Every October, a costume consisting of a tight-fitting dress with a skeleton painted on it goes on sale in many Halloween stores. The costume itself isn’t too scandalous, but the name given to it, “Anna Rexia,” has stirred up a lot of controversy. It raises many red flags and highlights the glorification and romanticization of a serious problem in the world today: eating disorders. Eating disorders are not an attention-seeking ploy, and this unrealistic promotion needs to stop.
Eating disorders are categorized as mental health diseases. The two main eating disorders, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, are the leading cause of mental health diseases deaths, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. Though both anorexia and bulimia are broadly categorized as eating disorders, they differ in their symptoms. Anorexia is characterized by severe weight loss and excessive over-starvation, whereas bulimia is characterized by binge eating and vomiting.
In the United States, about one percent of women suffer from anorexia, and the disease will claim the lives of anywhere from five to 20 percent of these women.
Let’s break that down into concrete numbers.
There are about 157 million women in the United States according to the 2010 Census, so one percent of that would be about 1.57 million women. Almost one and a half million people struggle with anorexia in the United States alone. Five percent of the women affected would total 78,500, and 20 percent would be 314,000, meaning that of the 1.57 million women in the United States with this disease, anywhere from 78,500 to 314,000 of them will die from it.
The effects both anorexia and bulimia have on our health is enormous. The complications from either, as previously mentioned, can kill you if you don’t seek help or even if you wait too long to get help. Anorexia can eventually lead to kidney failure, osteoporosis and an abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which can all lead to early death. Bulimia can cause tooth decay and erosion of the esophagus from constant purging, which, though not as severe as the anorexia side effects, can still lead to serious complications later in life.
However, there is hope for those with eating disorders. Treatment, though grueling and difficult, can help those affected overcome their disease if they can accept that they have a problem and truly want to get better.
Healthy eating habits are important, but a crucial aspect to general health is mental health. Without good mental health, one cannot be a truly healthy individual. The society we live in promotes wafer-thin role models, and this is seriously impacting all young girls’ overall mental health, their self-esteem in particular. About 40 percent of girls between ages six and eight want to be thinner, and that number skyrockets to about 80 percent of girls once they reach age 10 according to the National Eating Disorders Association. If that doesn’t scare you, then I don’t know what will.
Eating healthy foods and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is necessary, but it shouldn’t become an obsession. Yes, eating salads is good for you and helps you get key vitamins and nutrients, but every once in a while, let yourself eat that cookie or get that ice cream. If you don’t give yourself a break and don’t allow yourself any “cheat” days, you could be setting yourself up for a myriad of problems, especially if or when this healthy eating coupled with a need to lose weight consumes your life. Emphasizing good mental and physical health instead of questioning one’s body image in comparison to those in the media is the first step to ending these horrible diseases.