The Pressure to be Thin: Anorexia and Bulimia

Healthy diet and exercise can change your life, but often people will go the extreme with dieting, which can cause negative effects to your body and mind. We’re working with The European Action on Drugs to inform you about the risks of deadly diets, including Anorexia and Bulimia.

The pressure to be thin is something that most people will feel at one point in their life. Through magazines, tv, movies, and advertisements being thin is considered by the media as being beautiful. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth, but unfortunately many will believe it and use extreme measures to achieve their desired weight and beyond. Two of these measures are Anorexia and Bulimia, both of which are extremely negative and harmful to your body.

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that causes a person to obsess over what they eat and how much they weigh. [i] If you are anorexic you might attempt to keep your weight below what is considered normal, limit your food intake, and exercise obsessively. [i] However, anorexic isn’t really about food or dieting, it stems from emotional problems and equating thinness with self-worth or control.

Bulimia nervosa is similar to anorexia nervosa in that you are obsessed with your weight and food intake in an unhealthy way. The difference between the two diseases is that with bulimia you might eat a large, high calorie meal and then to get rid of the extra calories you use extreme measures either by vomiting or putting yourself through excessive exercise. [iv] Like anorexia, bulimia is not just about weight loss but is about how you perceive yourself mentally and physically.

Statistics About Anorexia:

  • 1% to 1.5% of the U.S population is affected by anorexia [ii]
  • Teens are most affected by anorexia.[iii]
  • About 9 out of 10 people with anorexia are female. But some boys and men have it too. [iii]
  • Girls as young as seven years old have been diagnosed with anorexia. [ii]

Statistics About Bulimia:

  • 85-90% of bulimics are women [v]
  • Teenage girls are more likely to be affected by bulimia [vi]
  • An estimated 1.1 to 4.2%  of women have bulimia nervosa in their lifetime [vii]
  • An estimated 2 to 5% of Americans experience binge-eating disorder in a 6-month period.[vii]

Both eating disorders come with numerous risk factors. Many times you won’t consider the risk factors when you are on an extreme diet but they are important as they can cause serious health issues such as heart problems, organ failure, and even death.

Anorexia Risk Factors [i]:

  • Abnormal blood count
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Soft, down hair covering the body
  • Absence of menstruation
  • Loss of testosterone for men
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Depression
  • Death

Bulimia Risk Factors [iv]:

  • Damage to your teeth and gums from vomiting stomach acid
  • Sores in the throat and mouth
  • Swollen salivary glands
  • Dehydration
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Absence of menstruation
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

If you are afraid someone you know may have anorexia or bulimia look for these common symptoms. Often people might have one or a few of these symptoms, so try to be aware if a friend or family member starts to exhibit abnormal behavior when it comes to food and body image.

Anorexia Symptoms [i]:

  • Skipping meals
  • Eating only foods low in calories or fats
  • Extreme eating rituals such as cutting food into small pieces
  • Constantly weighing themselves
  • Excessive exercise
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Anger, sadness, irritability

Bulimia Symptoms [iv]:

  • Binge eating or eating excessive amounts of food
  • Vomiting after meals
  • Eating until you are uncomfortable or in pain
  • Using laxatives, diuretics, or enemas
  • Negative body image
  • Going to the bathroom during or after meals to purge

If you or someone you know has anorexia or bulimia it’s important to get help. The problem often lies further than just feeling fat, many feel the pressure to be thin from sports, the media, or even their own family and to exceed the expectations placed on them they will go about dieting in a harmful and negative way.

Remember, a normal BMI (body mass index) is between 18.5-24.9, so if you fall below 18.5, you are underweight and at risk of serious complications. If you are planning a diet to lose weight, it’s vital that you go about in a healthy way. You may not get the results you desire immediately, but dieting is life style change and it might take a few months to reach your targeted weight. With a healthy diet you are sure to achieve long lasting results.








Read more about the European Action on Drugs here.


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