HOW TO SPOT AN EATING DISORDER
told Gulf News last year, “it is quite easy to overlook this dangerous trend in the adolescent population.”
For two years after that first fast, Sarah tested herself, celebrating the times she survived on just water, chastising herself when she had to have a carrot or piece of bread.
And although it petered out for a short period during her mid-teens, it came back with a vengeance when she was 17.
‘An eating disorder is not about eating. It’s about various underlying psychological problems’
This time, worried about her appearance and what young men may think of her, she would go days without food in a bid to lose weight, before binge eating to combat the depression such an action brought on. And this time she would not get well for 20 years.
“It affected my life, there’s no doubt about that, but I always thought I had it under control,” says Sarah, who was living in London at the time.
“I’d cancel going out for dinner at the last minute because I was having a day when I wasn’t eating or, conversely, I was having a day when I’d binged. But it still felt manageable. I would actually tell friends that I was one of those people who could eat whatever they liked and never get fat.” That is until 2007. That year her mother died – she’d been diagnosed with cancer the day after Sarah’s first child was born in 2002 – and the loss sent the new mother’s eating problems surging back to the surface. Her weight bounced from 40kg to 66kg – and back again – all in less than a year, as she fluctuated between complete fasting and periods of bingeing. To put that in context, as Sarah stands at 165cm, her ideal weight would have been about 55kg.
“My one blessing might have been that I could never make myself throw up,” she recalls. “Otherwise I’m certain I would have started doing that as well. “But my husband had obviously noticed things weren’t right before and we’d discussed them and I’d been to a doctor, but that’s when he realised how serious it was, I think,” she says. “We went to a GP and they basically talked about me like I wasn’t there. It was decided I had to go to a hospital.” et, even at that point, she refused to acknowledge the seriousness of the problem. “Everyone else in hospital looked so bad,” she says. “They were half my weight. I just thought ‘What am I even doing here?’”
After three weeks she was checked out. The binge eating, followed by periods of fasting, continued. And whatever solutions were tried thereafter, she would ultimately go back to that same pattern. “I’d sort of accepted that’s who I was,” she says. That is until the day her husband came home and announced he had been offered a job in the UAE. “I’ve not had a real relapse since I got on the plane,” she Eating disorders are often called the secret diseases because sufferers attempt to hide them. So how can you spot if someone you know – your child, your partner or your friend – has a problem?
Anorexia nervosa sees sufferers starve themselves in secret because of an irrational fear of becoming overweight. Symptoms include:
Not eating much with the excuse they’re not hungry, have lost their appetites or had something earlier while no one was around.
A negative or distorted selfimage, including paranoia about being overweight.
Drinking lots of water to combat inevitable dehydration and hunger pangs.
Social withdrawal, irritability and lack of emotion – all caused by lack of nutrients making it into the body.
Bulimia nervosa sees sufferers binge eat followed by vomiting, laxative abuse, excessive exercise or periods of starvation in an attempt to purge the body of the calories that were taken on board. Symptoms include:
Eating until the point of discomfort, often alone, and often in secret.
Going to the bathroom immediately after or during meals.
Damaged teeth and gums, and sores in the mouth.
Irregular heartbeat and sleeping patterns.
Periods of fasting and severely excessive exercise, designed to make up for guilt of binge eating. says. A variety of factors, it seems, helped her…
Dr Luthra has a saying: an eating disorder is not about eating. “It’s about underlying psychological problems that