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By Carmen Roverez

It's taken a while to admit, but I had an eating disorder. I fell under the influence of it all. To be a model you're supposed to be perfect, aren't you? I thought the only way to guarantee success as a model, was to be as thin as I could be. I'm lucky, I got out in time, and I've had no irreversible damage done to my body because of the disease. Here's a bit of information to help you understand just how serious eating disorders really are.

What are eating disorders?

There are many eating disorders, but the main ones are:

  • Anorexia Nervosa: limiting food intake to less than half the recommended calorie intake for a day or eating no food at all (fasting).
  • Bulimia Nervosa: eating a lot of food (binging) in a small amount of time and then vomiting (purging) it all up. Bulimics also often use diuretics (to urinate frequently) and laxatives to purge their systems.
  • Binge Eating: eating a lot of food in a short span of time and not purging the food, and then experiencing feelings of guilt and shame for eating.
  • Compulsive eating: eating too much, too often and feeling out of control.  

It's important to recognize that eating disorders can accompany one another. It is rare for an Anorexic to have never demonstrated characteristics of a bulimic and vice versa.  

Who gets an eating disorder?

  • Anyone at any age can develop an eating disorder. There are cases of girls, boys, men and women suffering the effects of eating disorders.  

What's the appeal?

  • Control. As an anorexic or bulimic you feel that taking total control of what goes in and out of your body is the only way to feel like you have control over your life.
  • Eating disorders are born out of a negative self-image. We are overwhelmed by a warped sense of what is attractive and most of those images show very thin women with little to no body fat. These images are not healthy and are not even normal, but more seriously, they influence the way people think about their own bodies.  

What are the dangers of eating disorders?

Anorexia Nervosa:

  • Weakened immune system
  • Dizziness
  • Bone density is weakened and bones break easily
  • Heart beat becomes irregular
  • Brain can start to shrink as it is starved
  • Menstrual cycle will be effected in women, which can hamper a woman's ability to have children
  • Metabolism is seriously altered - slowing down to hang on to all the calories it can
  • Death. The biggest risk of anorexia nervosa is death. Without body fat and nutrients, the human body can no longer function. Starving a body will shut down the liver, kidneys and eventually the heart if left untreated.

Bulimia (Binge/Purge):

  • Bad breath
  • Rotting teeth - caused by the acids being regurgitated and staying in the mouth
  • Menstrual cycle is absent or irregular, which can have lasting effects on a woman's ability to have children
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Depression
  • Dehydration
  • Digestive tract disorders  

How to tell if someone has an eating disorder:

  • They play with their food
  • Never have time to eat
  • Spend an unhealthy amount of time doing fitness
  • Are very critical of their weight and the body size of others
  • Are always watching what they eat
  • Eat very little (in the case of Anorexia Nervosa)
  • After eating, disappear into the bathroom for an extended period of time
  • Have a number of strict routines relating to food and food preparation
  • May have marks on knuckles from inducing vomiting
  • Wear really baggy clothes in order to hide their weight loss
  • Hair loss
  • Pale or grey skin
  • Complain of feeling cold, dizzy, headaches, frequent sore throats

Eating disorders are serious. If you suspect someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, talk to them and try to get them to seek help. There is a growing awareness about ED's and support groups are there to help. And if you're experiencing an eating disorder, remember, you are not alone and you need to stop before you do some irreversible damage to your health.

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