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The secret to winning against eating disorders is out

Our busy and stressful lifestyles can lead to a number of health issues. Here is nutritionist Pooja Bhargava's two cents on how to win over eat disorders…

If there is ever a time when you forget that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, remind yourself that you are beautiful and unique. Don’t let your eating disorder brain wash you into thinking otherwise.

Read on as we get nutritionist and fitness expert Pooja Bhargava to spill the beans on how to win against eating disorders…

What are the common eating disorders amongst teens?

Suddenly there is this new rage to be of a perfect size. Now I see kids as young as 13 worry about the way they look. Social image is such a big issue with you teenagers these days. You all just want to look good. Why is feeling good not your priority in life and why is it so important to only look good?

Well of’ course the reason is that teens are experiencing changes at this stage; hormonal and puberty. So it is only natural for them to get attracted to the opposite sex at this time. And so they want to look good because their social image is important. Which is fine, but it’s saddening to see that most of them fall prey to unhealthy practices and fad diets.

Another common eating disorder amongst teenage girls is where they want to go out and socialize and eat out but after that they literally get into perching and vomiting the food out. This is called Bulimia Nervosa where some of teens actually get themselves to puke the food out. Forcibly puking the food out disrupts the digestive enzymes that are building in the intestine and in the process more acid is created. Such disorders always lead to a very early PCOS ie: the polycystic ovarian syndrome which again is becoming more and more common amongst teenage girls.

Thyroid problems, hair loss, brittle nails, dry skin are all a result of fancy diets that make you miss out on the essential nutrients. Fancy diets like Ketogenic diet teach kids at this crucial age that you can’t eat everything.

Well, I insist that you eat everything. Carbohydrates, fats and minerals are there for a reason. All these nutrients have a different function to fulfill. You cannot give up on any of the nutrients.

Anorexia is another eating disorder that is a result of starvation and liquid diets that lead to all kinds of complications.

What are the triggers that lead to eating disorders?

One trigger is definitely the obsession with body image. Psychological changes at this age matter a lot. There is a lot of peer pressure. Kids are exposed to social media and to these social media stars and models. They set this idea of what a perfect body should be like and thus set wrong body goals for teens.

Another very common trigger is the psychological issues. Loss of a loved one can have a huge impact on your attitude towards life, food and towards how you conduct yourself. Also breakups - rejection these days happen to kids much sooner.

Sometimes adults can be very influential too. There was this case I had where the daughter was not happy with the way she looked and how much she weighed even after losing 10 to 12 kgs. Even though I told her that she had now reached her ideal weight and that she should not lose any more, the mother kept on encouraging her to lose more weight to look thin at a particular event.

There is so much of half-baked information floating everywhere these days. Parents just pick up the information in parts and actually put pressure on their child to meet expectations and even support their child when they know that these are irrational, unhealthy practices.

What are the signs to know someone is suffering from any of the eating disorders?

Nutritionally, if you find yourself or a friend starving or avoiding to talk about it there may be a problem. If your immunity is weak and you fall sick too often, if you have frequent cold or caught or irritation, bouts of mood swings that could be a sign. If you haven’t been talking much and have been spending time with yourself then these are signs to make note of and tell yourself there may be a problem. If you find yourself following a Kylie Jenner or any other xyz model and find yourself obsessing over every trend that picks on social media, then those are the signs one should warn yourself against.

How are bullying, body shaming and fat talk related to eating disorders? How does one stand up to this?

The first thing to do here is for the teen to ask him/herself, how do you really feel about yourself? Do you honestly feel that you are fat or thin? And it totally depends on what you feel about yourself that you should decide the line of action.

If you feel that I am totally fine then there you are! I have had a case where the child would insist that he is fine. He said I am fine with being of this weight so let me live my life and I told the parents to let him be. I asked the mother to make changes in their cooking and to encourage the child to invest time in a physical activity. That way there won’t be any major change suddenly but there will be a little difference and then if you stick to the natural and healthy ways of losing weight then little by little these changes make a big difference! He will finally lose weight the healthy way without developing a feeling that there is something wrong with him.

But if a child tells me that I do feel I am fat then I educate the child on the right choice of nutrition and then I help them make the right food and exercise choices.

I would advise the child again to speak up. Talk to a friend or a confidant. If not then I would advise the child to do a mirror talk. It’s very important for you to not suppress your feelings. Body shaming is something that can really put you down and can have an impact on your moral so if you are shy to talk to anyone about it then do a mirror talk. Speak to the mirror and let out your feelings. It can really help

The next line of action could be to make a vision of yourself and write down what you want from today and reading it aloud to yourself. This is when I would want you to really write down that I am healthy, I am fit. This practice will reinforce positivity in you through your own positive vibes.

Could you debunk some myths about eating disorders?

Starvation is the first. I see girls who just don’t want to eat. So starvation is one big fitness myth. It lowers your insulin levels which make you disillusioned in your thinking. It brings your energy levels down, hampers your nutrient absorbability and makes you deficient of most of the vitamins. All this leads to your body storing fat so even if you lose weight, it will be timely and you will rebound back with weight gain soon.       

Fad diets again are another fitness trend that is actually a myth. Stick to your normal balanced diet as we discussed in the principals of eating right.

The third myth I’d say is the gym trend. Some of you overdo exercising with the gym and those dance classes while some of you are hooked on to your devices and screens and tablets and phones. So make sure you use those recesses and breaks to go out and play. In the evening go out to the park and walk or jog around instead of sitting in front of a screen. Just be more active!

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5 weird signs that prove you have a nutritional deficiency

Are you facing any of these weird symptoms...

Has your body been throwing mysterious cravings at you? Do you find yourself dealing with strange behavior patterns and bizarre symptoms? Well, if you listen carefully, you will realize that your body is trying to tell you something.

Behind every freaky craving and symptom is your body hinting that you might have a nutritional deficiency. It is your body’s way of begging you to stack up on what it’s lacking.

It may be difficult at first to understand that you can be deficient of nutrients, if you have been eating often. If you have been having your meals and you’ve been snacking away in between meals too, how is it then, that you have a deficiency? The answer is empty calories!

You have probably been loading on food that is nutritionally void, oblivious to the fact that you are depriving your system of all the healthy nutrients that it needs. Let’s take a stock of these bizarre signs and symptoms that point at your deficiencies and the nutrients you need to score on…    

You crave eating chalk

If you have been feeling an uncontrollable urge to bite into a chalk or scrape lime stone powder off the wall and eat it; this implies that you have a calcium deficiency. By driving you to eat into every possible source of it, your body is demanding that you eat more of calcium.

To fix this –

Banana, milk and cheese, sea food, nuts and leafy vegetables are all rich sources of calcium. Every once in a while you can toss yourself a bowl of salad that is packed with the greens, nuts and tofu to make sure you get your calcium dose.   

You want to eat dirt

As strange as it may sound, people who experience this craving struggle with a pretty strong urge to eat dirt (earth). This suggests that the person suffers from anemia and has an iron deficiency.

To fix this –

Sea food, red meat, beans, dried foods, cereals and dark green vegetables are all good sources of iron. If you are a vegetarian, consider filing in your lack of iron with soybean, flax seeds, tomatoes and lentils.       

You have numb or tingly limbs and hands

If you have been getting a numb or a tingly feeling in your hands and limbs, then it is most likely that you have a Vitamin B12 and/or Vitamin D deficiency. We suggest you get yourself tested and if you are indeed deficient of these then make amends.

To fix this –

Lack of exposure to sunlight, vegan diets, stress and other unhealthy lifestyle choices are causes of Vitamin deficiencies. It is important that you consume a sufficient portion of cereals, mushrooms, sea food, cod liver oils, eggs, beef and cheese. 

You want to chomp onto ice

This one might sound strange but an urge to eat ice indicates iron deficiency. When you are running low on iron you will feel fatigued and low on energy, and because ice causes a mental energy boost you will feel like eating it.

To fix this –

Instead of chomping onto ice, we say you level your iron scores by consuming read meat, beans, lentils, orange juice, oysters, yoghurt, soy et al.

You have brittle and flaky nails and you are losing hair by the dozen

If you are losing hair then you need to check on the ingredients of your shampoo but more importantly you need to know that it could be a protein deficiency! If you have brittle and flaky nails then you have the lack of iron to blame.

To fix this –

To fix your iron deficiency you must up the intake of; sea food, red meat, beans, dried foods, cereals and dark green vegetables. For the protein deficiency, make sure you eat loads of broccoli, chicken, oats, almonds, eggs and dairy.  

If you have a story to share, Email it to us HERE.

If you have a query, Email it to us HERE.

You can also chat with the counsellor by clicking on Teentalk Expert Chat.

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