What is an eating disorder?

From The Australian Women’s Weekly Health Series Eating Disorders book. Click here to buy the book.

As the names indicate, eating or dieting disorders involve a struggle with eating and unreasonable dieting – strictly limiting the amount and types of food eaten, “losing control” and eating too much, or having to get rid of the food as soon as possible after eating.

However it is not only about eating. It is also about being unhappy with body shape, size or weight and the destructive effect this has on self-esteem, relationships and ability to cope with life generally.

How we think we look has become a crucial determinant of self-worth and happiness. The US magazine Glamour conducted a survey through the University of Cincinnati that asked 33,000 women questions about their body image – in other words how they perceived, and how they felt about, their bodies. Seventy-five per cent considered themselves to be too fat and 96 per cent said their weight affected how they felt about themselves.

Almost half of them said loosing weight would be a greater source of happiness than a relationship, success at work or hearing from an old friend. The figures in this part of the world are similar. For example, a Medical Journal of Australia report found that 20 per cent of the women surveyed resorted to drastic weight control methods while 17 per cent binged at least once per week. In a Cleo magazine survey of women and dieting, over half of the women taking part said they felt depressed about their weight and 73 per cent felt envious about someone else’s body every day.

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