by Gema Duarte
illustration by Christian A. Lopez
Many people struggle with diet programs and exercise regimens in an effort to lose weight, but some turn to other means, which are often damaging and have potentially deadly results. Bulimia and anorexia nervosa are two eating disorders that can produce quick results, but can become a “slow suicide.” Bulimia is force purging and binging. Anorexia nervosa is the force of self-starvation for fear of weight gain.
According to Dr. Allen Zagoren, clinical professor of surgery and nutrition at Western University of Health Sciences, the majority are females in their teenage years and early 20s who suffer from bulimia and anorexia nervosa. Victims are usually middle to upper social economic status.
“Bulimia is a little more dangerous,” Dr. Zagoren says. “There are major problems such as body acids that harm the throat and ruin teeth . . . both are potentially deadly.” Both alter body image to the point that victims are never satisfy with their body image. Dr. Zagoren explains that bulimia and anorexia nervosa cause cachexia loss of body muscle mass, resulting in a dilated heart and low protein among other health risks. “Physical problems are a factor of a physiological issue.”
For Cathy Johnson, 35, her weight problem has not only affected her high cholesterol, but also her confidence and relationship with men and the general public. “I used to get a lot of attention from men when I was skinny,” Johnson says. “Now, that I weigh 190 lbs, if a man wants to touch me, I don’t let him because I don’t want him to feel my fat. My over weight status makes me feel lonely and depressed.”
According to Dr. Zagoren there are two types of weight watchers. Dieters, who have a satisfying and realistic body image goal, and extremists who are never satisfied with their body image. “We know about the extreme. We don’t have very good data about the middle range,” Dr. Zagoren says.
Johnson is a dieter who is concerned about her weight gain, but there are dieters like Deanna Reyes, 21, who is size 0-1. Her diet consists of “junk food,” but she never gains weight and can fit into almost any fashion.
Wearing a black tight shirt with “Rodeo Girl” emblazoned across her chest and blue jeans with a pair of black one-inch heel boots, Reyes says, “I want to gain weight; I’d be happy in a size 3 or 5. I feel bad when girls tell me, ‘I wish I were like you.'” She has never had an eating disorder, but she realizes that she should be healthier. “Even though it doesn’t show in the outside, I know there is harm being made in the inside.”
Weight gain and fitting into a fashion is not only a female problem, but a male one too. Many men seek the use of steroids as a “quick fix” and are not aware of the side effects. Dr. Zagoren explains that genetically not every male can have big muscles. Like bulimia and anorexia nervosa, steroids can also cause negative effects to the heart. While making mass muscle bigger, the heart, a muscle too, also increases in size.
Reyes is a mall hopper, and Johnson only shops at Lane Bryant, which she calls the “Fat Lady Store.” Johnson, a size 20, does not enjoy shopping because she would rather not invest in clothes, hoping to lose weight. When she does buy any, it is baggy clothes “big enough to cover my fat,” she says with an emphasis in the word “fat.” On the other hand, Reyes may be thin and a “fashion plate” like her mother calls her, but she is not completely happy with some of her body proportions.
“I would like to have a bigger chest. I don’t have enough to fill in the gap,” she says, laughing. “I can’t fit in everything and anything; I have as much trouble finding clothes. You have got to work with whatever you have,” 95 pound Reyes says. “Fashion is how you present yourself. It’s your first impression to others.”
For Danny Craig, 23, associate director of public relations at Western University of Health Sciences, his body shape does not stop him from being styling. “I’ll never be one of those people who will be cut. In high school, I played three sports, and I never got cut-just stronger.” Craig explains. “Knowing that is not very motivating.” He realizes that he has gained some pounds, but it does not bring him down. “I don’t judge my self worth based on how healthy people think I am,” he says, lying back on his chair. “If I could drop 50 pounds over night, it would be great, but if I don’t lose them, it doesn’t bother me. For me, fashion is wearing a nice shirt with a nice pair of pants.”
Fashion and dressing well for Reyes is like putting a puzzle together. “I like to be well put together,” she expresses. “When you look good, you feel good.”
To keep pounds off permanently, the only way is to live a healthy, balanced life. “There is no one 100 percent diet because all diets have health risks,” Dr. Zagoren says. He recommends that instead of diets, altering life styles and eating habits have the best results, along with gradual weight loss. Patience and discipline are necessary.
“You can still be a healthy person but not look like a super model, and that’s more important than looking like you workout all the time,” Dr. Zagoren says.