On television, in movies, magazines and advertisements, there are many women who are extremely beautiful. They often look very similar, almost confusingly so, as if they are clones. They are young, tall, very slim, have long hair, slim faces, big eyes and long legs. When you look around on the street, you can easily see that these pictures are not real. The vast majority of women look completely different. Not as beautiful and slim, but with a much broader variety of looks, personalities and appearances, which makes them special, interesting and lovable, no matter how physically attractive they are. These women are the reality, not the ones in movies and ads. However, the models and actresses embody the common ideal of beauty. Many girls want to look like them. Often this is also because many men and boys expect a partner who has these “model dimensions”. However, this ideal of beauty lies far below what is considered a normal weight. The price that models and actresses have to pay is constant hunger.
Looking at these ideal proportions may distort the view of reality and can be also be very unhealthy. Many women feel that they are overweight, when they compare themselves with these “role models”. They start with diets and doing a lot of exercise to lose weight. They no longer feel comfortable in their own bodies, are hostile toward their bodies and feel flawed. Areas such as the stomach, breasts, butt or thighs are suddenly declared as “problem areas”.
Not every girl who wants to lose weight necessarily has an eating disorder, but they might be at risk of developing one. Eating disorders can become so severe that it may harm the body and even become life threatening. Often, those affected are not even aware of this threat.
Eating disorders often develop when additional problems are added to the changed eating habits. For example, self-doubt, low self-esteem, family tensions, separating from a partner, defeat or pressure from others may intensify the problem. Eating disorders can be an approach to solve emotional problems; a substitute for suppressed feelings or needs, or a form of silent protest.
There are four different kinds of eating disorders, which may merge or alternate; the barriers between them is fluid:
Girls suffering from anorexia eat as little possible, because they want to lose weight. They often have a very distorted view of reality. When they look into the mirror, they think they are too fat, even though the people around them think that they are already too skinny. Girls with this problem suffer from malnutrition and have deficiency symptoms because their bodies lack nutrients. They refuse to realize these facts. In contrary, they praise themselves for their will power and the control that they have over their body. But this becomes increasingly life threatening.
Bulimia is often associated with anorexia. When girls develop bulimia, they eat normal portions or might even have food cravings that make them eat a lot. After eating, they directly go to the toilet and secretly vomit to get rid of the food. This can happen several times per day. As with anorexia, girls with bulimia often do a lot of sport. This eating disorder can also become quite dangerous over time and might lead to additional mental or physical illnesses. After throwing up, they very often feel depressed.
Binge eating disorder
Girls who suffer from binge eating disorders also regularly have cravings. In contrast to bulimia, they don’t “cover it up” by vomiting or fanatically exercising. Sometimes they starve themselves before the hunger pangs and are therefore able to keep their regular weight despite having a binge eating disorder. In many cases, however, they start to become overweight, which can lead to the fourth form of eating disorder: Obesity.
With obesity, body weight has reached unhealthy proportions. The excess weight is so great that it starts to harm the body and can cause illnesses, for example, diabetes. Despite being overweight, girls suffering from obesity continue to eat too much, often out of grief or worry. Since being overweight is a big emotional burden, which in turn stimulates eating, a vicious cycle arises, from which those affected can hardly escape by themselves.
This vicious cycles also often occurs with other eating disorders: The more emotional stress the eating disorder creates, the more those affected have the need for changing their eating behavior, which acts like an addiction.
The most important thing for people suffering from an eating disorder is that they must learn to love themselves again. You need to become aware of your own needs und properly take care of yourself again, instead of using over-eating or starvation as a substitute. This is often a long and difficult road. To do this, it is above all necessary to face reality and admit that you have an eating disorder at all.
Very few manage to escape from this situation on their own. If you are looking for support, a first step can be to contact our information center. Here in the online consultancy you find anonymous and confidential support. You could also contact the Frankfurt Center of Eating disorders.