An eating disorder occurs when someone has an abnormal attitude to food that is harmful to them. For example, those with anorexia nervosa will become obsessed with achieving as low a weight as possible and, to do this, they may starve themselves and exercise excessively. This can lead to a number of health problems and, in extreme cases, it can prove to be fatal.
Bulimia nervosa is another type of eating disorder that involves periods of binge eating and then purging, where the sufferers make themselves sick or take laxatives. Other people suffer from binge eating disorders that cause them to eat large amounts of food over a short space of time. They will continue to eat even when they are not hungry and may become obese as a result. They have no control over their eating habits but may feel guilty or disgusted with themselves after a period of bingeing.
There are many reasons individuals develop eating disorders, but those who get binge eating disorders often comfort-eat as a way to cope with a stressful situation. Dotti D’Arcy is one such sufferer. The mum-of-two was so terrified that she was going to develop cancer like so many other members of her family that she began bingeing on food; she ended up weighing a whopping twenty stone.
Dotti’s grandmother, grandfather, brother and sister all died after developing cancer, and another sister got the disease but survived. Dotti was terrified that she would be next and began comfort eating as a way of coping. She regularly ate greasy, fatty food, which resulted in her being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Dotti said, “If I was happy I ate, and if I was sad I ate. I had to have food. It was the only thing I looked forward to.”
She said the constant worry over which family member would be next to develop cancer led to her bingeing on sweet treats and takeaways. She started comfort eating after her sister developed cancer and moved in with the family to be cared for. She said, “We knew Lucy was dying but because her breast cancer was diagnosed at such a late stage there was nothing they could do for her. So we wanted to make her last months as happy as we could. Part of that was going out for meals.”
After piling on five stone in two years, she tried to lose weight but could not. The entire family were given a health check by Dr Rangan Chatterjee from the BBC 1 television series that is looking into unhealthy families. It was discovered that Dotti, husband Russ and children Deni and Brandon were all suffering from weight and health problems. The children’s metabolic ages were very high, and Dotti said, “When I found out about the kids metabolic ages, I cried and cried. I knew that my problem had affected them, and I was devastated.”
It was Dr Chatterjee who also recognised that it was Dotti’s fear of developing cancer that was behind her emotional eating. She was advised to have tests to discover her risk for certain cancers and it was discovered that she does have a risk for some but a low risk for others.
Dotti knows she has to change her attitude towards food and has begun swapping greasy foods for healthy alternatives. She said, “Something has clicked in my brain and now I’m focussed on preparing healthy meals.”
Her and husband Russ have both lost almost five stone since changing their diet and Dotti has accepted that, while the fear of cancer will always be there, she has learned how to rationalise it.
Eating disorders are serious illnesses that require professional treatment. If you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, contact Addiction Helper today for information and advice on how to access effective treatments.