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Eating Disorders Eating disorders include extreme emotions, attitudes and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues. Eating disorders are serious emotional and physical problems that can have life-threatening consequences for both males and females (Academy). Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder are the three major and most recognized eating disorders. Anorexia Nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. Anorexia has five primary symptoms. They are: 1) refusal to maintain body weight that is at or above a minimally normal weight for your height, body type, age, and activity level; 2) an intense fear of gaining weight or being fat ; 3) feeling fat or overweight despite a dramatic weight loss; 4) loss of menstrual periods in girls and women post-puberty; 5) extreme concern with body weight and shape (St. Joseph s). A person s chances of recovery will increase the earlier it is detected. Therefore, it is very important to recognize these following warning signs: dramatic weight loss, preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat grams, and dieting, refusal to eat certain foods eventually progressing to restrictions against whole categories such as no carbohydrates, frequent and repeating statements about feeling fat or overweight despite recent weight loss, and denial of hunger (Academy). These are just a few of the many warning signs associated with Anorexia Nervosa. However, being aware of just a few could save someone s life. Anorexia involves self-starvation. The body is denied the essential nutrients needed to function normally. Therefore, the body is forced to slow down all of its processes to conserve energy. This slowing down of the body can have serious medical consequences (St. Joseph s). You may have an abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which also means that your heart muscles are changing. A reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), which results in dry, brittle bones, and muscle loss and fatigue also occur (Academy). Another commonly known eating disorder is Bulimia Nervosa. It is also a serious, life-threatening eating disorder. It is characterized by a secretive cycle of binging and purging. Bulimia has only three primary symptoms. They are: 1) eating large quantities of food in short periods of time; 2) following these binges with some form of purging or compensatory behavior to make up for the excessive calories taken in (usually done by self-induced vomiting or laxative abuse); 3) extreme concern with body weight and shape (St. Joseph s). Once again, it is important to recognize the warning signs of bulimia. The most evident ones include evidence of binge eating such as the disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time, evidence of purging behaviors such as frequent trips to the bathroom after meals, excessive exercise, unusual swelling of the cheeks or jaw area, and discoloration or staining of the teeth. The recurrent binge and purge cycles can impact the entire digestive system and can lead to electrolyte and chemical imbalances in the body that affect the heart and other major organ functions (St. Joseph s). Some of the serious health consequences that bulimia leads to is electrolyte imbalances that can lead to irregular heartbeats and possibly heart failure and death, and there is a potential for gastric rupture during periods of binging. Tooth decay and staining from stomach acids released during frequent vomiting and peptic ulcers and pancreatitis could develop. Binge Eating Disorder is a relatively newly recognized eating disorder characterized by frequent episodes of uncontrolled overeating (NIH). Researchers are just beginning to understand the causes and health consequences of binge eating disorder. Binge eating disorder also has several primary symptoms. They are: frequent episodes of eating large quantities of food in short periods of time often secretly, without a regard to feeling hungry or full ; frequent feelings of being out of control during binges; eating large quantities of food rapidly, without really tasting the food; eating alone; and, feelings of shame, disgust, or guilt after a binge (NIH). There are health consequences associated with this disorder as well. High blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, heart disease as a result of elevated triglyceride levels, secondary diabetes, and gallbladder disease are some of the health problems you could be faced with (NIH). Researchers estimate that approximately 25% of obese individuals suffer from frequent episodes of binge eating. Binge eating affects women slightly more than men estimates indicate that about 60% of binge eaters are female and 40% are male. Many of the people who suffer from this disorder have a history of depression (NIH).

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