“Eating Disorders Are Not Lifestyle Choices”: Why Many People Share a Complicated Relationship with Food

When Kritika Ghai was just 12 years old, she was initially diagnosed with binge syndrome. She gained weight as a result of having a nasal tube that was blocked by an enlarged adenoid since birth. Her misery was made worse by the fact that she couldn’t exercise because of her erratic breathing. She was consequently put on a number of harsh diets as a child to manage her weight. She was compelled to eat a lot of food rapidly and covertly as a result. “Eating became a method to justify my emotions since I didn’t know what I was going through,” she said, adding that the worry brought on by the epidemic only made her eat more during anxious and lonely times.

She finally sought the advice of a nutritionist, who assisted her in creating a healthy eating routine. In order to cease connecting eating with guilt and humiliation, Ghai was encouraged not to suppress her appetites and to stop recognizing the difference between “good” and “bad” foods. I began to view my body as a framework that supported me, and this way of thinking helped me develop a positive body image. She’s now achieved a healthy connection with food after years of fighting this binge eating problem thanks to eating regularly, working out, and using the food charting technique, which involves logging your daily meals in a journal to keep track of what you consume. eating now.

Similar to Pranshu Mishra, who experienced binge eating disorder in the eleventh year as a result of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), stress, and an excessive amount of homework. Mishra described eating disorders as “a tug of war between the stomach and the brain,” adding that you just “don’t stop at one dish; you just eat mindlessly, even if you feel uncomfortable.”

She revealed that after eating her favorite food, which releases happy hormones into her body, she felt intense guilt and starved herself for hours before repeating the cycle.

Ann, on the other hand, was diagnosed with bulimia in 2007, a severe eating disorder that is characterized by binge eating followed by weight loss techniques. “Because I’ve always been an overweight child, I experienced a lot of bullying. Others began to sneer and say things like, “Go for a walk,” or “Are the people in your house getting food, or are you consuming it all?” I stopped eating in front of people as a result of this, she told IndianExpress.com. She overworked herself due to her condition, which caused her to lose a lot of weight. She claimed, “I felt quite weak and dizzy all the time.

We spoke with experts to find out more about the mental and physical effects of these eating disorders, and they highlighted that these disorders are not lifestyle choices. “Eating disorders are complex disorders associated with significant impairment in an individual’s eating behavior and related thoughts, emotions, and attitudes that affect their physical, psychological health, and psychosocial functioning,” said Dr. Aparna Ramakrishnan, Psychiatry Consultant at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Mumbai. They frequently pose a threat to life. She emphasized that while the precise reason is difficult to pinpoint, eating disorders are the result of a complex interplay between genetic, biochemical, behavioral, psychological, and social factors.

The pressure from society and friends to meet unattainable body ideals, as well as persons with low self-confidence and impulsive behavior, are at risk of developing eating disorders, stated Dr. Meghana Pasi, nutrition consultant, MyThali Program, ArogyaWorld. The specialist listed a number of treatment alternatives, including psychotherapy, nutritional counseling, and medication.

Mishra sought nutritional guidance from a dietician to put this into action, and the dietician advised her to eat frequently and mindfully, a strategy that helps you distinguish between physical and emotional hunger by making you pay more attention to what you eat and how it makes you feel. She also incorporated physical activities into her routine that improved her body image, such as yoga, swimming, and exercising. They used to make fun of me and call me names, but now that I’ve gained confidence, I can ignore them, the woman stated.

For Ann, losing weight in a healthy way through jogging enabled her to find mental peace, which ultimately improved the quality of her life.

How Do Eating Disorders Impact Social Media?

With reference to the same, Dr. Ramakrishnan stated, “Media exposure, such as that from television, social media, and fashion magazines, mediates the internalization of the thin ideal and may be linked to the emergence of eating disorders. The use of social media more frequently or for longer periods of time increases exposure to peer interactions, messages, and images that might perpetuate body stereotypes. She went on to say that distorted visual media, such as images and films with filters, can raise the risk of eating disorders.

The presence of “pro-ana” and “pro-mia” information that views anorexia and bulimia as lifestyle choices (which should be respected) rather than diagnoses, according to one examination of videos and chat groups on social media platforms, is also concerning, according to Dr. Ramakrishnan.

According to Dr. Dinika Anand, a clinical psychologist at BLK-Max Superspeciality Hospital, social media has a significant impact on how we view food. On the one hand, social media promotes the ideal body type and size, and on the other, through advertisements and food bloggers, it glorifies and celebrates food.

The experts emphasized that women are more susceptible to societal pressure and negative comments about their appearance. Gender stereotypes also have a role in the development of eating disorders in women, particularly when it comes to the objectification and sexualization of women. This is supported by research that found that men are less likely to be diagnosed with an eating disorder, even if they exhibit the same symptoms as women, because eating disorders are typically viewed as “feminine” disorders. This research was published in The Journal of Treatment and Prevention in 2012.

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