The Hidden Faces of Eating Disorders

Posted on March 14, 2017

Photo: flickr

As the title suggests, there is a certain, significant group of people whose eating disorders go unnoticed, because of our flawed perception that people suffering from eating disorders are all stick-thin. In fact, new research shows that people who are heavier are at higher risk of contracting eating disorders. When close to ten thousand students from 12 colleges were studied, it was found that body weight is the most consistent, and thus most accurate predictor of eating disorders and the symptoms that surround them. In particular, students who were on the heavier side were at the highest risk of contracting eating disorders, while those who were underweight were at the lowest risk, contrary to popular belief. Another study looked at a list of patients who sought treatment for anorexia nervosa, and it was found that more than 36 percent of them had been on the heavier side (with a BMI above the 85th percentile) at some point in their lives. Shockingly, the symptoms they exhibited were diagnosed much later in the illness, when their conditions were more serious. Perhaps what is most disturbing is that medical professionals often under-diagnose, or even encourage these patients to lose weight.

People who are on the heavier side are at higher risk of developing eating disorder symptoms because of societal views that shun fat and embrace the skinny. Being fat thus seems like a wrong of sorts, like evidence of being a sub-par human being. With all these negative attitudes towards the overweight, it is no surprise that many overweight people will do anything they can to lose weight, and some of them end up taking extreme measures that could lead to the development of an eating disorder. It is important to note that their weight loss journeys often do not start with symptoms of eating disorders such as binging and purging, but with diets that go out of control and thus lead to these symptoms.

In the media, efforts to increase awareness regarding eating disorders are often presented to people who are underweight, while those who are on the heavier side are targets for weight loss programmes and campaigns. Paradoxically, the overweight are told to diet, even though dieting is probably the most common precursor to an eating disorder. It is high time that we stop telling those on the heavier side to do exactly what we diagnose as symptoms of eating disorders in the underweight. Behaviours such as self-induced vomiting, binging and purging are harmful to all of us and are always signs of eating disorders, regardless of how much we weigh.

Category(s):Eating Disorders

Source material from Psychology Today

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