Eating Disorders Essay, Research Paper
IntroductionIt seems that today eating disorders are on the rise. This may be true, but the numbers may appear that way because more cases are being brought out into the open. This report will cover Anorexia and Bulimia in young women, but keep in mind, there have been documented cases in children as young as six and individuals as old as seventy-six. These two eating disorders affect females and males although only about five to ten percent of the people with them are men. Everyone should be aware of these disorders because of their seriousness. This is the reason I am doing this report. There are four main points I would like to cover and also share a couple of my personal experiences with you. The points I will cover are:+ Defining features and symptoms of Anorexia+ Characterization and symptoms of Bulimia+ Medical complications which are caused by these two eating disorders.+ The role that the media plays in promoting these eating disordersI) Anorexia is simply the act of starving one s self. Some research suggests that one percent of female adolescents have anorexia. That means that about one out of every one hundred young women between ten and twenty are literally starving themselves, sometimes to death. These individuals have an extreme fear of gaining weight. They possess an iron will to become thinner and thinner and no matter how thin they are, they will still feel fat and see fat when they look in the mirror. Some of the symptoms of anorexia are (a) a refusal to maintain a normal weight for their height and age, (b) an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted body image, and (c) extreme concern with body weight and shape.To illustrate how devastating anorexia can be I would like to share with you a story of my friend, Roxanne. Roxanne was my roommate while I was stationed at Little Rock AFB, Arkansas in 1978. She was about 5 9 tall and topped the scales at about 99 lbs. The two of us would dine together a lot. While we were eating, Roxanne would move her food around on her plate, and pick at it. She would pick up her sandwich or whatever she had at the time, and tear off a small piece. She would nibble at this piece like a small rabbit. Her hand would disappear below the table. It looked like she was eating the food. She was not. She was putting her food in a napkin and disposing of it later. When weigh-in time came, the commander had my friend admitted to the hospital because she was way under the minimum weight standard. There were very few treatment centers that specialized in eating disorders in the 70 s and most of us had never heard of Anorexia. She was hospitalized and told that if she gained 15 lbs., she would be sent back to the squadron. Roxanne was smart and determined. She gained the weight and rejoined the unit. Within six months, she was back down 97, 98 lbs. For failure to maintain the weight, she was discharged from the military on a general discharge. She went back to Texas and we kept in touch until I went overseas in 1981. Upon my return to the States, I tried to contact her by phone and by letters. I received no answer. About four months after my return, I received a letter from her brother. It simply stated that Roxanne had passed away nine months before due to heart failure. She was only 28 years old.II) Unlike Anorexics, who are in full control over their food intake, Bulimics eat a tremendous amount of food. This eating disorder is characterized by binge-eating and then purging. During a binge , the person consumes a large amount of food. This creates physical discomfort and anxiety about weight gain. This then leads to purging . This is accomplished by inducing vomiting and resorting to laxatives and diuretics. Bulimics, like the Anorexics, have a distorted body image and a fear of fat. One difference is, while an anorexic will be extremely thin, a Bulimic will usually be of average weight or even a little heavy. Some symptoms of Bulimia are (a) repeated episodes of binging and purging, (b) feeling out of control during a binge, (c) purging after a binge, and (d) extreme concern with body weight and shape. The strain of vomiting can sometimes cause broken blood vessels in the eyes and cause saliva glands to swell. The teeth are prone to cavities and to erosion of the enamel from the excessive stomach acid. Self-induced vomiting in which the person uses their hand will produce small cuts and calluses across the tops of the finger joints. Researchers say that four percent or four out of every one hundred college age women have this eating disorder.People with bulimia, as well as those with Anorexia, must first understand that they are suffering from a dangerous disorder before they can accept help. This is a very hard thing for them to do, as I will illustrate with a story of my friend, Janie. I met Janie eight years ago when I moved to Columbia. We became very close and did many things together. She was overweight, but seemed very happy. About four years ago, she began to drop weight at an alarming rate. I could not understand how she was doing it. She would eat a large plate of food. The type of food that will surely put the weight on a person, but she was still dropping the pounds. I began to watch her. I noticed that after eating she would disappear to the bathroom. One day, I followed her and as I stood at the door, I could hear her gagging and throwing up. This began to happen more and more, until it was happening after every meal. When I tried to talk to her about it, she swore nothing was wrong and that I was mistaken. After a while, Janie began to find excuse after excuse not to hang out with me and her other friends. I began to ask her co-workers about her and found out that she was still throwing up after meals and had added laxatives to her diet. She tried to hide her actions, but everyone knew what she was doing. Two and a half years ago, she married her sweetheart of ten years and became pregnant right away. During her pregnancy, I think she tried very hard to restrain from purging and use the laxatives, but she could not give it up. She paid a high price for it. Her son, Connor, was born with a learning disability. Even this tragedy did not open her eyes to the fact that she has a problem. The thing that worries me is that one of the major risks of Bulimia is a disturbance of the blood chemistry and rupture of the stomach, which can cause sudden death. Janie s story does not have an ending. Until I can learn a lot more about eating disorders, I can only stand by and watch my friend commit suicide: a very long and slow suicide.
III) If not stopped, starving, stuffing and purging can lead to irreversible physical damage and even to death. Eating disorders can affect every cell, tissue, and organ in the body. The following is just a partial list of the medical problems they can cause:(a) Irregular heartbeat, cardiac arrest, death(b) They can cause kidney and liver damage, which can result in death.(c) Eating disorders cause destruction of teeth, rupture of the esophagus, loss of muscle mass, infertility and a weakened immune system.(d) Swollen glands in the neck, anemia, fainting spells along with permanent loss of bone mass, fractures and lifelong problems.It is sad that the person who develops an eating disorder often began with a diet, believing that losing weight would improve their self-confidence, self-respect, and self-esteem. The cruel reality is that persistent starving, binge eating, and purging have the opposite effect.An important fact to remember is that eating disorders are treatable, and people do recover. The first thing they have to do is recognize the fact that they have a problem. The sooner treatment begins, the sooner the person can develop personal strength and begin to create a life worth living.IV) As I have shown, eating disorders can be devastating. There are a variety of factors which can contribute to eating disorders. The one I would like to discuss is the influence the media has on us. A study of mass media magazines show that women s magazines have 10.5 times more advertisement and articles promoting weight loss than men s magazines do. A study of one teen adolescent magazine over the course of 20 years found that: all of the articles contained in these magazines included statements highlighting that weight loss would improve appearance. In the articles about fitness or exercise, 74% cited to become attractive as a reason to start exercising and 51% noted the need to lose weight or burn calories. Media messages screaming thin is in may not directly cause these eating disorders that plague our society, but they sure help to create the context within which people learn to place a value on the size and shape of their body. You cannot read a magazine or newspaper, watch TV, listen to the radio, or go shopping without seeing and hearing the message that fat is bad and thin is in . This message is getting through to a lot of people. It is getting through to the kids or else why would you have elementary kids obsessed with their weight? Why would you have the kids making fun and tormenting those who are overweight? By the end of high school, children have watched over 350,000 advertisements, half of which stress the importance of being thin and beautiful, and half of which are selling food. Look at Mattel s Barbie; I can understand how she can have a negative influence on women of all ages. She gives young girls unrealistic ideas about how the female figure should look. Theoretically, if Barbie s actual body measurements were converted to an actual woman, she would consist of an 18 inch waist, 36 inch bust, and 33 inch hips. She would stand 7 feet 2 inches tall. Is this realistic? No. The average woman in this country is 5 feet 4 inches tall and wears a size 14. Still, there are women who think that Barbie and the models on TV and in magazines represent the ideal body. No wonder we have such a problem with eating disorders in this country.SUMMARYEating disorders, such as Anorexia and Bulimia, take a devastating toll on the individual, friends and family. More and more cases are being brought out in the open. It could very easily happen to you, a friend or a family member. With the Media s influence in our lives, we are going to see even more people develop one of these eating disorders. The information in this report only touches the surface of this topic. Educate yourself on this topic and you may save the life of someone close to you.CONCLUSIONI think that there are a number of things that we can do to reduce the number of new cases of eating disorder. Parents need to teach their kids to eat healthy at a young age. We need to help them build self-confidence, self-respect and to believe in themselves. We need to teach them to respect and be kind to others, even those different from them. People need to become critical viewers of the media. When we effectively recognize and analyze the media messages that influence us, we remember that the media s definitions of beauty and success do not have to define our self-image or potential. Write letters to advertisers you feel are sending positive messages about the natural diversity of human body shapes and sizes. Compliment them on their courage to send this type of message. Encouraging the media to present more diverse and real images of people with positive messages about health and self-esteem may not eliminate eating disorders entirely, but I believe it will be a good beginning. The struggle to be thin and beautiful seems like it will be a never-ending problem that will never disappear despite any corrective attempts by the media. Beauty comes from within, and until the battle for beauty is over, the world may never see true beauty.