Eating disorders are a tricky thing. They’re characterised as mental disorders that can mess with a person’s eating habits in different ways. However, these disorders aren’t tied to any specific body type or gender and can affect anyone in different ways.
Disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa, which causes the person suffering from it to avoid eating in general in fear of gaining weight, or Bulimia Nervosa which causes the person to stuff themselves with food (binge eating) before making themselves lose it all as fast as possible (whether through vomiting, exercising or fasting) are the most common and have become well known all throughout the world due to the problems they have caused for young people, particularly teenagers.
There are also lesser known disorders like Orthorexia Nervosa in which people only eat what they percieve to be healthy, ignoring pretty much anything else regardless of any benefits that it might bring. This could even cause them to eventually develop either Anorexia or Bulimia as well. However, Orthorexics’ goals are usually related more to wanting to stay healthy, such as keeping count of the calories they consume and what’s in everything they eat. This can lead into malnutrition or causing them to develop social problems or even make their bodies unable to consume the foods that they’ve tried to avoid.
However, these problems don’t affect just teenagers; some sufferers can even be as young as nine years old. This problem is one that has been prevalent in Singapore just as much as other parts of the world as well.
The Singapore General Hospital (SGH) Eating Disorders Programme, a health centre that specialises in dealing with eating disorders, has seen an increase in the number of patients to 170 just last year, four times more than the 40 patients they housed back when they first opened in 2003 and is much more than they are currently capable of handling. Do note that SGH’s programme isn’t the only one in Singapore helping teens cope with eating disorders.
That’s not even the worst of it, according to Dr Alakananda Gudi, an associate consultant psychiatrist at SGH; it’s possible that, for as full as these clinics are, there are still a lot of people suffering from eating disorders that are not getting proper care. This is a problem that, as stated before, can affect even children who are still just growing and learning about the world and some of them, particularly those that suffer from anorexia, can die even if they are to get proper treatment.
Throughout the years, doctors have constantly called out the Media for how it affects young people today. From the fashion industry which may make young people feel like they have to fit into a certain body type, to social trends and challenges like the A4 challenge, where women in China compete to see if their waist is smaller than the width of an A4 sheet of paper (portrait, not landscape), which make people feel like being overweight or even slightly larger than their peers is something they have to be ashamed of.
Concerns about what people should or shouldn’t eat and what’s considered healthy or not can also lead young people to feel like they have to constantly watch everything they eat, or else they’ll be considered as leading an unhealthy life. There was even a case of a girl who would eat nothing but boiled vegetables because she felt it was the only thing that was good for her to eat in order to be thin.
Dr. Celine Wong, a consultant at the Psychological Medicine Department at the National University Hospital (NUH) said, “They associate being overweight or obese as being less attractive, less diligent and less likeable. Coupled with a low self-esteem, a negative body image and bullying in school, some adolescents fall into the trap of developing eating disorders.”
Peer pressure and school can be hard to deal with when you’re a teenager, a time when most people gain weight as a part of puberty; this can be even harder for young girls who feel like they have to do anything in order to fit in with the crowd and can even lead to Body Dysmorphia Disorder, which causes the sufferer to feel like there’s a flaw in their body that really isn’t there.
Of course, eating disorders for being skinnier are not the only ones out there. There’s the binge-eating disorder, which, as stated, makes the person eat a lot of food and gain weight really quickly. This, like the other diseases, can also occur due to depression or a desire to control who they are and change to fit an image that’s imposed on them.
Eating disorders are a serious issue, so if you or anyone you know thinks that you are suffering from it then there are a couple of things that you can do to help treat it. First is to learn more about it, thankfully there are a lot of sites that are willing to teach people about eating disorders such as this entry by AWARE. There are also pages on accounts of people who have suffered from disorders, as well as treatment clinics.
For a bit more info on things such as Body Dysmorphia and eating healthy but efficiently, you can check out one of Melissa’s Table Top Talks with Luke and Emilie Tan, where Luke discussed how he had body dysmorphia when he was a competitive bodybuilder.
For information on some Treatment Clinics you can contact we’d like to direct you towards the following clinics and their contact information:
Eating Disorders Programme at SGH – +65 6321 4377 | [email protected].
Mount Elizabeth-Charter: 1-800-6738 9595
As well as some Support Groups:
Singapore Association for Mental Health : 1800-283 7019
Support for Eating Disorders Singapore (SEDS)
However, it must be noted that if you know someone who you think might be suffering from an eating disorder, the best thing you can do is to give them your support. Show them that everything will be okay and that you’ll hear them out and help them without forcing them into treatment, they are in that situation because of the fear of what people want them to be after all, so just listening and letting them know that you’ve got their backs should help.
Hopefully this article has helped you learn more about eating disorders and what they mean, now it’s up to you to use that knowledge to the best you can so that we can, hopefully, help pave a path to a better world for everyone.
Photo Credits: Affinity Magazine, Everyday Health, Psychology Today, Kids Health
References: Straits Times, AWARE
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