Eating disorders are illnesses were the people experience severe disturbances in their eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions. People who suffering from eating disorders typically becomes obsessed with food and their body weight as well, most people use food as a way to control something that they can’t not control, like feelings but the disorder is more than just a problem with food. Eating disorders affect several million people at any given time of there life, most often women between the ages of 10 and 35 are most affected, but more recently men starting at ages 15 have started developing eating disorders. There are three main types of eating disorders, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.
Anorexia nervosa is diagnosed when patients weigh at least 15 percent less than the normal healthy weight expected for their height. People with anorexia nervosa don't maintain a normal weight because they refuse to eat enough, often exercise obsessively, and sometimes force themselves to vomit or use laxatives to lose weight. Common symptoms include: Menstrual periods cease, Osteopenia or osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) through loss of calcium, Hair/nails become brittle, Skin dries and can take on a yellowish cast, Mild anemia and muscles, including the heart muscle, waste away, Severe constipation, Drop in blood pressure, slowed breathing and pulse rates, Internal body temperature falls, causing person to feel cold all the time, Depression, and lethargy.
People with bulimia nervosa binge eat frequently, and during these times people may eat an astounding amount of food in a short time, often consuming thousands of calories that are high in sugars, carbohydrates, and fat. They can eat very rapidly, sometimes gulping down food without even tasting. After a binge, stomach pains and the fear of weight gain are common reasons that those with bulimia nervosa purge by throwing up or using a laxative. This cycle is usually repeated at least several times a week or, in serious cases, several times a day. Many people don’t know when a family member or friend has bulimia nervosa because sufferers almost always hide their binges.
Since they don’t become drastically thin, their behaviors may go unnoticed by those closest to them. Common symptoms include: Chronically inflamed and sore throat, Salivary glands in the neck and below the jaw become swollen. Cheeks and face often become puffy, causing sufferers to develop a “chipmunk” looking face, Tooth enamel wears off, teeth begin to decay from exposure to stomach acids, Constant vomiting causes gastroesophageal reflux disorder, Laxative abuse causes irritation, leading to intestinal problems, Diuretics (water pills) cause kidney problems, severe dehydration from purging of fluids.
People with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa tend to be perfectionists who suffer from low self-esteem and are extremely critical of themselves and their bodies. They usually “feel fat” and see themselves as overweight, sometimes even despite life-threatening semi-starvation or malnutrition. An intense fear of gaining weight and of being fat may become all pervasive. In early stages of these disorders, people often deny that they have a problem. Anorexia isn’t really just about food and weight. Eating disorders are much more complicated than that. The food and weight-related issues are symptoms of something deeper: things like depression, loneliness, insecurity, pressure to be perfect, or feeling out of control. Things that no amount of dieting or weight loss can cure.
People with binge eating disorder have episodes of binge eating in which they consume very large quantities of food in a brief period and feel out of control during the binge. Unlike people with bulimia nervosa, they do not try to get rid of the food by inducing vomiting or by using other unsafe practices such as fasting or laxative abuse. The binge eating is chronic and can lead to serious health complications, particularly severe obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. Binge eating disorder is a fairly new disorder to the eating disorder world. It combines many symptoms with anorexia and bulimia but also has its own traits.
Eating Disorders closely link emotional and physical health. The steps to treatment are different for each of the types of disorders. For anorexia the first step is to get the patient back to a somewhat normal healthy body weight. By doing this the patient will be able to start working on their mental health. The key for the beginning of treatment for Bulimia is to stop the binge purge cycle. Treatment for all disorders include: hospitalization, counseling and types of psychotherapy.
How could horses possible help people who have a problem with food? Like I said before eating disorders are more than just a problem with food. The horse is the perfect example of one who is “comfortable in its own skin.” Additionally, women and girls with a profoundly negative body image quickly realize that the horse cares not at all what they look like. Unlike people, the horse is absolutely non-judgmental. Eating disorder Patent has the opportunity to connect with the horse in a way that encourages them to be present in the moment, tune into their body and build a trusting relationship with the horse which can lead to self-awareness and a path toward emotional healing. Caring for and nurturing a horse is an empowering experience that increases confidence and assertiveness while also filling the need for acceptance, closeness and affection that we all desire, but that is often heightened in the emotional needs of a patient with an eating disorder. In order to work effectively with a horse, one must have confidence and be assertive in their directions to the horse so that the horse understands clearly the request. Working with a horse is also a lesson in demonstrating mutual respect, affection and acceptance without judgment.
Equine Assisted Therapy usually involves caring for the horse. The patient and therapist work together with a horse professional to groom, exercise, and feed the animal. A healthy diet is an essential component of keeping a horse at his optimum performance level, and the same is true of humans. This can be an excellent, indirect and non-threatening way to get a patient with an eating disorder to begin re-learning the importance of eating well. Conversations about healthy exercise and diet for the horse can spark beneficial conversations about the same needs in humans.
“There is something about the outside of a horses that is good for the inside of a man” I live by this quote. During my struggle with Anorexia horses where the only thing that got me through. They helped to trust and respect myself. I will do anything to be able to give people the feeling that horses gave me during my recovery. Even though I still struggle horses are still my go to for love and support.