Equal Time Fall 2019

Page 10

Health & Fitness dieting and thinness. The stigma surrounding weight can increase body dissatisfaction and foster the belief that an ideal body exists somewhere on your Instagram feed. Additionally, research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine suggests that eating disorder behaviors are linked to altered brain chemistry. Serotonin, a chemical that causes feelings of contentment, is produced by eating protein. Low levels of serotonin should make you want to eat, and dopamine, a chemical that makes you feel pleasure, should release after a meal to make eating enjoyable. However, this typical chemical process doesn’t function properly in people with eating disorders. Individuals with anorexia nervosa, for example, tend to produce higher levels of serotonin, which can lead to anxiety. Instead of eating, these individuals’ brains try to reduce serotonin by avoiding foods that promote serotonin creation, like protein. They also don’t get the dopamine release after a meal, so the association between eating and satisfaction doesn’t exist. Unlike people with anorexia nervosa, who don’t release dopamine after a meal, people with bulimia nervosa release too much dopamine after a meal. This causes them to keep eating and can


contribute to a vicious cycle of using food as a reward, eating too much, punishing themselves through purging, and repeating. Recognizing eating disorders Today’s eating disorders don’t look the same PHYSICAL


Weight loss

Preoccupation with weight & body image

Complaining of being cold all the time Wearing bulky or excessive clothing

Refusal to eat certain food groups (fats, carbs, etc.)


Skipping meals regularly

Frequent trips to the bathroom after meals

Withdrawal from normal activities

Disappearance of large amounts of food in a short period of time

Feelings of disgust after eating or toward food

Hiding food or food wrappers

as they used to. According to Dr. Tanya Horacek, a registered dietitian and professor in the nutrition department at Syracuse University, today’s eating disorders can present themselves in many forms. “Eating disorders have evolved a lot since I started in the field,” Horacek says. She explains that eating disorders can often be disguised as a special diet, such as glutenfree, dairy-free, paleo, or vegan. In addition, the more general term “clean eating” may promote restrictive diets that cut out high-carb or high-fat foods, according to Horacek. But that doesn’t mean everyone who eats clean has an eating disorder. The difference is that some people choose to maintain these special diets as a cover for food avoidance, weight control, or compensation for the lack of control in other aspects of their life. An important thing to recognize is that eating disorders can look different for everyone. Someone could have one or more of the following symptoms, or they may have