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Eating Disorders

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Essay title: Eating Disorders

Millions of American women struggle with eating disorders. An eating disorder is

a disturbance in eating behavior. Most people associate eating disorders with anorexia

nervosa, "active self-starvation or sustained loss of appetite that has psychological

origins" (Coon 133), or bulimia nervosa, "excessive eating (gorging) usually followed by

self-induced vomiting and/ or taking laxatives (Coon 411). They need to purge their bodies of calories in any way possible, so they may also use diuretics or even exercise compulsively. Their body images are severely distorted. They're the most talked about and the best studied eating disorders, and researchers estimate that nearly seven million women in the United States suffer from either anorexia or bulimia. But there's a newly recognized condition known as binge-eating disorder that is now considered the most common eating disorder. In the U.S. population, it has a frequency of about one to four out of every one hundred people.

Although eating disorders afflict women much more often than they do men, it is

estimated that about one million American men suffer from either anorexia or bulimia, and

millions more have binge-eating disorder. Eating disorders are much more prevalent in

industrialized countries. According to the American Psychiatric Association, eating

disorders are most common in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, Japan, New

Zealand, and South Africa.

Americans today live in a fat-phobic society where, from a very early age, girls are

raised to think that thin is better. The famous writer and theater critic Dorothy Parker

once said, "no woman can be too rich or too thin," words that quickly became a

catchphrase still used today. Many of us grow up learning to associate fat with ugliness

and failure. Advertisements bombard us with thinner-than-normal models. Most Miss

America contestants and fashion supermodels are more than fifteen percent below the

expected weight for their height and age, a criterion for anorexia according to the

American Psychiatric Association (Breen). It is not surprising to hear reports of healthy,

children of normal weight who are concerned about their diet and afraid of becoming too

fat, and of an increasing number of girls who haven't yet reached puberty who are showing

signs of anorexia. In one study, forty-five percent of third through sixth graders said that

they wanted to be thinner, forty percent of them had actually tried to lose weight, and

seven percent of them scored within the high-risk range of an "eating attitude" test that

detects or predicts eating disorder behavior.

Eating disorders usually begin before the age of twenty. In a ten year study

conducted by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders,

ten Percent of all the participants reported that their anorexia or bulimia started before

they were ten years old; thirty-three percent reported the onset between the ages of

eleven and fifteen, and forty-three percent reported an onset between the ages of sixteen

and twenty (DeFresne).

Anorexia and bulimia have serious physical and psychological repercussions,

which, if left untreated, can be fatal. Eating disorders can devastate the body. Physical

problems associated with eating disorders include hair and bone loss, palpitations, anemia,

Tooth decay, esophagitis

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