Some Interesting Facts about Bodies, Dieting, and
- Eating disorders affect about a half-million people at any given time.
- 8-10% of the female population have bulimia.
- 6-10% of those with a eating disorder die, usually from a heart attack.
- 80% of the female population has dieted before reaching 18.
- About 20% of women ages 18-29 are trying to lose weight, although they are not
- Women need a fat level of approximately 22% of the body weight in order to menstruate
- Americans spend over $300 million a year on diet products.
- Most diets fail (over 90%) in the long run because healthy eating patterns have not been
- There are many health risks associated with extreme obesity, but it is not a major
health hazard to be a few pounds overweight.
- Our bodies are biologically preprogrammed to weigh a certain amount.
- Each of us may have a predetermined weight "set point" that our systems
automatically attempt to maintain.
- Sophia Loren and Marilyn Monroe could not get a job today in the film industry without
going on a diet.
- 5'4" - 142 lb. = average height and weight of an American woman.
- 5'9" - 110 lb. = average height and weight of a model.
- 1 in 10,000 females naturally (without dieting) meet model-thin dimensions.
- Every body is a good body, whatever its size and shape.
- Good health is not defined by body size--it is a state of physical, mental and social
- Dieting can make you fat.
- Fat-free foods may have as many or more calories than their counterparts that do contain
- Thin does not equal fit. You can be heavy and fit.
- Excessive dieting can lead to irritability, depression, withdrawal, and sexual
What is an Eating Disorder?
Eating disorders are mental disorders that can have serious physical complications.
These disorders may make normal functioning difficult and can become chronic,
crippling illnesses and, in extreme cases, require hospitalization. There are three
main types of eating disorders: Anorexia, Bulimia, and Binge Eating. These are
complex disorders focusing on issues of eating, body weight, and body shape.
Disordered eating can lead to an eating disorder. It is important to identify eating
habits and change them before they become severe.
COMPULSIVE EATING or BINGE EATING
A person consumes a large amount of food in a short period of time (less than 2 hours),
but does not engage in purging behavior. This eating is without regard to physical
cues signaling hunger or satisfaction. The individual loses the power of choice over
food. Driven by forces they don't quite understand, or even recognize, to eat more
than they need.
A person will eat a large quantity of food in a short period of time. Then, the
person will attempt to rid the body of the food by some method such as vomiting, using
laxatives, or intense exercising. This is called the binge-purge cycle. A
person may have anorexia and bulimia at the same time.
A person actively tries to maintain an abnormally low weight through severely restricting
the intake of food. There is an intense fear of gaining weight and becoming obese.
A person also may engage in purging behaviors even after eating a small amount of
Who has Eating Disorders?
It was thought that eating disorders primarily occurred in middle-class Caucasian
women. Today, this is not so. There is an increasing number of
African-American and Hispanic women with eating disorders. Although females are more
at risk, the number of males with eating disorders is rising.
Certain groups in which eating disorders occur more frequently are: dancers,
cheerleaders, gymnasts, runners, wrestlers, and weight lifters.
Consequences of Having an Eating Disorder
Eating disorders can have a serious and even fatal impact on the body. The
mortality rates may not accurately reflect the number of people who died from eating
disorders because of the long term effect on the body. Even after the person no
longer has an eating disorder, the damage to the body persists.
The following table presents the effects on the body of the eating disorders:
- Gallbladder disease
- Heart and respiratory disorders
- Increased risk of diabetes
- Increased risk of high blood pressure
- Damage to gastrointestinal system
- Erosion of teeth enamel
- Enlarged salivary glands
- Chronic loss of bodily fluids
- Lung irritation
- Stomach spasms
- Electrolyte imbalance that may lead to heart failure
- Skin rashes
- Menstrual irregularities
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Severe dehydration
- Skin--dry, cracked, rough, grey or yellow
- Hair--thin and dry
- Bruises easily
- Sensitivity to cold
- Amenorrhea--Temporary or permanent infertility
- Cardiac irregularities
How Do Eating Disorders Develop?
For each individual the cause of the eating disorder will be different. Several
broad causes have been identified including culture and family. In our culture
today, thinness is emphasized. It is portrayed as key to happiness. This
perception promotes poor body images which in turn may lead to disordered eating patterns
and eating disorders. Other identified triggers are family dynamics and poor
Dissatisfaction with Self: If I'm not perfect no one will love
me. Will I ever be good enough?
Family pressures and concerns: Do well and be popular for them.
Don't make waves. Why don't they notice me? Be the best to earn their
School and Peer Pressures: Be thin to be popular. Do well
so you can get into college. Everyone diets all the time. Binge with friends
In our culture, physical attractiveness contributes significantly to success in the
social domain. Thinness is an important component of how attractive and desirable a
woman is perceived to be. Social pressure to be thin likely promotes poor body
images which in turn may prompt dieting efforts.
What is Your Body Image and Eating Pattern?
- Do you find yourself preoccupied with thoughts of food and eating?
- Do you eat large quantities of food in a short period of time?
- Have you used laxatives, diuretics, or diet pills in an attempt to control your weight?
- Are you continuously dieting or practicing restrictive eating?
- Do you always feel you are "fat" regardless of other people's opinions?
- Are you so dissatisfied with your body that it makes you unhappy?
- Are you fearful of gaining weight or becoming "fat?"
- Does your weight determine how you feel about yourself?
- Do you eat when you get upset or stressed?
- Do you avoid any food that contains fat?
- Do you worry that someone will find out about your eating patterns?
- Do you feel a lack of control over your eating behavior?
- Do you feel self-conscious or embarrassed about eating . . . sneaking food or lying
about eating habits?
- Do you compulsive exercise which means exercising several hours every day and feeling
you "have to" exercise after eating?
If you answered yes to many of these questions, you might consider talking with
What Can I do If I think I Might have an Eating
Treatment of eating disorders depends on a number of factors: the person with the
eating disorder, the length and severity of the eating disorder, and the physical health
of the person. Treatment addresses the physical and psychological aspects of the
person. A physical exam with electrolyte balance check is recommended. If the
person has been vomiting, a dental exam is important. If the person is in poor
physical condition, in-patient treatment may be warranted. Individual and group
therapy addresses the psychological issues. Antidepressants may be used to help alleviate
immediate eating problems and mood disturbances. When the eating disorder behavior
is under control, a consultation with a dietician is useful. A dietician can give a
new approach to eating and teach proper nutrition.
If you are concerned, call the SHSU Counseling Center at (936) 294-1720.
You think a Friend has an Eating Disorder: What
Should You Do?
- Speak up! Approach your friend gently but persistently. Tell him/her that
you are worried about him/her and listen sympathetically.
- Encourage your friend to talk about his/her problems and feelings.
- Be supportive. It is the most important thing you can do. Show him/her you
believe in him/her. It will make a difference in recovery.
- Don't focus on achievements, instead talk about his/her inner qualities and strengths.
Share your own failures and mistakes.
- Do not expect him/her to admit he/she has a problem right away. Give it time.
- Do not discuss his/her weight, eating habits, or exercise habits. The starving or
binge eating is not the important issue.
- Remember these are only symptoms of other problems.
- Do not tell a person with anorexia or bulimia to "just go ahead and eat."
- Do not make statements about weight gained or lost. Focus on mental states.
- Do give him/her a list of sources for professional help.
- Do talk to someone about your own emotions if you feel the need. An objective
outsider can emphasize the fact that you are not responsible for your friend--you can only
help your friend help him/herself.
- Be a good role model--practice healthy living.
- Examine your own attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors about weight and body image. Do
you tolerate diversity in body shape and size?
Things to do Instead of Binging or Purging
- Go for a walk.
- Relax; practice meditation.
- Practice new behaviors and activities such as self improvement classes and hobbies for
the early evening hours.
- Make new rules such as "No eating in the car" and "Remove binge foods
from the house and car."
- Eat without combining reading, working, watching TV, etc.
- Talk to yourself. "What is the pay off for binging this time?" and
"What's not working? What do I need that I am not getting?"
- Leave your binge environment, especially when frustrated, under pressure, stressed, or
- Begin an enjoyable task or project immediately after eating a meal.
- Call a friend who knows about your problem and have him/her just listen.
- Get enough rest and expand positive relationships.
- Carry food to work or school rather than buying it there.
- Pack healthy, satisfying food.
- Take deep breaths, close your eyes, picture yourself in a field or at the beach.
- Turn on quiet music--any method of relaxation helps.
- Work on your perfectionism. It is okay not to be perfect about every external
- Getting on the scale does not help, it is what's inside that counts.
- Learn your triggers, learn your danger zones.
- Drink a glass of water.
Additional Online Information
Where to Get Help on Campus
Counseling Center (936) 294-1720 or Health Center (936) 294-1805.