Spotting the difference between picky eaters and full-fledged illnesses
She walks across the gym floor, her frail frame barely casting a shadow. Just tipping the scale at 95 pounds, she takes a swig of water before beginning her workout.
With a protruding collar bone and flat stomach, you would never guess she was 4 months pregnant.
She eats bite-sized portions three times a day, obsessively counts calories, and goes to the gym seven days a week.
But this fixation on achieving the perfect body follows her into her adult years.
Now, more than ever, adult eating disorders are steadily on the rise.
We have a limited amount of information on eating disorders like pregorexia, anorexia athletica, and orthorexia, they are proving more harmful than one would assume.
According to a 2002 survey in the National Eating Disorder Information Centre, 1.5 percent of Canadian women from the ages of 15–24 have struggled with an eating disorder.
Gili Haimovich is a facilitator at Sheena’s Place, a support group for people suffering with eating disorders.
She admits that roughly 80 percent of her clients are over 18.
“There is now a new eating disorder that is going into the lexicon on mental health,” says Haimovich. “What we used to think of as just picky eaters can be to an extent an eating disorder itself.”
In an interview with Women’s Health, Dr. Sari Shepphird, a Los Angeles-based psychologist who specializes in treating eating disorders says that a combination of genetic factors result in an eating disorder.
Shepphird explains that eating issues can entirely skip a generation, remain dormant for years, or never become active.
Although anorexia and bulimia are the most well-known eating disorders, there are new eating disorders coming to the surface.
Pregorexia is an extreme form of diet and exercise while pregnant to keep from gaining the extra 25 to 35 pounds of baby weight.
Celebrity culture has shaped expecting mothers’ ideas around their body type.
But starving mothers are more likely to develop a number of health problems as are their children.
These mothers are at a higher risk for developing depression, anemia, and hypertension.
Infants who are malnourished are often miscarried or born with birth defects.
Anorexia athletica is an addiction to excessive exercise.
Those who suffer from this disorder can be found at the gym seven days a week.
They don’t work out to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle; they work out because they are addicted to it.
Often, people suffering with anorexia athletica feel a tremendous amount of guilt if they do not stick to their regular workout routine.
Compulsive exercisers are at risk for developing depression, in addition to severe cardiac problems.
Orthorexia is an obsession with healthy eating habits. Severe cases can result in malnourishment.
More specifically, sufferers of orthorexia focus on eating only organic foods, eliminate entire food groups from their diet, and refuse to eat foods that are not “pure” in quality.
Their eating does not come from a fear of being overweight.
Instead, they are driven by a fear of bad health, an obsession with being in control, or the desire to boost their self-esteem.
“More education is the key,” explains Haimovich. “Education before they develop into eating disorders. Colleges or universities should have classes that teach students how to consume media.”
The good news is that adults with eating disorders tend to experience less difficulty recovering compared to adolescents.
“About 50 percent of of patients will fully recover likely because [people] over 30 have the maturity needed to recognize that they need help,” says Shepphird.
With files from Women’s Health