The Tiv people in Benue State from North Central Nigeria have a saying that “ka fe bua u or ka sha anbusu” meaning you can only identify someone else’s cow by its size. When you see a fat and flourishing cow you know you have seen a cow. The Efiks in Cross River State, Nigeria feed their girls fat before giving out their hands in marriage to show that, to be fat and flourishing is beautiful.
Today, young girls prefer to be thin or do I call it slim to be termed beautiful. In a bid to remain thin or slim, some develop an eating disorder called Anorexia Nervosa.
Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder that occurs in adolescent girls. This order is characterised by intense fear of becoming fat even though underweight and a refusal to maintain a body weight that commensurate with their sex, age and height. People with this disorder avoid eating even though hungry.
Anorexia Nervosa is simply called the slimmers’ disease. Ortese, a professor of Guidance and Counselling states that Anorexia Nervosa is a disorder whereby the sufferer restricts the intake of food and refuses to maintain minimal normal body weight. According to him, most suffers lose weight by restricting food intake.
The major characteristics of victims of Anorexia Nervosa are intense fear of gaining weight and limited intake of food. An individual suffering from this disorder may have low body weight, she may refuse to keep normal body weight, and may be afraid of becoming fat and may believe that is fat even though thin.
There is no known cause of Anorexia Nervosa except that some girls because of their upbringing may want to be in control of their body weight and may refuse the intake of food to ease tension, anger and anxiety.
Surprisingly some Europian girls and even Nigerians feel it is fashionable to be slim and some girls, because friends and relatives describe them as being’ fat and ugly ‘ a phrase very common amongst Nigerians, the girls choose to remain slim so as to be addressed as beautiful. These are just probable reasons.
The signs and symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa include:
- Extreme thin looks
- Use of extreme measures to lose weight
- Always trying to throw up food.
- Talking of pills to urinate or have a bowel movement.
- Talking of diet pills.
- Restriction on intake of food a strict diet.
- Extreme exercise
- Weighs food and counts calories
- Moves food around plates but does not eats it.
Other notable signs include distorted body image, considering oneself to be fat when too thin, wearing of baggy clothes to hide appearance, and taking body weight frequently.
Anorexia Nervosa victims may act strange by talking about weight and food. They may not be prepared to eat in front of other people. They may have impaired thinking, moody and depressed. They may also have fainting sprees.
Some victims may have thin hair, brittle nails, low blood pressure, slow heartbeat, palpitations and heart failure. Some other side effects of Anorexia Nervosa may include blood anaemia, weak muscles, kidney stones and failures, constipation, bloating, irregular periods, stouted growth, trouble getting pregnant if pregnant high risk of miscarriage, having a c-section, babies with weight and post partum depressions.
Anorexia Nervosa victims may have their skins affected being easily bruised and yellow coloration, and susceptible to colds, and feelings of helplessness and worthlessness.
Here are some suggested treatment regimes for Anorexia Nervosa victims.
- Parents and relatives should desist from criticising their children and wards’ bodies.
- Therapists should use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)to change victims’ beliefs thoughts, perceptions and actions.
- Therapists should educate patients on side effects of Anorexia Nervosa disorder.
- Patients should endeavour to keep a diary of eating episodes and events that may have triggered the episodes.
- Patients should eat regularly with meals or snacks spaced not more than 3-4 hours.
- Patients should try to do away with self-defeating thought patterns.