Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Eating Disorders on the Rise Among Elderly

Recent research from the US reports eating disorders in elderly women have increased and the majority of deaths from anorexia nervosa occur in people over age 65.

"Eating disorder origins among the elderly are surprisingly similar to those identified for young women, but with a unique stage-of-life dimension," said Edward Cumella, Ph.D., executive director at Remuda Ranch (http://www.remudaranch.com/general/inpatient/index.php).

For elderly people living alone, limited food intake can be an esteem-preserving response to not having the money to buy groceries. Refusing food may also be a protest aimed at loved ones, expressing that the person is quite distressed about activity restrictions or limited family visits. Even more serious, refusing food may be a passive effort to commit suicide arising from hopelessness, despair and depression.

This is clearly disturbing, given much of our focus leans towards educating young people about the dangers of dieting and the potentially destructive path of an eating disorder. Perhaps an awareness program needs to be implemented in nursing homes to provide information about the dangers of restricting food intake and the consequences health-wise. It would also be beneficial to educate staff as well as families visiting their relatives, about the warning signs of early onset eating disorder, to further reduce the incidence of these devastating illnesses among the elderly.

To read more go here: http://sev.prnewswire.com/health-care-hospitals/20090427/CG0474027042009-1.html

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Miss Universe Pageant Under Fire

I have been reading with interest the controversy surrounding Australian Miss Universe contestant Stephanie Naumoska.

The 19-year-old is five foot eleven and weighs 105 pounds. This puts her BMI (body mass index) at 15.1. Medical experts say the healthy BMI range is 20-25, therefore this would suggest that Ms Naumoska is grossly underweight.

Australian Medical Association president Dr Rosanna Capolingua, says "The most unhealthy part about it ... is the image it is showing other young women who may view this as normal, when clearly it is not."

I agree that this portrays a dangerous message to young girls, especially those aspiring to a modelling career, and share the view that pageant officials need to adopt a new condition of entry, and introduce a minimum BMI.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Children with Eating Disorders: as young as 5 years old

Today I read a newspaper article about children as young as 5 who are suffering from an eating disorder to the extent that hospital intervention is required.

These new findings are clearly disturbing.

According to Dr Sloane Madden from The Children's Hospital at Westmead in Sydney, there is currently a 50% increase in the demand for beds amongst adolescents with eating disorders - and the condition is now increasingly prevalent amongst girls and boys aged 10-12 and even younger.

Dr Madden, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing for my third book 'Why Can't I Look the Way I Want; Overcoming Eating Issues', which will be published by Allen & Unwin in June, fears that the number of cases is expected to rise, unless there is a shift in the media's obsession with fat and weight.

"I think that there needs to be a move away from this focus on weight and numbers and body fat, and a focus on healthy eating and exercise,'' Dr Madden says.

And I vehemently agree. These illnesses are hurting our children - in some cases, killing them. The media needs to take responsibility and start promoting healthy body image instead of sensationalising the number on the scale. As a parent, I take exception to the fact that emaciated models are portrayed as 'healthy'. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It's time to nurture our children and build their self esteem, instead of encouraging self criticism to the extent that it encourages self destructive behaviour resulting in hospitalisation, and debilitating conditions that could lead to death.

This is tragic beyond comprehension.

To read the article, go here:


Monday, April 6, 2009

Website Launched for Males with Eating Disorders

Hot on the heels of my last blog about male anorexia on the increase, a new website offering help, advice and support for men and boys with eating disorders has been launched.

It's Founder, 23 year old Sam Thomas, endured years of bullying at school and developed bulimia. He set up the site after realising the lack of resources available to males who suffer from anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and bigorexia.

The website is designed to ease feelings of secrecy and isolation amongst male sufferers and offers support through discussion forums, fact sheets, inspirational articles and personal stories. It also offers information on what to look for if you think you or someone you know has an eating disorder, and highlights organisations and support groups.

This is a monumental leap forward in raising the awareness of male eating disorders, and helping our boys and young men feel less alone and know that it's okay to ask for help.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Male Anorexia on the Increase

I recently read disturbing figures that have been released by the Butterfly Foundation in Australia: almost one in three male year 9 students used fasting, skipping meals, diet pills, vomiting after meals, laxatives and smoking cigarettes to keep off weight.

Among adults, one in 10 diagnoses of anorexia is for men, while binge eating disorders have risen among males by up to 5 per cent in the past decade.

Anorexia in males is similar to that in females; restricting food intake and excessive exercise are the two main components. However with boys, there is more emphasis on the exercise factor.

In addition, a new and emerging trend is Bigorexia, or 'Reverse Anorexia', whereby the male becomes obsessed with the idea that they are not muscular enough, and spend countless hours at the gym in an attempt to gain more muscle mass. This constant preoccupation can interfere with school, career and relationships, and in extreme cases, lead to permanent muscle damage.

The onset of an eating disorder in males is usually due to a specific trigger, or set of triggers, including bullying, difficulty dealing with being gay, emotional or sexual abuse and low self esteem brought on by such incidents.

There is a need to increase the awareness of male eating disorders, to reduce the shame inflicted by societal pressure and expectation. We need to encourage young men to reach out for help if they are struggling.

Now more than ever, we need to help young people learn to become psychologically and emotionally resilient to the images portrayed through internet, chat rooms, social networks and the media. We need to help our younger generations preserve their self esteem and believe in who they are.

I am hopeful that the guidelines currently being developed by the national media and industry code of conduct on body image (to be announced in August), will be a solid step towards reducing the incidence of eating disorders.