One of the gifts I’ve received in mid-life is to be able to see more clearly the different ways in which all people struggle and the choices we make to deal with our individual challenges. One very natural and logical place that some people go to is how their body looks and feels. In a way, it makes perfect sense to me that if someone is uncomfortable or seeking relief from an experience in the body, using the food that goes in it to eliminate the experience could be believed to be an effective solution. For those who are genetically predisposed to have an eating disorder, this can turn deadly.
If we think about the big picture of why these behaviors start, and then can become a full-blown eating disorder, we may be able to literally save lives. For instance, we often see changes in response to a big life stage. Raising children, caring for aging parents, making career decisions, ending relationships, menopause, kids going off to college, just to name a few. These are transition times and we may not have the coping skills to adequately deal. Puberty is also a common time eating disorders develop, as the average girl gains 40 lbs of body fat during this phase.
Going off to college is another stressful change. The term Drunkorexia started as a way to describe college students’ response to the fear of “the freshman 15.” In order to avoid the weight gain caused by drinking alcohol, some purposely restrict food and calories, or exercise excessively, in order to balance out a night of drinking. Drinking on an empty stomach increases the rate of intoxication and likelihood of risky behaviors and blackouts. This behavior is not limited to college students, however, and many women in midlife may turn to this solution to deal with weight gain that may come with menopause.
These “-rexias” tied to major life changes aren’t limited to alcohol either, and at Eating Recovery Center and among our colleagues in the medical community, we’ve seen a rise in other related disorders.
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Bonnie Brennan, MA, LPC, CEDS, Senior Clinical Director of Adult Residential and Partial Hospital Services, recently wrote an article that was featured on Betterafter50.com