Beating Eating Disorders

It’s completely normal and OK to gain several pounds when you’re going through puberty and becoming a woman. But as they become overly obsessed with their weight, many girls in their teens all over the world are at greatest risk of developing eating disorders. Yikes!

Here’s the Skinny …
“I started my eating disorder at age 13, the moment I noticed a little pocket of fat at my bikini line,” says Elizabeth, now an adult survivor of anorexia. “I was wearing a turquoise swimsuit with a ruffle -- a swimsuit that I loved and felt so feminine in -- but with that negative thought that "fat is bad".

No wonder a whopping 81 percent of 10-year-old girls say they’re “afraid of being fat.” A “body-perfect” illusion, promoted by the media and fashion industry, has girls tricked into thinking they should be unrealistically stick-thin.

“It was when I noticed that little pocket of fat that I decided to eat less,” says Elizabeth. “Very quickly, my entire self-worth became wrapped up in my body size. I became obsessed with thin models in magazines.”

Harsh but True
Elizabeth, quite literally, was starving herself. “I felt so in control while restricting my food intake and losing weight,” she says, “but then out of control when my body became so hungry that I would eat everything I could after several days of restricting.” Elizabeth was in the throes of anorexia nervosa, a disease defined by self-starvation and extreme weight loss.

Another dangerous disorder is bulimia nervosa, in which sufferers binge on large quantities of food in a short period and then purge by ridding calories through unhealthy means such as vomiting or taking laxatives (ew).

While there are other serious eating disorders, such as binge-eating disorder (this differs from bulimia in that there is no purging), anorexia and bulimia are the most dangerous and, well, life-threatening. “It is time to talk about eating disorders because people die,” states Lynn Grefe, CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association, which receives calls from all over the world.

Elizabeth, who finally sought help for her disease at age 20, became so thin that her teeth chipped, skin broke out and hair became brittle and started falling out. The brutal fact is, of all mental illnesses, eating disorders are the No. 1 killer.