With the increase in the rates of obesity worldwide and in the UAE; it is easy to overlook the dangerous threat of eating disorders that are also on the rise here especially among teenagers. Rarely talked about, eating disorders are one of the unspoken secrets that affect many families in the UAE.
They have the highest mortality rates of all mental illnesses and it is estimated that only one in 10 sufferers seek treatment! The age group most at risk is between 12 and 20 but it can still happen at any age and while women are more commonly affected, men can also develop eating disorders.
Eating disorders are devastating conditions that can have severe consequences for health, productivity, and relationships. They are not a fad, phase, or a lifestyle choice and it is important to recognize the early warning signs to seek treatment right away as this helps with recovery.
Their physical warning signs include:
- rapid weight loss
- loss of menstruation in girls
- signs of damage due to induced vomiting such as calluses on knuckles
- Feeling cold most of the time.
Their behavioral and psychological warning signs include:
- preoccupation with eating, food, body shape and weight
- feeling anxious or “out of control” around meal times
- excessive exercise
- unnecessary dieting, use of laxatives
- Obsessive rituals around food preparation and eating.
To help you and your family and friends live healthier and happier lives start with yourself and in your home:
- Create a healthy environment for the growth of your child’s self-esteem and encourage healthy eating habits by being a positive role model and avoid dieting around your children.
- Don’t judge food. Avoid categorizing foods as “good/safe” vs. “bad/dangerous” and always stress on eating a balanced and varied diet in moderation.
- Criticize the culture that promotes unhealthy body image. Reinforce a healthy body image in everyone around you, whatever their shape or size and reassure them that body shapes can vary. Avoid joking about other people who are overweight or have a large frame.
- Become a critical viewer of the media. Sometimes media images and messages about food and bodies are often distorted and may lead everyone especially children, to think that the ideal of beauty is extreme thinness. Always encourage healthy realistic attitudes and behaviors related to beauty, body image, eating and weight.
Unfortunately, many people with eating disorders may not think they need treatment or aren’t ready to acknowledge they have an issue with food, if you are worried about a loved one, urge him or her to talk to seek professional advice.