One of the most important indicators of today’s times is the continuous talk around weight and health.
On the one hand, obesity is becoming an epidemic, leading to lifestyle diseases like diabetes and hypertension in the process. On the other hand, body image concerns and eating disorders are also on the rise, for both men and women. There are scores of weight-loss products and professionals, not to mention the entire horde of specialized dieting programs, which can lead to immense confusion.
In such a situation, how does one know whether one’s approach towards weight loss is healthy or pathological?
Eating has always been a behaviour that is highly associated with emotions. Some foods make us happy, some not. The consumption of particular food can produce comfort or discomfort and also particular mood states.
Therefore, we will always have certain emotions attached to food and eating behaviour. Therefore, tracking one’s emotions are a good way of knowing where we stand on the spectrum.
Do you hate how you look or are you just trying to become healthy but you love your body in the process and would not punish or harm it? The former is more indicative of pathology.
The DSM diagnosis for:
#Anorexia Nervosa, one of the more common disorders, is as follows:
A. Restriction of energy intake relative to requirements, leading to a significantly low body weight in the context of age, sex, developmental trajectory, and physical health. Significantly low weight is defined as a weight that is less than minimally normal or, for children and adolescents, less than that minimally expected.
B. Intense fear of gaining weight or of becoming fat, or persistent behaviour that interferes with weight gain, even though at a significantly low weight.
C. Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or persistent lack of recognition of the seriousness of the current low body weight.
#Bulimia nervosa, on the other hand, has a binge-purge pattern. A person with BN is likely to eat much more than they need or can digest well, and then vomit the food out by inducing puking, because they feel guilty for this eating. Repeated use of laxatives and induced puking tends to really harm their esophagus and digestive track.
There are other eating disorders as well, like Pica where a person eats non-nutritive substances like mud or human faeces. Other disorders are Restrictive Eating Disorder and Rumination Disorder. If you know someone who has had drastic weight loss accompanied with cutting or other self-harm behaviour, it is probably an eating disorder or related psychopathology.
Eating disorders are treatable, and the rate of getting better depends on how soon the treatment is sought. A qualified mental health professional will be able to help you understand this in detail. If you are unsure about the need to go to a MH professional, try talking about it to a counselor or a general physician.