Neha Sethi

Have you stopped eating or are you on a strict diet to attain that perfect size? Beware. You might be heading towards health loss rather than weight loss. Anorexia, an eating disorder is on the rise in India and you might be the next victim. Neha Sethi talks about anorexia, its symptoms and after effects.
Rekha (name changed), a 16-year old, who weighed 75 kgs was very conscious of being fat. Constant nagging by classmates and not enough care at home drove her to the brink of developing anorexia. “One day Rekha’s mother came to me and said that she was worried because her daughter was eating very less and was also behaving in a peculiar manner,” says Dr Geetu Amarnani, Nutrition expert, Kolmet Hospital, Pusa Road.

Amarnani says that these symptoms indicate the probability of developing anorexia later on. “These days we get many cases like these. Rekha is just an example, but there are many more like her,” she adds. “Anorexia” she says, “is a kind of eating disorder which can later develop into a psychological problem, if attention is not paid and treatment is not given.”

The general conception is that anorexia usually affects adolescents. But trends of increasing number of cases of anorexia have been observed even amongst adults in the West. “Anorexia is a disorder observed in teenagers from 13-18 years of age, and it is mostly girls who are affected. I haven’t come across any adult case till now,” says Dr Vandana Garg, Consultant Physician, Goodwill Hospital, Noida.

“Anorexia is a relatively new disorder in India. Also, it is mostly prevalent amongst the urban middle or urban rich class,” says Dr Atul Sardana, Consultant Surgeon at Kolmet Hospital. He holds the media responsible for the increasing number of cases of anorexia in the country. “All girls want an hour-glass figure these days. They all want to be as thin as models and actresses.”

The same sentiment is echoed by Rekha’s mother, who didn’t want to be named. “When I came to know that Rekha has started eating very less, I went to her room to talk to her. And imagine my shock, when all around her room walls all I see is newly pinned posters of toothpick thin models and actresses. They were her inspiration.”

Dr Amarnani says anorexia can also be attributed to changing lifestyle trends in India. “Due to busy schedules, most women don’t have time to keep a check on what their children are eating. This means the children get more influenced by television and their friends.”

Anorexia can prove to be very dangerous if not diagnosed and treated early, says Dr.Amarnani. “It is during adolescence that the body builds stocks of vitamins, calcium and iron. If a person does not eat properly during that age, then it becomes very difficult to replenish those sources later in life,” she adds.

Shruti Yadav, 22, a law student at Delhi University, New Delhi, who lost 20 kgs when she was 18 says, “I lost weight only because I was regular with my exercise routine. I never skipped meals and nor did I overdo exercise. It is not necessary to diet or starve to lose weight. I lost 20 kgs without doing any of that.”

Weight loss should not become an obsession. As Dr.Amarnani says, “Family has a very important role to play. They should educate their children about the right and wrong ways to lose weight and keep a check on them.”

Common symptoms of Anorexia:

· Fatigued and tired look
· Thin appearance
· Frequent dizziness
· Low blood counts
· Some irregularities in menstrual cycles
· Uninterested in activities happening around
· Making excuses to avoid eating food
· Withdrawal or seclusion
· In extreme cases, chest pain

Anorexia may lead to:

· Malnutrition
· Deficiency of vitamins and iron in the body which leads to anemia
· Dark circles under the eye
· Lack of calcium leading to muscle wasting or bone thinning
· Stress
· Depression
· Body cannot cope up with deficiencies
· Miscarriage during pregnancy