Food is the Primary Source of Fuel – So Why Eating Disorders?

Hungry woman

Food is the primary source of fuel and in some cases people would plan their meal before they eat it, however a person’s relation with food can change for various reasons and this can result in “eating disorder – a mental health problem”.

This week marks eating disorders awareness; it is an international event to highlight the misunderstanding around eating disorder.  According to Mental Health UK, eating disorder is an illness which affects between 600,000 and 725,000 people.  There are several kinds of eating disorder which includes; anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge.

Anorexia and bulimia are the most common clinically recognised eating disorders where a person skip meals and take up restrictive unhealthy diets and become obsess with thinness.  To ensure thinness, a person would avoid eating, over exercise or even starve themselves.  Similar to anorexia, bulimia is another self-induced weight loss obsession where a person prime objective it to also achieve thinness.   With this form of disorder the person would overeat then purge by vomiting or using laxative to excrete the food eaten.  A person can suffer from both eating disorders simultaneously.

Contrary to anorexia and bulimia, binge eating disorder causes a person to gain weight and this form of disorder is achieved by eating large amounts of food in a short space of time, in this case a person feels compelled to eat –  they physical body size increases.

Both anorexia and bulimia eating disorder can result in nutritional deficiency especially protein, this can result in low muscle mass; so weaker muscle, tiredness and depression.  As muscle glycogen stores deplete, amino acids are broken down for energy, instead, so this can upset normal body repair and growth processes.

With eating disorder much needed nutritional tools; vitamins and minerals can be lost from food and this can impair normal metabolic activities such as glucose uptake via insulin, dietary fat to support both liver, memory cardio health as well.

Binge eating disorder should also be addressed as soon as possible to reduce other unforeseen health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and hormones imbalances – your doctor should be consulted for the necessary biochemical test.  Holistic healthcare is equally important; it can also help to address a person’s eating disorder through a natural approach; food and nutrition.

There are several contributing factors to eating disorders, some being genetics, emotional and mental health issues, while others are fuel by cultural and social pressure to look thin.  A way forward is to pay attention to the physical signs such as excessive weight loss, dry skin, swollen hands and feet. Some psychological signs and behaviours are; refusing to eat, depression, obsessive–compulsive behaviour.

Since they are several contributing factors, it is worth seeing an eating disorder specialist who also has sound nutritional knowledge as well.

Alison Henry, WAFFL Nutritionist