“Children would rather lose an arm, be hit by a truck or have a parent die of cancer, than be fat” according to a poll taken by the National Eating Disorder Information Centre in Toronto, (“Research Suggests That Eating Disorders”).This statistic shows that children are being influenced from a young age to have eating disorder thoughts. It is a common myth that having an eating disorder is a choice, or that it is just a version of extreme dieting; however, it is a serious mental health condition and it has the highest mortality rate out of all mental illnesses (Bulk). The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Victims suffering from anorexia starve themselves for long periods of time and when they do eat, they eat only dramatically rationed portions. Victims suffering from bulimia will eat large amounts of food in one sitting, also known as a binge, and then force themselves to vomit immediately afterwards. Eating disorders are vicious, and when not treated, can lead to kidney failure, osteoporosis, heart diseases, gastric rupture, and many other horrible conditions (NEDA).
Recently, a new study conducted by the students at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine gives insight as to how the brains of victims suffering from eating disorders vary from the brains of healthy people (Campbell). “[This] study provides further evidence that [anorexia] is a neurobiology-based, or brain-based, disorder,” says Christina Wierenga, an Associate Professor at the UCSD School of Medicine. This study explains that a part of one’s brain is activated when he feels hunger which motivates him to want to eat. This sensation is the reason why you get a sense of satisfaction when you satiate your hunger. In contrast, in the minds of those suffering from anorexia, that part of the brain is not as active, so they do not know when they are hungry. Therefore, food does not seem as appealing as it should be, and they have no motivation to eat. There is a chemical component in their brain that tells them that their next meal looks as appetizing as a dead cockroach. Food doesn’t have the same appeal to people struggling with an eating disorder as it would to a healthy person. Eating food regularly be going against what their brain is telling them and it isn’t physically possible for their body to not listen to their brains.
Another study suggests that children can be more prone to anorexia if they have prenatal development issues. According to pediatric psychologist Ian Frampton, certain kid’s brains develop so that they are “more vulnerable to the more commonly-known risk factors for eating disorders.” Frampton and his colleagues found that 70% of their patients, those with an eating disorder, have had damage to their neurotransmitters, a chemical substance that helps cells communicate with each other. This suggests that someone does not just wake up one day and decide to develop an eating disorder. There is a possibility that people with eating disorders were born to have one, and there is nothing they can do about it.
However, there are many people that argue that having an eating disorder is a lifestyle, not a disease. There are many pro-ana and pro-mia, or pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia, forums that exploits the disorders and romanticize them. In an interview with the National Post, Jade, a struggling anorexic, states that theses sites “provide tips, tricks, and information for other who are in the grip of an eating disorder” (National Post). There are pictures of extremely thin girls that are used as “images designed to motivate weight loss” (National Post). Many of the people on this site do not believe that there is anything wrong with them. They are content with their lives as they are and do not want anything to change. This is sadly very true and in no means helpful to those struggling with an eating disorder. The sites fail to mention the horrible effects of having anorexia and bulimia. The people struggling with the disorder usually can’t be reasoned with, in the beginning, that they are in fact very sick and need help.
While there have been many studies conducted, and there are many more to come that have proven and will prove that eating disorders are a neurological disease, the fact that people have been denied treatment for this life-threatening disorder just goes to show how ignorant society can be. Living with an eating disorder is a horrible disease to have and it is extremely tiring. Each day one carefully counts calories and has anxiety whenever he is not near a scale. He spends hours every day looking in the mirror, pinching and pulling at all of the flaws that aren’t really there, but his horrible body image has led him to believe that he is. In a way eating disorders are like cancer at first: one does not really notice the symptoms, and the person seems to be perfectly healthy, but after a few months, the long-term effects of their disease start to take a toll on their body. The only difference between a cancer patient and someone with an eating disorder is that no one would willingly deny a cancer patient treatment. Eating disorders need to stop being treated like a fashion trend and need to start being treated like the deadly diseases that they are.
Bulk, Cynthia. "Eating Disorders Myths Busted - Myth #4: Eating Disorders Are a
Choice." NIMH RSS. National Institute of Mental Health, 25 Feb. 2014. Web. 15
Campbell, Denis. "Anorexia Risk 'Could Be Predicted'." The Observer. 29 Mar. 2009: 15.
SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 15 Mar. 2016.
"Health Consequences of Eating Disorders | National Eating Disorders Association."
Health Consequences of Eating Disorders | National Eating Disorders Association.
NEDA, n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.
Rainey, Sarah. "'Anorexia Is a Lifestyle, Not a Disease': An Investigation into Harrowing Online
Forums Promoting Extreme Dieting." National Post Anorexia Is a Lifestyle Not a Disease
An Investigation into Harrowing Online Forums Promoting Extreme dieting Comments.
National Post, 25 Feb. 2014. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
"Research Suggests That Eating Disorders Are More Common Than..." PR Newswire. 27
Jan. 2015: n.p. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.
"Scientists Study Brain-Based Processes Behind Anorexic Behavior." University Wire. 01
Apr. 2015: n.p. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.