Treatment and recovery in anorexia nervosa…

Part 4 – Aoife Ryan completes her look into anorexia… 

Anorexia is a serious disorder and should not be left untreated. Both the physical and the psychological issues that come with anorexia should be assessed and monitored by a professional. Treatment will vary according to the individual and the severity of the disorder.

Some people who have recovered from anorexia may become “orthorexic”. Orthorexia is viewed as an escape from anorexia while keeping still having food control. Typically, the person will no longer be severely underweight, but may be addicted to healthy eating plans and exclude major food groups from their diet. It is important to watch out for this as relapse is always possible.

The prospect of recovery can be frightening and is it normal for someone to resist treatment at first.

A GP should be seen first, to assess and monitor physical aspects of the disorder. Psychotherapy can also be very helpful in addressing any psychological issues underlying. Finally, seeing a dietitian for nutritional counselling can increase a person’s understanding of how their diet and eating patterns are affecting them physically.

A full recovery from anorexia may take time, but it is possible with the right support and determination.

How can anorexia affect you?

Aoife Ryan continues her thoughts into anoreixa…

Part 3; Consequences of Anorexia

Physically there are many serious consequences of anorexia. When the body is under nourished, it is forced to slow down all of its processes to conserve energy. Starvation affects every system in the body. − Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure produce changes in the heart muscle, giving a higher risk of heart failure.

Somebody who is under-eating and underweight will have a lowered resistance to illness, will experience physical weakness, and be more sensitive to the cold. The body may begin to grow fine downy hair all over as an attempt to preserve warmth. The loss of bone density is a common side effect, and can lead to osteoporosis.

Without the right nutrients, hormones cannot be produced and the reproduction can be damaged. The most obvious sign of this is the loss of periods in women. Fertility issues can arise as a result of this.

Anorexia also affects a person’s thinking and behaviour. With this, there are consequences emotionally. Poor nutrition and dehydration will produce changes in brain chemistry. These changes can lead to distorted thinking, untrue perceptions, obsession, and problems intellectually. It can increase vulnerability to other psychiatric disorders. The following are common consequences for a person suffering with anorexia:

− Body dysmorphic disorder is often seen in someone with anorexia. This is a body-image disorder where the person will find certain flaws that may exist at all, and become preoccupied and obsessed with it. For example, someone with anorexia’s image of themselves may be that they are over-weight when they are under-weight.

− Reduced concentration

− Poor memory

− Difficulties with abstract thinking, problem solving, decision making and planning.

− There are much higher levels of anxiety

− Depression is commonly seen in a sufferer of anorexia

− Obsessive-compulsive disorder may begin to develop.

These psychological side effects make the recovery process very difficult for the individual. Because of the nature of the disorder, a person suffering from anorexia may find it hard to admit to the seriousness of the risks to their physical and mental health.

Surviving Christmas….

 Niamh Arthurs (BSc Nutrition) looks into healthy Christmas survival tips.

Hands up if you have ever used or will use in the Coming weeks the popular phrase “Ah sure it’s Christmas” as a guilt free pass to indulge in all the fine festive foods!! So many of us do. Some research suggests that we eat an approximate 7000kcal on Christmas Day alone. Not to mention the lead up to Christmas day when we can clock up the calories with all the late party nights and fine dining.
The festive season should be enjoyed but with the plentiful supply of lovely rich foods, festive treats & drink, it can be all too easy to overeat. It has been suggested that on average we gain over 2kg in weight over the festive season. This can be thanks to all the second helpings of stuffing, Christmas Pudding, mince pies, Belgian chocolates, party tippets & alcoholic tipples that are almost impossible to resist.But don’t despair. Here are some ways to enjoy this holiday season;

Fill up with Fruit & Vegetables
Remember to enjoy the in season freshness of brussels sprouts, parsnips, sweet potato, satsumas, cranberries & other favourites. You may even meet your 5 a day from your dinner plate alone!

Less Sugar & More Spice in All Things Nice
Replace some of the sugar you eat with traditional Christmas spices for fabulous flavour & some can even aid your health. Traditional herbs such as ginger & cinnamon can help treat digestive problems while milk thistle may give your liver a boost to help it cope with the late party nights and rich foods.

Cut down on portion sizes
Many traditional foods are actually low in fat but it is the trimmings, extra helpings and constant nibbling that piles on the pounds. So use a smaller plate and don’t feel you have to clear it. Also leave some time before going for more as it can take our bodies 20 minutes to realise that we are full.

Stay active
Festive gatherings are not all about food. If we are eating more food, then we need to move more to prevent weight gain. Meet up with friends/family for walks or ice-skating, show some moves on the dance floor and do not forget that kids and animals need play time and the fresh air too.
Get a good night’s sleep
The party season can be exhausting and if we are tired and low in energy, it can be much easier to be less active and indulge in the high sugar/fatty foods. Ensure you are getting enough sleep to enable your body to fully recharge so it is ready to rumble again the next day.

Try Some Healthier Food Swaps
-Tortilla chips for Vegetable Crudités
-Sausage rolls for Cocktail Sausages
-Cheese straws for Breadsticks
-Creamy/Cheesy dips for Salsa
-Chicken goujons for Chicken satay skewer
-Samosa for Falafel
-Sausage stuffing for Chestnut/Fruit based stuffing
-Roast Potatoes for Boiled Potatoes
-Brandy Butter for Crème Fraiche/Low fat custard
-Double Cream for Greek Yoghurt
-Christmas cake/pudding for Fruit & Nut balls
-Milk/White chocolate for Dark chocolate
-Mulled wine for Mulled cranberry Juice
-Champagne for Buck’s Fizz

So have a happy & healthy Christmas & Best wishes for 2015!!

How did I get anorexia?

Aoife Ryan continues her look at anorexia in a 4 part series

Part 2 ; Who gets Anorexia?

Anorexia is associated with low self-esteem, perfectionism, and difficulty coping with uncertainty. Combinations of factors (biological, psychological, familial, and socio-cultural) usually come together making someone more likely to develop an eating disorder. Statistics show that adolescent girls and young women are most likely to develop anorexia. The main thing to know is that anorexia is not something anyone asks for – it can begin as wanting to lose weight to feel better about oneself generally, and following positive affirmation from friends and peers the disorder escalates in some and may not in other dieters.


What triggers the onset of Anorexia?

Anorexia may be triggered by low self-esteem/emotional resilience through adolescence and factors involved in the development of an insecure self. Another trigger may be an event that has made someone conscious/sensitive about their shape and weight. A combination of these two increases the likelihood of someone developing an eating disorder.

What is Anorexia?

Aoife Ryan looks at anorexia in a 4 part series

Part 1 ; What is Anorexia?

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterised by self-starvation and weight loss and/or control. The word ‘anorexia’ literally means loss of appetite, although most sufferers of the disorder might actually experience intense hunger but have learned to manage and control it. Refusing to eat enough to maintain a healthy body weight leaves both the mind and the body deprived of the nutrients needed for healthy, everyday functioning. A person with anorexia is likely to try to hide the disorder from their loved ones, and be very private about their diet. Sufferers often experience a decreased desire to engage in social interactions as they may be put in a position where they feel pressured to eat. Anorexia is a serious illness, but a full recovery is possible with the right support and treatment.

Anorexia is not a choice. The illness generally begins with normal dieting, through the restriction of certain foods that are high in calories and believed to be fattening, followed by the gradual elimination of more and more foods. As the disorder progresses, the drive and the determination to lose weight become more and more obvious and dietary and lifestyle changes reach a level of worry. Other ways a person with anorexia may try to lose weight or maintain a low body weight include excessive exercise, fasting, purging the food they do eat, and the use of laxatives or appetite suppressants.

Anorexia nervosa is most common in females aged 12-26, but can affect both males and females of all ages. What makes one person more vulnerable to anorexia than another is down to many varying factors. It is not simply a desire to lose weight, there are many psychological and emotional issues generally underlying the physical distress. For long-term recovery to be possible, all factors should be addressed.

The main features typically seen in a sufferer of anorexia may include some or all of the following:

  • Restriction of food intake
  • Excessive exercise
  • Social withdrawal
  • Intense fear of weight gain
  • Disrupted hormone balance (In females, periods may become irregular or stop completely)
  • Difficulty sleeping, constant tiredness
  • Preoccupation with body weight and size
  • Poor circulation, increased sensitivity to cold
  • Obsessive/compulsive behaviour around food and otherwise
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Rituals around food and eating
  • Feeling fat even when underweight
  • Frequent weighing of self