Anorexia In today’s society, we often hear of people who suffer daily from illnesses such as cancer, AIDS, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, tuberculosis, downs syndrome and many other types of illness both communicable and non-communicable. What about the illness that consumes the life of over eight million Americans, 90% being women? “Anorexia nervosa, in medicine a condition characterized by intense fear of gaining weight or becoming obese, as well as a distorted body image, leading to an excessive weight loss from restricting food intake and excessive exercise. Anorexia nervosa is not associated with any preexisting physical illness. It is found chiefly in adolescents, especially young women.” 1 Anorexia nervosa, according to psychologists is a mental disorder: “psychological and behavioral syndromes that deviate significantly from those typical of human beings enjoying good mental health. In general, a mental disorder involves present distress or impairment in important areas of functions.”2 The illness is brought on by many elements, mainly negative feelings towards ones appearance, low self-esteem, depression, the need and want to compete in a sport and be number one, and the need to strive for perfection.
Women today are greatly affected by the need to look perfect. What woman doesn’t want to look like Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Brooke Shields or Naiomi Campbell (just to name a few)? According to a recent survey in GLAMOUR magazine, not many. The survey shows that out of 33,000 females who participated 85% were not Chambers 2 happy with their body and overall appearance. Women of our generation suffer from the impacts of having a poor body image, and would go to any lengths to get the look of the latest cover girl model. The results of this trend, although good for the distributors of diet pills, fad foods and the so-called miracle drinks, are destroying the young women of America. What may start out to be a simple diet can quickly turn into a deadly illness.
A dieter who starts by skipping a meal once and a while will slowly begin to fade away, the illness starts off showing promising results with visible rapid weight loss, but quickly becomes fatal. The disease is on the rise amongst athletes, both men and women ” Eating disorders originate in the mind, and like any disease of deception, they are difficult to escape.”3 It is for this very reason that athletes are so susceptible to the illness. Their minds tell them that in order to be the best, they need to look the best and in order to look the best they have to be as thin as possible. The illness is extremely common in gymnastics, and this can be clearly seen in the case of a young women named Christy Henrich whose life recently fell short when anorexia took over her mind, body and soul and won. At the young age of twenty-two she died of multiple organ failure, weighing in at only sixty-one pounds.
According to Dr. David McKinsey, “a person passes the point of no return, and then, no matter how aggressive the care is, it doesn’t work. The major problem is a severe lack of fuel. The person becomes so malnourished that the liver doesn’t work, the kidneys don’t work, and neither do the muscles. The cells no longer function.” 4 Even though her weight showed an improvement from just 47 pounds at the time of her discharge from a previous medical center, to 61 pounds at the time of Chambers 3 admittance to Research Medical Center in Kansas her body just could not handle the complications from all the years of abuse. She was pushed to hard by her coach, and the want to be the perfect gymnast, and it took her life ” Eating Disorders are easily the gravest health problems facing female athletes, and they affect not just gymnasts, but also swimmers, distance runners, tennis and volleyball players, divers, and figure skaters.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, as many as 62% of females competing in “appearance”sports (like figure skating and gymnastics) and endurance sports suffer from an eating disorder.”.