Monday, October 21, 2002

Here's a self-test for eating disorders

By Hollie W. Best
Gannett News Service

Eating disorders are potentially life-threatening conditions that are increasing at an alarming rate. In the United States, conservative estimates indicate that after puberty 5 to 10 million girls and women and 1 million boys and men are struggling with eating disorders including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, or borderline conditions.

Eating disorders - such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating disorder - include extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues. Anorexia nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. Warning signs include:

Dramatic weight loss.

Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat grams, and dieting.

Loss of menstrual periods.

Intense fear of weight gain or being "fat."

Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for height, body type, age, and activity level.

Bulimia nervosa is characterized by a secretive cycle of binge eating followed by purging. Bulimia nervosa can be extremely harmful to the body. The recurrent binge-and-purge cycles can impact the entire digestive system and can lead to electrolyte and chemical imbalances in the body that affect the heart and other major organ functions. Warning signs include:

Evidence of binge-eating, including disappearances of large amounts of food in short periods of time.

Disappearances after eating - often to the bathroom.

Discoloration or staining of teeth.

Calluses on the back of the hands and knuckles from self-induced vomiting.

Binge Eating Disorder is a newly recognized eating disorder characterized by frequent episodes of uncontrolled overeating. While there is no purging, there may be sporadic fasts or repetitive diets and often feelings of shame or self-hatred after a binge. Binge eating disorder often results in some of the health risks associated with clinical obesity.

Do you have an eating disorder? Answer "yes" or "no" to the following questions below developed by the Support, Concern, and Resources for Eating Disorders organization ( .

Do you feel out of control when you eat?

Do you starve yourself?

Do you feel in control when you don't eat?

Do you have an intense fear of gaining weight?

Do you believe you are fat even though others tell you different?

Do you use diet pills or laxatives to control your weight?

Do you feel guilt after eating?

After eating, do you binge, and self induce vomiting?

Do you binge if you are feeling sad?

Do you feel food and weight are the only things that you have control over?

Do you tell yourself you're ugly, fat, worthless, etc?

Do you avoid social gatherings or meals because of food?

Are you ashamed of your eating habits?

Do you think about food constantly?

Do you exercise excessively to lose weight?

Do you believe you will be happier if you lose weight?

Do you get angry with people if they ask you about your eating habits?

Are you secretive about what you eat or don't eat?

Do you have a need to be perfect?

Do you lie about your weight loss and make efforts to hide it from others?

Do you constantly think about food, calories, and recipes?

Do you think that you may have an eating disorder?

If you answered "yes" to four or more of those questions you might have an eating disorder or you might be developing one. Talk to an eating disorder specialist or your health care provider who may help lead you in the right direction to get you help.

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