Based on statistics there are 20 million women and 10 million men in USA that suffer from a clinically diagnosed eating disorder. Notice... clinically diagnosed... there're many more that go on without a proper diagnosis. The age at which it all begins is crazy too! Apparently since the age of 6 girls begin to express concerns about their weight and shape. At the age of 6!!! Even more 40-60% of elementary school girls are concerned about their weight and are scared of becoming to fat. It's crazy! By the time that they get to teenage years, over one-half of girls and nearly one-third of boys will undergo unhealthy weight control behaviors like skipping meals, fasting, smoking, vomiting, or using laxatives.
There is very little research done on these issues. Here's a bit of what I've found...
For bulimia nervosa (BN) as most of us would know is binging and purging. In a study they had 25 individuals with bulimia and 18 non-bulimic individuals are they told them to "binge" in a laboratory setting. It was found that those with bulimia consumed almost 4000 calories while the controls ate just a bit over 1000 calories. That was the extent to which they binge. Interestingly it was found that bulimics also consumed much less during their non-binge meals. Thus, their overall eating patterns consists of not only overeating but also undereating. One of the speculations behind this disorder is that there is less cholecystokinin (CCK) after a meal in patients with BN and that prevents the feeling of satiety.
The most common eating disorder is the Binge Eating Disorder (BED). In this case individuals with BED consumed 500-1000 calories more then control when told to binge eat in a laboratory setting. So they do not binge to the same extend as those with bulimia but then they do not purge after eating.
As for Anorexia Nervosa (AN) these individuals eating fewer calories than the controls (1289 cal vs 2220 calories per day) and they do so by avoiding high fat foods. It's interesting that their macronutrient intake showed that they ate a higher percentage of protein and carbohydrates than controls but a lot less fat (17.6% vs 28.4%). Researchers are currently looking at some possible genetic factors behind AN, but there are no conclusive results. It is hypothesized that it is difficult to detect genetic changes as individuals with AN have lower fertility and hence do not pass on their genes as much.
What starts off these unhealthy eating patterns? Lots of reasons, but just take a look at the media. In US, 69% of elementary school girls who actually read magazines are influence by what is considered to be an ideal body shape and that 47% of them said that these pictures make them want to lose weight. Well who are out role models? Those crazy thin Victoria Secret models who are proclaimed to be "healthy" but are actually mainly all underweight and unrealistically skinny? Apparently the average BMI of Miss America winners used to be around 22 back in 1920s and in the 2000s it has been reduced to 16.9. Well, 16.9 meets the criteria for anorexia (not necessarily anorexia nervosa though). Like honestly, WTF! How is so incredibly skinny considered to be pretty? Please go ahead wave your hands and say you want world peace while in reality you're just spreading ED's and probably can't have children yourself. A lot of eating disorders though start off with people trying to use food and control of food as a way to cope with feelings and emotions. It's kind of like slitting your wrist (I guess) in that dieting, binging, and purging acts as a way to cope with painful emotions and make one feel in control of their life. The other aspect of it is wanting to "take up less space" or to be less noticeable. Here's one quote that I though I was interesting-
It might sound strange but I actually didn't know what an ED was until I came to university. Maybe it's because I grew up in Europe or maybe I was just never educated... Also, it could just be that I was always slim and never had to worry about restricting what I eat so I just wasn't aware of the issue. It's crazy to think that I have friends who I know have these issues... Sometimes I really just don't know how to help them.
I've noticed quite a few differences when I went to Europe. First off there were no obese people! However, there were not a lot of excessively thin people (apart from Paris). It's like most of the people I saw there were slim and healthy while in North America you see obese people and some very scary thin looking people.
On the other hand I often see pictures like the one below and don't know what to make of it. Fitness models aren't exactly healthy either... A lot of them starve themselves before photoshoots or do a lot of dehydrating. Also, again it's setting a new idea of a perfect body in which case it's leaning away from the ectomorphic body type to a more mesomorphic body type. Problem- not everyone is a mesomorph... So what, now naturally skinny girls aren't "pretty" anymore and need to feel sub par? Not everyone will ever look toned or muscular and again the society is setting out an unrealistic view of beauty!!!
It should really be Healthy is the new Skinny. No matter what's your shape, size, weight, whatever... Healthy is better then strong or skinny or whatever. Being muscular doesn't make one healthy neither does being skinny. We need to leave these ideas behind.