Eating Disorders: Food For Thought

By Psychotherapist Ravi Samuel

A 27-years-old lady living with her husband and 6-years-old daughter in a high raised flat approached me for the problem of eating excessively and then starving for many days. She has the habit of getting tense when she is alone at home thinking of various problems, to overcome the tension she started eating large amounts of food and will try to vomit because of the heavy feeling and fear of putting on weight. When she came for psychotherapy it was found that she was scared of the future as her husband was in a temporary job. So when she had to stay alone during the daytime she started thinking about her daughter’s education, professional education and marriage and got very tensed. In psychotherapy, it was found that she was brought up with the attitude that only if there is a permanent job she can feel secure.

This faulty attitude, which was deeply imprinted in her mind, was changed with the facts as to how her husband being a doctor has been changing jobs every two years and how that has only increased the income and the present state of the job market is also such that people like to keep changing jobs for better prospects. Following the change in the attitude, she stopped getting tense, which prevented her excessive eating behaviour.

Also read: Good reads on mental wellness 

What is an eating disorder?

eating disorders mental health

An eating disorder is normally found in people who have poor self-esteem and negative self-image. It is also found among those who have minor psychiatric problems like anxiety disorder and depression. The best form of treatment for these disorders is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. It is a very effective form of psychotherapy in which faulty thought, thinking process, faulty beliefs and attitudes, faulty emotional reactions are identified and changed through interesting real-life exercises for the mind and behaviour. The behaviour therapist will give them diet charts to follow to enable them to have sufficient nutritional intake. The therapy will help them to stop misinterpreting their body shape arbitrarily as a thin one and enable them to have more objective opinion and to include certain reliable friends opinion. Most importantly the therapy will enable them to stop depreciating what they are and what they do and develop a good self esteem.

A person can have problems with their eating habits when they have psychological problems or faulty ideas about their body image. We all learn to eat in our childhood and presume that it goes on without any problem. Eating Disorder is a very common condition among women that goes unnoticed.

Why women are more prone to eating disorders? 

eating disorders and mental health

Women are the ones who serve food for the family members and makes sure everyone takes sufficient food, but when it comes to their eating habits they make a lot of compromises. Sometimes if someone eats more or if there is a guest, there may not be enough food, in that case, many women just drink some water or milk and go to sleep. It is ok if it happens once in a while but if it happens regularly about three times a week then it can affect the person’s health.

The present fashion of being ‘thin’ has resulted in more number of young girls and ladies getting into the habit of eating less or missing meals. Young girls seem to give more importance to being fashionable than being healthy. In spite of evidence to reduce weight, a person has to do a lot of exercises many ladies just reduce food and it leads to many nutritional and health-related problems.

Also read: What we need to know about women’s nutrition

It is not wrong to get fascinated by our beautiful slim heroines and girls on the fashion TV and want to look like them. But the fact is these heroines and girls eat well and do lots of exercises in their free time. In the west, it is a normal habit for people to go for walks in nearby beautiful parks even while it is freezing cold.

Those with eating disorders have a tendency to misinterpret what they see in the mirror, they may see a normal shaped figure or even if they are thin they will think they are fat and out of fear of gaining weight will start avoiding food.

Medical problems due to eating disorders:

  • Loss of Fat
  • Problems in thyroid
  • Intolerance to cold
  • Affects to muscles in the heart
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Constipation
  • Irregular periods
  • Skin problems
  • Affects bones
  • Affects the teeth
  • Being mentally dull

As there is a habit of eating less there is also a habit of eating more than required quantity. As such our Indian food is very tasty so we tend to eat more than the required quantity. In European countries, people eat food, which are not very tasty, but of nutritional value, so they stop with the required amount. But in South Indian food we give make dishes with so much taste sometimes we tend to lose control over how much we eat.

In general, we may eat more because of the tasty food, but people with eating disorders eat more when they tensed or worried excessively about their weight. After eating they will try to vomit the food, sometimes even by putting their hands inside their mouth. This is more prevalent among women who remain alone during the day, particularly in Indian women who are living abroad as they are alone in the house during the daytime.

Also read: What are the outcomes of stress? Find out 

Tips to remember:

  • Men in the house should make sure that the ladies have sufficient quantities to eat and they are taking the food regularly.
  • It is ok to want to look thin but achieve that by exercising and not by starving.
  • When you cook food make sure there is some extra portion
  • If you are worried or tensed try to talk to someone or write down your thoughts avoid eating to reduce tension.

Also read: What we missed to know about anger management 

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