The thin chase
Everyone in the glamour and sports industries, and not to mention the very impressionable teenage group, is obsessed with achieving a reed-thin frame. But the harsh truth is that this extreme body size comes at a heavy price and can often be fatal, considering the lengths that some people go to in its pursuit.
American pop star Kesha has admitted to suffering from an eating disorder as a result of trying to maintaining a skinny frame, and turned the spotlight on the hazardous impact it can have on one’s health. The 26-year-old star will undergo rehabilitation for 30 days, a debatable period as medical experts state that it’s not enough for one to overcome the disorder.
While the prevalence of eating disorders in India is lower than western countries, it is found in around 2 per cent of models, film actors, and sports personalities, and a 0.5 per cent of teenagers looking for careers in these fields. The really worrying thing is that teens take to these starvation diets around the average age of 15, leaving them unfit for the rest of their lives.
It affects metabolism
Starvation diets lead to a major conflict between the mind and body. The body wants to eat food but the mind restricts it in fear of putting on weight. Low-calorie and no carbohydrate diets rob the body of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phyto chemicals and fibre. Zero-fat diets initially help to lose weight but not after a point of time. The body needs an adequate amount of fat to stay warm. The worst impact of such diets is the change in the body’s metabolic cycle.
Nutritionist Mehwash of Narayana Multi Speciality Hospital explains, “These diets reduce the metabolism by 65 per cent. Metabolism is the chemical process of converting food into energy for physical activity. In order to get a thin frame, many compromise on their metabolic cycle as they have diminished muscle activity, increased sleep and decreased core temperatures in the body.”
Dieting can be fatal
The obsession with a thin frame leads to a difficult relationship with food. Such people are always talking about dieting and looking for new ways to eat less food. They are terrified of being called ‘fat’ and will often move around in the skimpiest and tightest of clothes to reassure themselves that they are thin. But in doing so, they create a major void in the body and eventually their digestive system becomes weaker.
Dr Vidya Sagar, surgical gastroenterologist at Care Hospitals, says, “When an anorexic patient dies, it’s because there are no new cells being formed to support the organs. The first organ to fail is the liver and the others follow quickly.”
Starvation can cause
- Irregular heart beat
- Abnormal blood cell counts
- Irregular menstrual cycles, which completely disappear in extreme cases
- High levels of anxiety and a strong desire to look perfect
‘Eating disorders can cause low self-esteem’
A thin frame attracts attention and becomes an object of praise from everyone. This desire of being appreciated and averred is an obsession that most teens suffer from. And if they are in an industry where thinness is revered, the obsession becomes a die-hard task that they are simply not willing to give up. This leads to three distinct eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating.
Namita Singh, consultant neuropsychologist, Apollo Health City says, “These eating disorders cause low self-esteem, severe anxiety, emotional distress, co-morbid personality disorders, psychiatric conditions as well as physical illness. The major problem with them is that they are constantly worried about their weight. They are always checking themselves in the mirror and any adverse comments about being ‘slightly plump’ or ‘fat’ makes them ditch food.”
Hospitalisation works for a short period of time but after that the family has to work on them and constantly motivate them to eat balanced food. Singh adds, “Teens must be educated on the fact that the ‘looking good’ industry is short-lived.”