Are you hungry all the time? Then this article is just for you. 

We all know that food plays an important part in our life. It provides us energy and nutrients and plays a very vital role in physiological functioning of our bodies. Eating also makes us happy, as we bond over meals at home, workplace, luncheons, dinner, coffees, etc. However, how many of us can balance the eating with “healthy” and “exercise?” Today’s fast paced workaholic life has given birth to a problematic relation between “healthy eating and regular exercises.” Only when we see the scales tipping towards weight gain do we realise the problem.

Many people eat more due to psychological stress. They become emotional eaters, eating  excessively to fight away the stress they face, the painful emotions they experience and the anxiety they feel without even being aware of it fully! Many willfully starve, frequently by depriving themselves of basic energy and nutrients for that elusive figure.

Eating disorders are not gender biased. Be it youngsters, adolescents influenced under the buzz word “healthy,” or peer pressure, there are many who have eating disorders mainly because they are highly influenced by the recent fads and psychological development, family history,  stress, psychiatric and medical co-morbidity.

The major symptom of an eating disorder is unusual consumption of excessive food in short periods of time. Others include not being able to exercise control, eating even when full, eating to cope with negative feelings of loneliness, sadness, unpleasant emotions, eating lots of junk food frequently,  skipping meals frequently, hiding food and throwing food secretly provided by caregivers, refusing to eat food, vomiting immediately after eating, eating impulsively and randomly without healthy routines, exercising way excessively beyond the regular fitness regimens in compensation to cope with guilty eating spells, going to the gym or workouts session erratically after  frequent spells of  consumption of very high caloric food, perceiving one's self to be fat despite being objectively thin and underweight, not able to stop disordered eating patterns despite developing medical complications related to the eating disorder,  feeling sad and distressed because of eating problems.

Not all are eating disorders!

All individuals who are obese or underweight have an eating disorder. Medical conditions, hormonal problems, genetic overlay, etc. can contribute in making a person fat or thin! No need to feel ashamed over your weight and body image! Be confident the way you are whether thin or fat! However, for medical reasons it may be necessary to prioritize one's excessive weight gain or weight loss!

The most common types are:

  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Bulimia Nervosa
  • Binge eating Disorder

Anorexia nervosa individuals can have a morbid fear of becoming fat and may restrict intake of food excessively or use measures such as vomiting, laxatives to lose weight and a body image distortion of being very fat despite objectively being thin. Bulimia nervosa can have symptoms such as eating excessively, emotional eating, feeling guilty about the eating pattern, compensatory excessive exercising to lose excess intake. Binge eating is characterized by eating excessive amounts of food in relatively short periods of time very frequently. There are standard diagnostic criteria in psychiatry classification such as DSM- 5 and ICD-10 which enable psychiatrists to clinically interview the patients and diagnose the conditions based on symptoms.

What can "eating disorders" do to you?

Untreated eating disorders can have implications on physical health leading to complications such as loss of menses, osteoporosis and fractures, GIT disturbances, electrolyte disturbances, dental problems, cardiac problems, etc. Eating disorders can also have co-morbid psychiatric disorders such as depression, OCD, anxiety disorder, substance abuse, personality issues, etc.

If you think you or your near and dear ones have some symptoms of an eating disorder, it is advisable to consult a psychiatrist at the earliest. The psychiatrist will clinically evaluate you, try to understand your pattern of eating disorder, rule out co-morbid depression, stress or anxiety related disorder, counsel you and provide you cognitive behavior therapy for the eating disorder. The psychiatrist may also suggest some psychological assessments if perceived necessary to understand the problems with your eating. The psychiatrist may also suggest some medications for your pattern of eating disorder based on clinical expertise. The psychiatrist may suggest some investigations and references to other specialties such as medicine, pediatrics, endocrinology, neurology, surgery, gynecology, etc. based on the symptoms and complications faced by the patient.

Outpatient or in-patient based treatment setting for eating disorders depend on the diagnosed condition, severity of the condition, co-morbid medical problems, school of training, guidelines, etc. Multidisciplinary approaches consisting of psychiatry, clinical psychology, nutritionist counselling, etc. may be helpful in holistic management of eating disorders in collaboration with concerned specialties.