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

Critique Ghai was first diagnosed binge eating disorder when she was just 12 years old. Since birth, she had an enlarged adenoid that blocked her nasal passage, causing her to gain weight. Her condition was compounded by her inability to do any exercises due to her irregular breathing pattern. As a child, she was therefore put on various extreme diets to control her weight. This forced them to eat large amounts of food – quickly and stealthily. “Not knowing what I was going through, eating became a way to validate my feelings,” she said, adding that the anxiety caused by the pandemic only caused her to eat even more during times of stress and loneliness took.

Eventually, she consulted a nutritionist who helped her develop healthy eating habits. Ghai was advised not to curb her cravings and to erase the distinction between “good” and “bad” food to stop associating food with guilt and shame. “I began to see my body as a structure that supported me, and this perspective allowed me to Healthy Body Image,” she said. Eventually, after years of struggling with this binge eating disorder, she has developed a healthy relationship with food through eating regular meals, exercising, and tracking food, a technique that involves recording your daily meals in keep a journal to keep track of what you eat.

Similarly, Pranshu Mishra developed binge eating disorder due to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), stress and an excessive study load in eleventh grade. “You just don’t stop at one serving; You just eat mindlessly, even when you’re not feeling well,” Mishra said, calling eating disorders “a tug-of-war between the stomach and the brain.”

Conjured up her favorite food while eating happiness hormones She felt immense guilt in her body immediately after using it, leading to starving herself for hours before repeating the same cycle, she admitted.

Ann, on the other hand, developed bulimia — a severe eating disorder characterized by bingeing followed by methods of avoiding weight gain — in 2007. “I’ve been a chubby kid my entire life, so I’ve faced a lot of bullying. It got to a point where people would make snide remarks like “Are people allowed to eat in your house or do you eat everything?”. or ‘go for a walk’. It hit me massively and I stopped eating in front of people,” she told indianexpress.com. Due to her condition, she used to exercise excessively which caused her to lose weight drastically. “I felt very weak and light-headed the whole time,” she said.

To learn more about the mental and physical aspects of such eating disorders, we turned to experts who emphasized that these disorders are not lifestyle choices. dr Aparna Ramakrishnan, Consultant Psychiatrist, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Mumbai said: “eating disorder are complex disorders that involve significant disturbances in a person’s eating behaviors and related thoughts, emotions, and attitudes that affect their physical, mental health, and psychosocial functioning. They can often be life-threatening.” She stressed that the exact cause is elusive, but eating disorders are caused by a complex interplay of genetic, biological, behavioral, psychological, and social factors.

dr Meghana Pasi, Nutritionist, MyThali Program, ArogyaWorld agreed, saying: “Societal and peer pressure to achieve unrealistic body standards, as well as people with low Self-esteem and impulsive behaviors are at risk of developing eating disorders.” The expert said dietary counseling, psychotherapy, and medication are some available treatment options.

To implement these, Mishra sought nutritional advice from a nutritionist, who asked her to eat on a regular basis and to practice mindful eating, a technique that makes you more mindful of your food and your feelings, dividing you between the physical and the emotional distinguish between hunger. In addition, she also included physical activities like swimming, yoga and exercise in her routine which made her feel better about her body. “People used to shame me and call me other names, but after gaining confidence I can ignore their nasty remarks,” she said.

As for Ann, running changed her life for the better as it became a mechanism for her to lose weight in a healthy way and helped her find mental peace.

Does Social Media Affect Eating Disorders?

bulimia Social media plays a huge role in our relationship with food. (Source: Freepik)

Speaking about it, said Dr. Ramakrishnan: Exposure to media such as fashion magazines, television, and social media conveys internalization of the thin ideal and can be linked to the development of eating disorders. More time investment or more frequent use of social media means greater exposure to images, messages, and interactions with peers that can propagate body stereotypes.” She further explained that inaccurate visual media representation, such as the use of filters on photos and videos, can increase the risk of eating disorders.

Also after aAnalyzing videos and chat groups on social media platforms, there is a worrying presence of “pro-ana” and “pro-mia” content that focuses on how anorexia and bulimia are lifestyle choices (that need to be respected), rather than being categorized as such disorders, Dr. Ramakrishnan.

dr Dinika Anand, Clinical Psychologist, BLK-Max Superspeciality Hospital agreed: “Social media plays a huge role in our relationship with food. On the one hand, social media projects the ideal body type and height, on the other hand, it glorifies and celebrates food through advertising and food bloggers.”

The experts stressed that women are more likely to be affected by social pressure and unfavorable reviews of their physical appearance. Over and beyond, gender stereotypes, particularly the objectification and sexualization of women, contribute to the emergence of eating disorders in them. Research published in The Journal of Treatment and Prevention from 2012 agrees with this claim, showing that men are less likely to be diagnosed with an eating disorder, even if they have the same symptoms as women, since eating disorders are generally considered “female” disorders.

Here are some expert tips that can help treat eating disorders:

* Keep meals on track
*Eat small portions throughout the day
*Stop starving
* Don’t limit your urges
*Delete or restrict the use of food delivery applications
*Browse social media mindfully by interacting with body positivity and relatable content instead of unrealistic and curated feeds

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