A Woman’s Relationship with Her Body Size
Eating disorders affect approximately 20 million women in the U.S. These conditions, namely, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder, are conditions in which the patient has an unhealthy relationship with food and often, a distorted image of her own body size and shape. Eating disorders can be devastating illnesses caused by psychological problems, trauma, social issues, or may even be genetically linked.
- Anorexia nervosa – a condition in which a person has a severe fear of gaining weight. The person often sees herself as fat no matter her actual weight and takes measures such as skipping meals and starving herself to lose weight.
- Bulimia nervosa – a disorder characterized by intense fear of weight gain. People with this condition eat large amounts of food and then purge themselves by deliberate vomiting.
- Binge eating disorder – a disorder in which a person will eat large amounts of food in a single sitting because she is unable to control how much she eats.
Eating disorders frequently appear during the teen years when pressures about body image are high. More than 50% of teenage girls admit to using unhealthy methods to control weight including starving themselves, inducing vomiting, or excessive use of laxatives. As parents or role models for young women, it is our job to recognize the signs of dissatisfaction with body image, abnormal eating behaviors, or indications of outside pressures to control body size. If you know a young woman with the signs of an eating disorder, encourage her to seek help, starting with her woman’s health professional. Eating disorders can be treated and controlled, particularly if discovered early.