Eating Disorders: A Session with Sufferers of Obesity and Anorexia

Many studies affirm that the impact of obesity on our society with a report by the Trust for America’s Health suggesting that over half of American adults are either overweight or obese (Levi, Juliano & Segal, 2006). Obesity is a consequence of the energy intake in terms of calories exceeding the energy expenditure (WHO, 2000).

However, there are many complex and diverse factors that create this imbalance in the intake and expenditure of calories and the interaction between a number of these factors may be the cause of obesity. It is therefore wrong to assume that obesity is simply as a result of overindulgence in certain kinds of foods or lack of physical activity.

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Dietary factors and physical activity patterns have been observed to strongly influence the balance between energy intake and expenditure. Many research findings indicate that dietary factors such as levels of fat and energy food intakes are positively associated with excessive body weight which translates to obesity (WHO, 2000). The body compensates for the overconsumption of energy from high-fat foods but the fat induced appetite control signals tend to get weak thus leading to more consumption.

In addition to the dietary factors, there is a relationship between the Body Mass Index and physical activities that one involves himself in. As such, there is a strong indication that obese and overweight people are less active than their lean counterparts. Partly as a result of this findings, there has been an assumption that being obese explicitly implies inactivity.

This is a myth that should be dispelled off since results in studies suggest that low and decreasing levels of activity are primarily responsible as obesity is absent among elite athletes while those athletes who give up sports often end up experiencing fatness (WHO, 2000)

Anorexia

Anorexia Nervosa is a disorder which makes eating very distressing for a person (Stark, 2000). Anorexia is commonly characterized by emaciation and a distortion of body image by the sufferer. People with this condition are obsessively anxious to maintain or reduce their body weight.

To achieve this, the sufferers of this condition engage in a rigid control of their daily calorie intake. While people with anorexia nervosa normally have perfectly normal appetites and feel hungry as the rest of the people do, their fear of weight gain deters them from maintaining a normal diet.

One of the myths that surrounds anorexia is that the only cause of this disorder is the wish to lose weight; some people even refer to the condition as the ‘slimmer’s disease’. While this assumption may hold true for some cases Stark assets that this eating disorder is caused by a number of other factors.

Another myth surrounding anorexia is that the condition is exclusively suffered by women. While it is true that a majority of the sufferers of this condition are indeed women, Stark (2000) demonstrates that these group make up 90-95% with the remaining percentage being filled up by men. In additional to this, there is evidence that suggest that in the 7-14year age bracket, boys make up 25% of anorexia cases. This might be attributed to the fact that appearance and body image generate great especially among teenagers.

The media has been blamed for the prevalence of anorexia as the fashion and standards set by the industry positively influence people’s lifestyle choices. However, blaming the media entirely is misguided as many people who do not conform to the ideals presented by the fashion industry and media still end up having distorted images of themselves leading to diets that cause anorexia.

Open Floor Session

In response to Lindsey’s question as to whether her obesity could be as a result of her parents being obese, I would say that there is scientific that some people are more susceptible to obesity than others.

A study by the World Health Organization affirms that genetic studies in many populations of the world suggest that genetic, biological and other personal factors interact to determine an individual’s susceptibility to weight gain (WHO, 2000). I would therefore suggest that there is a very high likelihood that your obesity may indeed have some genetic basis.

Robert wants to know why despite having the same eating habits with his girlfriend only he gains weight. Well, as I had mentioned earlier, body weight is as a result of multiple physiological processes. Due to the differing physiological make up between two people, the ability of the metabolism rates also differ (Levi, Juliano & Segal, 2006).

As such, it is possible that you, Robert, may have a lower metabolism than your girlfriend. As such, her body is able to burn up the extra calories that she consumers thus leading to her being leaner. Alternatively, the physical activities which you individually take part in may play a crucial role on the issue. If you engage in a more sedentary lifestyle compared to your girlfriend, then you are more likely to be obese than she is despite similar eating habits.

In response to Nancy, I would like to say that your mother is one of those people who believe in the myth that all anorexic behavior is as a result of media influence. Stark (2000) asserts that in some cases, one may still feel the need to conform to a certain body type without any media influence.

You Nancy may fall in this category. However, you propose that you just don’t crave food. Research has it that anorexic people have appetites just like other people but their fear forces them to subside this appetite until they have no desire for food. This I would suggest is the case in your particular situation.

Tyra wants to know why every time she eats she just feels sick. Typically, eating does not for a healthy person lead to subsequent feelings of sickness. I would infer that your sickness has more of a psychological than a physical cause. Your feeling of self loathing after you eat may be attributed to a psychological illness such as depression, anxiety or substance abuse (Stark, 2000).

In this session, I set out to give you a brief introduction to two particular forms of eating disorders, that is obesity and anorexia. In this discussion, I have provided a brief overview of the various physiological causes of the conditions and dispelled of the myths that surround this conditions.

While further help is needed to ensure that you all recover from your conditions, it is my hope that you have indeed gained something substantial from this session and that you will use this to improve you health. An achievement of good health will no doubt lead to an improvement in the quality of your lives in the long run.

References

Levi, J., Juliano, C. & Segal, L. M. (2006). F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America. Trust for America’s Health.

Stark, C. (2000). All about Anorexia Nervosa. London: The Mental Health Foundation UK Office.

World Health Organization (2000). Understanding how Overweight and Obesity Develop. Retrieved 26 February from: http://whqlibdoc.who.int/trs/WHO_TRS_894_(part3).pdf

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