We often talk about obesity. But did you know there is another alarming trend that is equally concerning. Many in today’s young generation are obsessed about their own image. In particular, they look up to reed thin models and stars, and admire their thin, sculpted bodies. The desire to have a similar body image is so huge among the young generation that some go to extremes to achieve it.
Anorexia Nervosa, as it is medically called, arises out of this fascination to stay unhealthily thin with an intense fear of gaining weight. Not surprisingly, it affects adolescent girls and young adult women more than boys, men, or older women. Others at risk include athletes, actors, dancers, models, and TV personalities for whom thinness has become a professional requirement.
The recent images of stick-thin Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck as models in a Barney's holiday ad has enraged many people. They argue that Disney is promoting an image that is both unrealistic and unhealthy -- and doing so with much-loved and familiar Disney characters.
What are the signs?
The hallmark of anorexia nervosa is a denial of the fact that they have abnormal low body weight. In fact, people with anorexia nervosa think they look fat even when they are bone-thin! Due to malnutrition, their nails and hair are brittle, skin may be dry and yellow, and they often complain of feeling cold (hypothermia) because of their low body temperature.
People with anorexia usually lose weight by reducing their total food intake to less than 1000 calories/day and exercising excessively, not realizing that this may do more harm than good. Anxiety, low self-esteem and stress are the main causes.
Complications: Not Worth It
Remember the age-old saying 'A healthy mind in a healthy body"? Starvation deprives the body of the vital nutrients that it needs to grow, especially in the crucial phase of growth. Not only that, it causes damage to important organs such as heart, kidneys, and brain. Pulse rate and blood pressure may drop leading to irregular heart rhythms or heart failure.
By depriving themselves of nutrition, teenagers run the risk of dehydration due to low potassium and sodium levels. The deprivation can also lead to calcium loss from bones, which can become brittle and prone to breakage. In the worst case scenario, people with anorexia starve themselves to death.
If someone you know is showing signs of anorexia, you may be able to help in the following ways:
- Talk privately with your friend about your concerns and worries about her not eating well.
- Ask your friend to talk to a professional for help.
- Do not place any shame and guilt on her. Let your friend know that you’ll always be there for her.
- Encourage her to visit sites for support such as National Eating Disorders Association.