Written by: Mutshidzi Kwinda
Eating is a normal daily routine. But when it gets too much, too little or too strict, and is affected (or aggravated by) a mental health problem, it can pose a crisis that needs serious medical interventions.
In the early 1900s, eating disorders were more prominent in white young women. This, however, is not surprising given the level of priority and privilege carried by the white population. Especially in those years where race discrimination was still heated up. This is simply to say that, even if women of color were suffering from eating disorders. It may have not been reported or analyzed for reasons obvious reasons.
Firstly, although this is not a matter of race or ethnicity. It is hard to ignore when speaking on the history of eating disorders. During the slave era, black people had little or no food to eat. Secondly, since most black people or people of color had no (or little) education. The knowledge and awareness of their overall health, including eating disorders if present, were not even something they prioritized or knew how to deal with. This does not mean however that they were not affected. Even if data in this area is scarce.
The bottom line is that anyone, irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity, and background can develop an eating disorder. But diagnosis and treatment may vary depending on the accessibility of resources. Furthermore, given the prevalence of social media and media as a whole, many young women find themselves constantly consuming images of limited body types. Body types that may be harmful to their own views of themselves.
What are eating disorders
Eating disorders are referred to as a collection of psychological disorders ‘characterized by abnormal and persistent eating habits’ that consequently impact one’s physical and mental wellbeing. These disorders may include the commonly known: Anorexia nervosa, Bulimia nervosa, Binge eating, restrictive food intake disorder and many others.
Common Signs of eating disorder to look out for may include:
- Dramatic weight loss or Weight gain without an apparent cause
- Food avoidance and fear of gaining weight
- Overeating as a way to deal with trauma or pain that can cause weight gain
- Bingeing and self-induced vomiting. A well-known characteristic of Bulimia nervosa
- Feeling a lack of control over your eating
- Uncomfortable when eating around other people. Which can lead to social withdrawal and to other mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and mood disorders
- Frequent measuring of weight and scrutinizing your body in the mirror for a long time. One of the main reasons why people have an eating disorder is because they are obsessed with their weight and therefore they frequently check themselves in the mirror or measure their waist circumference and weight at every chance they get.
- Another notable sign of existing eating disorders includes dental problems, dry skin and hair, brittle nails, fine hair, poor wound healing, muscle weakness, etc. This is usually because of the deficiency in nutrients such as vitamins and minerals needed for cell growth and the normal functioning of the body.
Eating disorders do not discriminate and may contribute as a risk factor for mortality rate amongst young people if not treated or managed. It is highly advisable to see a doctor if you are (or someone you know) is experiencing any signs and/or symptoms of an eating disorder.