Eating disorders: Loving our body means feeding it well

The prevalence of eating disorders has increased threefold among female adolescents, and the average age of patients seeking treatment has decreased.

Eating disorders: Loving our body means feeding it well
To nourish our body with love is to nourish our soul. Image by Nika Akin from Pixabay

Eating disorders are mental disorders presented by those who have a distorted image of their body and experience dissatisfaction with it, so they modify their diet. They are also related to self-esteem and social isolation.

These are anorexia and bulimia nervosa (both mental disorders), as well as binge eating disorders. The first two are more recurrent in adolescents, while the latter is more common in people over 25 years of age. According to the Federal Health Secretariat, approximately 20 thousand cases of anorexia and bulimia are registered in Mexico every year; the population between 15 and 19 years of age is the most affected.

Those who suffer from anorexia nervosa perceive their body as wider than it is, and as they do not feel comfortable, they limit their diet. They eat an apple a day and drink a lot of water to lose weight, but they do not feel thin, so they fall into a vicious circle where they restrict their food and continue to lose weight. They remove carbohydrates and fats from their diets because they believe that everything is fattening.

The nutritional aspect is worked on with them so that they realize that food will not make them fat and that it is important that they nourish themselves. On a psychological level, it is explained to them that these irrational ideas to stop eating put their lives at risk. Within these disorders, there is also emotional instability, since they can go from sadness to crying and then to joy, in addition to suffering from depression and anxiety.

Bulimia nervosa happens when a lot of food is eaten in a short amount of time. People eat everything, no matter what; for example, if it is spoiled, they even plan binge eating. These actions generate guilt and/or shame that leads them to "do something", such as have compensatory behaviors such as exercising excessively.

They are the girls who go from station to station in gyms; they bring these pacemaker watches that tell them the number of calories they burn. All the time they are thinking about food, excessive exercise, prolonged fasting, vomiting, or other behaviors to lose weight.

Another disorder is binge eating, in which there are no compensatory behaviors. Eating is linked to emotions; people do it if they feel sad, angry, lonely, or anxious. The aim is to reduce emotional discomfort. This disorder is also related to the high rates of obesity in Mexico. Therefore, it is important to detect whether patients are obese because of their bad eating habits or because they suffer from a binge eating disorder.

Psychologists must help them to detect precisely what the hunger signals are: headache, thinking about food, having regurgitations in the stomach, which is different from wanting to control life through food. They focus on changing distorted ideas about food, body image, and weight control; above all, they help them with emotional regulation.

Psychologists work hand in hand with psychiatrists, as patients with these disorders often present depression as well. With the support of nutritionists, they are made aware that all food groups are necessary for their development and physical well-being.

More and more young people with eating behavior disorders

Since the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a significant increase in depression, suicidal ideation, addictions, and eating disorders in young people. The number of patients seeking care for the latter has practically tripled, and more and more young people are arriving.

Unfortunately, children as young as seven or eight years old are being treated for anorexia nervosa. They are girls who express that they want to be thin to wear a belly button and that if they don't exercise, they will gain weight. This usually occurs during puberty or adolescence when they experience physical changes, but society itself has caused children to start with these problems.

In the media and social networks, there are messages about the ideal body. For example, nowadays, Oriental stereotypes are in fashion, and some people seek cheek surgery to make their faces more similar to those of Asian people.

We must be very careful with the comments made about children's and/or adolescents' bodies. We must insist that they are beautiful just as they are and that they can dress, groom themselves, and feel good with whatever they want. They should observe a healthy diet, take care of their bodies, and love them by providing a good diet, exercise, and adequate rest.

By Rocío Ivonne de la Vega Morales, Source: UNAM