Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Allie. Allie Wonders, “What are eating disorders?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Allie!

Here in Wonderopolis, we’ve learned a lot about how important it is to take care of your body. You may already know that you should drink plenty of water. You probably know how important rest and healthy eating are. However, today’s Wonder of the Day is about a few conditions that can stop a person from giving their body the nutrients it needs. They’re called eating disorders.

Eating disorders affect many people across the world. In the U.S. alone, about 20 million women and 10 million men experience them. They’re common, but eating disorders are also often misunderstood. 

Eating disorders affect a person’s relationship with food and exercise. They can also change the way someone sees themselves and their body. There are several types of eating disorders, and they’re all mental health conditions. None of these disorders are lifestyle choices. Instead, they’re medical issues that can harm a person’s health. 

Some eating disorders are driven by the fear of gaining weight. One example is anorexia nervosa. People with this condition avoid eating for long periods of time. They may also exercise and weigh themselves more than is common. Another example is bulimia nervosa. Signs of this condition include binge-eating and purging. Both anorexia and bulimia can lead to severe weight loss. Still, people with these conditions may see themselves as overweight regardless of their body size.

Not all people with an eating disorder are driven by weight loss. Binge-eating disorder involves eating large amounts of food in short time periods. This often leads to obesity. People with this condition may eat even when they aren’t hungry. They often do so alone or in secret due to shame or guilt.

Another condition is avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID). People with ARFID may avoid eating food for a number of reasons. They aren’t afraid of gaining weight and don’t necessarily have poor body image. Instead, they are likely to have a strong dislike for the smell, taste, or texture of food. They may also be afraid of choking.

How do people form eating disorders? There can be several causes. Many experts think attitudes toward thinness play a big role. Examples of unrealistic body goals in movies or other media can add to this. When people feel shame about the way they look, they’re more at risk for eating disorders.

People are also more likely to have an eating disorder if a family member has had one. They affect people of all genders, but they’re most common in women. Activities that sometimes put a lot of focus on weight, such as ballet, also put people at a higher risk. Conditions like anxiety and depression can also add to a person’s chances of having an eating disorder.

Eating disorders can cause many health problems. They can lead to dehydration and organ failure. People with these conditions are also at risk for heart attack and stroke. With the right treatment, people can recover from eating disorders. 

Beating an eating disorder isn’t easy. Each person’s needs are different, but many do well with both therapy and medicine. Support from friends and family members can make a big difference.

People can have eating disorders at any age. That’s why it’s important for both kids and adults to know the symptoms. If you or someone you love is experiencing an eating disorder, talk with a trusted adult. They’ll be able to help the affected person talk with a doctor.

Standards: CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.W.8, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.SL.1

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