Eating Disorders

When everything revolves around eating.

Disturbed eating behaviour among girls and young women, but also increasingly among boys and young men, has become a widespread phenomenon in our society.

There is an abundance of food, but at the same time the media are dictating a slimness craze, which makes slimness a symbol for performance, attractiveness, success and happiness. Especially girls and young women grow up in this tension. The answers to the questions “What is too thick?”, “What is too thin?” or “What is normal weight?” can hardly be filtered out from the wealth of information for both adolescents and adults today.

Basically applies:

Every person has his or her own personal normal weight. Therefore, measurements only give an indication of what the average is. The most commonly used method today is the Body Mass Index (BMI).

It is calculated for adults from body weight in kilograms divided by body height in meters square (kg : m²). The special thing about the BMI is that the result is not a fixed kg number, but an index that allows a range of weight depending on physical predisposition (physique, metabolism, genetic predisposition).

For the calculation of the BMI of children and adolescents, data on weight in kg, height in cm, sex and age are required. Using a specific calculation factor derived from so-called reference values (which are based on a random assessment of around 34,000 German children), it is possible to determine the BMI of the child or adolescent.

In the meantime, the keyword “BMI calculator for children and adolescents” on the Internet has made it possible to calculate the respective BMI quickly and easily.

Possible causes of eating disorders

There is also no simple explanation for eating disorders. Many factors must come together: Beauty or slimness ideal, family conditions, increased performance requirements and associated stress, possible life crises or sexual abuse.

Food can become a substitute for repressed feelings and needs or a reaction to unsatisfactory living conditions, flight, rejection, helplessness, refusal, silent protest, but also resignation and adaptation. Eating disorders are still a typical female problem, even though the number of boys and young men affected has increased in recent years. The term eating disorders essentially covers three clinical pictures:

Anorexia (anorexia)

Eating addiction (bulimia)

Eating addiction/obesity (obesity)

Today they are classified as a group of psychosomatic* diseases and therefore do not belong to the group of addictive diseases. Psychosomatic illnesses result in actual physical damage. This can be caused by psychological problems.

This does not mean that physical ailments are only imaginary. Rather, there are actual physical changes such as infectious or injury-related illnesses. However, some behaviours of eating disorders can become addictive. Loss of control, compulsion to repeat and social isolation connect the clinical pictures.

Eating disorders are not nutritional disorders and are therefore not based on wrong nutrition. Eating disorders begin in the head, e.g. with constant dissatisfaction with one’s own weight or figure.

They often lead to diet attempts, limited eating behaviour (selection of certain foods), so that eating can no longer be perceived as a pleasure. The thoughts turn only around food and body weight and the control over it. If this influences the quality of life, it can at least be a latent, i.e. hidden, hidden, eating disorder.

Symptoms of an eating disorder can be:

Large fluctuations in weight within a very short period of time

Constant examination of body weight and fear of gaining weight (constant weighing)

Lack of confidence in one’s own needs and body signals, thus no spontaneous reaction to hunger or appetite

Constant change between eating too much and dieting

Calorie counting

Use of appetite suppressants and/or laxatives

Latent eating disorders favour the entry into one of the three disease patterns.

Anorexia (anorexia)

Anorexia usually begins at puberty. It mainly affects girls and women in western industrial countries. Anorexic people are remarkably thin. This development often begins with a diet: “Only two kilos less, then I’m satisfied.”

Praise and admiration from family and friends often encourage people to continue, sometimes until the head has taken over total control and controls eating behaviour instead of the body. But remarkably slim people are not automatically anorexic!

Symptoms of anorexia are:

Weight loss of 20% of initial weight within a short time (approx. 3-4 months)

Weight loss is self-inflicted, e.g. through strictly controlled and limited food intake, avoidance of high-calorie foods, excessive physical activity.

Thoughts constantly revolve around the food and the figure

The penchant for perfectionism

Distortion of body perception, i.e. those affected consider themselves to be too fat even in a lean state

Extreme fear of weight gain

Lack of insight into the disease

Anorexic people can hide their condition from friends and close family members for a while, for example by wearing onion-like clothing or cooking for the family.

Consequential diseases for anorexia are:

Hormonal changes, e.g. absence of menstrual bleeding

Dry skin and brittle hair

A drop in metabolism, pulse, blood pressure and body temperature so that anorexic persons are constantly cold, tired or constipated

Electrolyte disorders

Renal dysfunctions

Starvation also has psychological consequences: a strong need for control, fear of one’s own needs, self-hatred, compulsive behaviour, social withdrawal or depressive moods. Due to the massive consequential damage and the lack of self-assessment of the physical condition of the affected persons, medical and therapeutic care is necessary in any case.

Vomiting eating addiction (bulimia)

The outward appearance of bulimic women and men is inconspicuous, usually slim. Their eating behaviour in public is also more controlled. On the outside, everything works perfectly. Bulimia is a shamefaced and secret eating disorder.

Symptoms of bulimia are:

Recurrent attacks of cravings (large quantities of easily consumed and calorie-rich foods) followed by vomiting or laxative treatment

Loss of control while eating

Fear of weight gain

Avoidance of weight gain through diets, appetite suppressants, dehydrating agents

Constant exaggerated preoccupation with figure and weight

Anorexia and bulimia often have fluid boundaries. In the history of sufferers there are often anorexic phases and even during bulimia they can occur again and again.

Complications of bulimia:

Inflammation of the esophagus and gastric mucosa

Salivary gland swelling

Chronic constipation

Electrolyte imbalance*

Tooth decay

Absence of menstruation

In addition, financial difficulties often arise later due to the frequent purchase of large quantities of food (a ravenous appetite attack costs up to 40 euros) and expenses for laxatives. The psychological consequences include depressive moods, self-harm, suicidal thoughts. Social problems can be: partner problems, fear of proximity, avoidance of social contacts.

Eating addiction (obesity)

According to the latest research, eating addiction is largely due to genetic and physical factors. The psychological causes – especially in binge eating – nevertheless play a decisive role: eating as a way of relieving tension, as comfort, as an attempt to overcome frustration and inner emptiness, and finally as a form of demarcation and protection from sexuality (building a “protective wall”).