Mirror, Mirror On the Wall, Who’s the Thinnest of Them All?
Women nowadays show increasing evidence of dissatisfaction with their bodies and pressure to conform to the ideal super model or Miss Universe body size. Kate Middleton’s slim figure has attracted a huge number of soon to be bride raising curiosity about the practice of so called ‘The Royal Wedding diet’ that reveals the secrets behind Kate’s weight. But not all women have the ideal body type portrayed by the media. Hence they end up eating in a dysfunctional fashion. They say “since we can’t change our height, surely we can definitely change our weight”.
Cultural belief and attitudes have been identified as significant contributing factors in the development of body image and eating disorders, as reported in one of the studies conducted in Malaysia. In this study, it is reported that Malaysians in Britain and Kuala Lumpur preferred slimmer female bodies than observers in semi-urban Kota Kinabalu, who in turn preferred slimmer figures than rural observers in East Malaysia. The idealisation of this body type could be a possible factor leading to anorexia nervosa. Thus, this can be predicting that for fat-concerned individuals, dieting and ultimate eating disorders will become increasingly common experiences for Malaysian women.
Development of disease anorexia
Anorexia involves people who intentionally starve themselves when they are already underweight. It is present when a person experiences severe disturbances in eating behaviour, such as extreme reduction of food intake or extreme overeating, or feelings of extreme distress or concern about body weight or shape.
They then progress to covert hiding of weight loss over exercising, starving, throwing food away, purging and more while convincing others that they are eating, but the whole time they are trying to maintain weight. Satistics in UK show that most cases of anorexia develop in girls and women where one in every 200 women is affected. Anorexia also affects one in every 2,000 men. Some experts are concerned that the number of men with this condition may increase.
Starvation, vomiting, abusing purgatives and laxatives and excessive exercise may lead to dehydration and low blood potassium levels which will induce psychological problem. Self-induced vomiting and dehydration cause metabolic alkalosis due to loss of potassium and chlorine, leading to muscle fatigue, tingling in hands and feet and may lead to heart failure. Many females with anorexia stop having their menstrual cycle for several months, a condition called amenorrhea.
Orthodox medical treatment
- Refeeding if serious in hospital
- Psychological support
- Intense dietary re-training
- Anti-depressant medications only if indicated
- Oestrogen replacement therapy in women with amenorrhea
Eating disorders – Nutritional therapist approach
A nutritional therapist would work closely with doctors and possibly hospital therapist. It is important to increase the BMI with nutrient rich foods, without scaring the aneroxia individuals with foods that they find completely out of control. Nevertheless, in order to encourage healthy eating patterns, they need to be retrained in their eating habits and nutritional beliefs.
Although aneroxia individual will know how to calorie count much better than anyone but often mistaken. Hence, nutritional therapist would work on supporting absorption of nutrients and gut function to prevent further damage occurring to the body. The recommended weight gain is 0.5-1kg per week, which equates to 3,500 -7,000 extra calories a week.
Thus maintaing a healthy weight is important for them to be able to start the healing process of recovering from the disorder. While exercising is important for bone density, it should be done supervised to prevent over exercising to compensate for increased food intake.
Accepting the body you have
Men and women both experience pressure to achieve an unrealistic physical ideal, while the billion dollar diet industry profits from our national preoccupation with size. Let us all choose to adopt a healthy weight now and focus on feeling positive. Accept and enjoy your remarkable body – just as it is! Here are some suggestions:
Stop starvation and eat well
Start eating normally. Eating when you’re hungry, listening to your body and stopping when you feel full. Try eating regular meals (typically three) at the same time each day and snacking once or twice if you’re hungry.
Focus on the total person
You are more than individual body parts. Instead of focusing on particular physical features, remember that you are a unique person with a range of special gifts and talents. The greatest lifestyle improvement is for sedentary people to become active. Instead of exercising to reach a target weight, savour the joy of movement for its own sake. Have fun being physical without worrying about weight.
Practice positive thinking
Positive thinking is an essential part of healthy living, directly affecting our physical and mental well-being. Practice by complimenting yourself each day. Focus on your achievements, skills and lifestyle choices. Establish a support network of positive thinkers, and avoid those who remain focused on physical appearances. Accept who you are, and be proud of who you are!