating and purging leaves them with the feeling of excessive guilt leading to a stricter diet plan.

Thus, the purging only reinforces the act of binge eating.  Bulimia can be life threatening as the constant purging can lead to dehydration. This cycle of in and out can create an imbalance in the body making the person lazy, with erratic heartbeat, increasing the risk of heart diseases, and even death.

vicious cycle of bulimia

It is hard to diagnose an individual with Bulimia as they are not very open about their eating habits. Apart from having no control over eating, other signs of this could be secretly eating at odd times, eating too much or too little, or purging it all out. Just like Anorexia, Bulimia is also not about food. It can be due to many other reasons including a history of trauma and abuse, body image issues, low self-esteem, a sudden or stressful life change along with societal expectations.

It is rare that an individual with bulimia takes a medical treatment unless the individual had anorexia or depression. Psychotherapy and talk therapy along with support and acceptance can work wonders. Although a long process, getting back to the healthy lifestyle is possible.

To know more click here:  Myths and Facts about Eating Disorder

Swekriti Bhatnagar

Swekriti Bhatnagar is your special friend from YourDOST team. She is a Masters in Counseling Psychology from Christ University. She is experienced in dealing with adolescent and relationship related issues. She believes in the power of communication and that everyone has the ability to change. Through YourDOST she wants to help people vent out their worries and wishes to make a difference in the lives of people