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More about eating disorders

Kathy’s Troccoli’s struggle with bulimia and anorexia is more common than you might think. If you are suffering from an eating disorder — or if you love someone who is — we hope you’ll find the following information helpful.

The truth about eating disorders

• One percent of teenage girls and 5 percent of college-age women become anorexic or bulimic.
• A female who diets before the age of 14 is eight times more likely to develop an eating disorder.
• One out of 10 people with an eating disorder is a male.
• Sixty percent of models, ballerinas and athletes whose field requires leanness practice disordered eating and dieting.
• Weight gain is normal during adolescence. Girls grow 10 inches and gain 40 to 50 pounds from age 12 to 14. Boys grow 12 inches and gain 50 to 60 pounds. The weight gain and height increase are not always perfectly synchronized, thus many adolescents experience periods of “chubbiness.”

Medical consequences of eating disorders

Anorexia (An eating disorder characterized by markedly reduced appetite or total aversion to food. Anorexia is a serious psychological disorder that goes beyond out-of-control dieting.)

Consequences: Skeletal appearance, slow heart rate, low blood pressure, gastrointestinal disorders, menstrual irregularities or cessation, reduced body temperature, loss of muscle tissue, nutritional imbalance, osteoporosis, altered brain function and size, anemia, impaired renal function and other cardiovascular abnormalities.

Bulimia (Eating disorder characterized by episodes of binge-eating followed by inappropriate methods of weight control, such as self-induced vomiting, abuse of laxatives and diuretics, or excessive exercise. Bulimia’s insatiable appetite is often interrupted by periods of anorexia.)

Consequences: Fluid and electrolyte imbalance, tooth decay and gum erosion (from stomach acid present during vomiting), enlargement of salivary glands, gastrointestinal disorders, esophageal or gastric dilation or rupture, muscular weakness (including the heart), edema (fluid retention), vitamin deficiencies and central nervous system disturbances.

Red flags: How to tell if a loved one might be suffering from an eating disorder:

• Unusual focus on weight, food, calories and dieting
• Excessive exercise
• Complaints of being fat despite a thin appearance
• Frequent comparison of body image or diet with others
• Unnatural facial hair growth in girls
• Unexplained messes and smells in the bathroom
• Disappearing to the bathroom after meals
• A “chipmunk” appearance caused by inflammation of the saliva glands
• Evidence of the use of laxatives (empty bottles, advertisements, etc.)
• Consumption of large amounts of food inconsistent with weight
• Hoarding or stealing food
• Fainting, lightheadedness or dizziness not explained by any other medical problem
• Poor dental hygiene, bad breath, cracked lips caused by purging and dehydration
• Refusal to eat meals with family or friends
• Food rituals such as eating food in rigid sequence, not allowing foods to touch each other, eating a very limited variety of foods, cutting food into small pieces, blotting foods with napkins to remove excess fats

— Adapted from Beyond Appearances, published by Focus on the Family (1997, 2000, 2002). Used by permission. As seen on www.family.org.

Where some get help

• Emerge Ministries, a full-service evangelical mental-health outpatient center (www.emerge.org).
• The Remuda Ranch, a Christian treatment center for women and adolescent girls suffering from anorexia and bulimia (www.remuda-ranch.com).
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