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When Eating Disorders Take Over Your Life


You pride yourself on being an intelligent person, one who is capable of making wise decisions and being able to handle whatever comes your way. Then, seemingly out of the blue, you find yourself engaging in behavior that is totally at odds with what others consider healthy. You discover, to your dismay, that you have a problem with eating that you can't seem to control.


What can or should you do when an eating disorder takes over your life? Here we'll look at some specific suggestions to help you begin the healing process and resume living in a healthier manner.

What Is Disordered Eating?

It might first be helpful to define what disordered eating is. Chances are, it means something a little different than what you think. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, disordered eating occurs when a person's attitudes about their body size, weight and food lead to a very rigid pattern of behavior in eating and exercise habits that ultimately jeopardize their health, safety and happiness.

Maybe what happened in your case is that you started off just wanting to drop a few pounds, maybe to look good for an upcoming event or to get "in shape" for the beach. But shedding those pounds or dropping those inches can quickly escalate into a dangerous, obsessive, and out-of-control behavior pattern that approaches or even turns into an eating disorder.

When all you do is focus on every single bite that goes into your mouth, bingeing and purging to severely restrict what the scale is telling you, go to dieting extremes, feel guilty and/or ashamed about how you look – you're likely dealing with disordered eating of one form or another.

Eating Disorder Statistics

Eating disorders generally begin during the teenaged years or early adulthood, but they can come on at any age, including childhood and later in life.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 2.7 percent of 13 to 17-year-olds are suffering from an eating disorder. And girls are more than 2-1/2 times more likely to have an eating disorder than boys.

Incidentally, the NIMH broadly defines an eating disorder as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and/or binge eating disorder.

Among adults, the average age of onset for binge eating disorder is 25. People ages 18-29, 30-44 and 45-59 were all significantly more likely to have binge eating disorder than 60+ year olds.

The average onset age for anorexia nervosa is 19 years, while for bulimia nervosa, it's 20 years old.

Do You Want to Change?

This may sound a bit obvious, but you have to want to change in order for any change to either come about in the first place or to remain for very long. There is no magic elixir or pill that's going to "cure" you of your bad eating habits. There never has been and there probably never will be. Let's face reality. You won't just go to sleep one night and wake up in the morning and be able to ditch your way of eating that's proven so unhealthy.

You have to really want to change. Since you already have come to the realization that your eating disorder is pretty much taking over your life, now's likely a good time to get serious about thinking how you'll change.

Maybe your realization came about as a result of how bad your overall health has become after a protracted period of anorexia or bulimia or binge eating disorder. It could be because you've recognized how unattractive you've become in the process. Your skin is sallow and sags. You have no energy. Your teeth are in bad shape due to all the stomach acids from regurgitation. Any one of these could be enough to send you scrambling for some way to stop this cycle of self-destruction.

And, yes, anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder only get worse if they remain untreated. In that respect, an eating disorder is like any other kind of addiction, whether it's addiction to alcohol or drugs or gambling or compulsive spending. Once you're into it, you can't just stop of your own accord.

Maybe you're waffling — all for doing what it takes one day and then changing your mind the next. If so, even being forced into a treatment program for eating disorder – by your parents or spouse, for example – won't be enough to keep you on-track with what you need to do.

But it is a start. And you have to begin somewhere, especially if things have gotten really bad for you health wise and your life is all out of whack as a result of your eating disorder.

So, let's say that you think you want to change. Now it's time to help you become better informed so that you want to change.