Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Eating Disorders

We had a presenter come present to us today on eating disorder. Amanda, a Brown student, was diagnosed with anorexia in her freshmen year in college. Now she is going to be a senior and graduate and she wanted to inform people about eating disorders, especially since she went through it herself.

What I found interesting was that people do not think they are anorexic or bulimic even if they are beyond unhealthy. An example Amanda used was that when she use to look at herself in the mirror, she would see a fat lard. Then she would look at another person who was exactly the same weight but she would find them in the nice weight spectrum. This is the complicated part; people diagnosed with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia only find flaws within themselves.

Eating disorders are due to the pressure from family and friends to be perfect. Amanda said she did not know this until she was finally diagnosed with anorexia but when she was younger, she used to be chubby and her mother would watch what she ate. For example, when Amanda picked up something containing a lot of fat, her mother would retort " Do you know how much calories is in there?!" This kind of attitude towards her led to her eating disorder.

I used to get disgusted when I see interviews of people with eating disorders. Some people just do not know when they are going overboard and jeopardizing their life! However, from Amanda's personal experience, I understand why sometimes they feel an urge to purge or binge; it is difficult to stop especially in today's society. There is a huge pressure for females to be a specific weight and look a specific way. This lead some girls to believe that they have to purge or binge to lose weight and look like a "celebrity."

I found out that eating disorders are very hard to treat as well. In Amanda's case, she had to go through a 12 step treatment and they were closely watched every hour of the day. They retained no privacy even while in the bathroom. They had a specific dress code in case they hid anything in their sleeves or anything of that sort. Now, I view them as strong people because they have to go through so much to get treated. It shows how dedicated they are to rehabilitating so now I respect them.

Well, good night and expect another blog tomorrow.

1 comment:

Don Gosney said...


An interesting subject.

It would be a mistake, though, to pigeon hole the root cause of this mental disorder to peer pressure from friends or relatives. There are plenty of causes and sometimes it has absolutely nothing to do with outside pressure and everything to do with the pressure that the individual places upon themselves.

Why do you suppose that anorexia and bulimia are almost exclusively associated with females?

Certainly the way women are portrayed in magazines, the movies and on TV has an impact. How many times do you see a 165 pound woman splashed on the cover of a fashion magazine?

With my photography I work with a lot of distance runners ranging from highs schoolers to Olympic caliber runners in the professional arena. We see this problem much more frequently than we’d like.

When college recruiters scout high school distance runners they always look for the tell tale signs of these disorders. As you might imagine, no college coach wants to inherit a “head case” that’s going to cost him a scholarship and put the girl’s life at risk.

A few years back we had a great distance runner from a high school near Sacramento who opted to turn pro right out of high school but couldn’t find any sponsorship because of her eating disorders. Even right out of high school she was world class caliber. It was long suspected that the reason she tried to turn pro was because no reputable college would have anything to do with her as long as she had the eating disorder. Even though she should have had a lengthy and lucrative career as a distance running star, she fell off of the map because of her eating problems.

Female distance runners first popped on the radar around 1980 and collegiate coaches (mostly male at the time) were unfamiliar with this type of problem and really didn’t know how to react or deal with it.

Since then a whole science has developed around recognizing and treating this disorder. Just like with every other type of taboo the sufferers are have also developed ways to hide their problem or at least to mask it so others don’t recognize it. Programs now have psychologists on retainer and regularly coach their athletes to try to prevent the problem even before it takes root.

It’s a serious problem in some circles and needs more study and better treatments.