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I would like to welcome everyone to today's session. Before we begin, let me first introduce myself. I am a licensed Eating Disorder Therapist, and I specialize in work or group sessions to help people with eating disorders such as Obesity and Anorexia Nervosa. I chose this profession after having experienced the issue myself and being surrounded by people who have battled eating and body concerns. As I witnessed the battle myself, I feel that I can positively affect people who are faced with a similar problem but desperately want to be freed from it.
As the group's resource person, I would be explaining the topics that will be discussed during the session. There will be two different groups in this group therapy session. One of the groups will consist of clients with obesity issues while the other one will deal with anorexia issues. The session will involve an explanation of the physiological factors that cause people to eat or not eat. A question and answer portion will follow in order for the group to have a better and effective understanding of the issues discussed. In order for patients to overcome their conditions, identifying, understanding, and eventually treating the physiological factors and myths that cause eating disorders are the ultimate goals of this session.
The Issues of Obesity and Anorexia Nervosa
It is critical for the group to learn that obesity and anorexia nervosa are prevalent eating disorders that significantly need a closer understanding to be treated properly. Initially, there is a need to realize the first eating disorder mentioned, which is obesity. Basically, it refers to a condition characterized by an abnormal hunger and excessive eating. This manifestation of atypical hunger triggers a person to eat or eat more. As a result, the individual tends to eat beyond his or her required capacity. When this disorder is not detected, and when the physiological factors causing hunger are not addressed, an abnormal desire for food eventually leads to the condition of obesity.
Satiety, on the other hand, which is characterized by an exceptional feeling of fullness, is another symptom that indicates the presence of an eating disorder when the feeling is recurrent. Intentional starvation of oneself, or one's deliberate non-consumption of food, for fear of becoming fat, eventually results in a fatal condition, known as anorexia nervosa. Therefore, as the group's eating disorder counselor, it is my foremost concern to reveal to this session's participants the physiological factors and myths regarding hunger and satiety.
Eating disorders, such as obesity and anorexia nervosa, generally arise when people make an unfavorable criticism of themselves, or when they find faults about themselves. Individuals with these kinds of disorder also nurture pessimistic ideas and emotions about their physical structure and weight. They also engage in unhealthy choice of food substance and food consumption practice that interrupts the average and accepted body operations, as well as their daily activities in life. Moreover, it is significant to always keep in mind that the said two eating disorders are not just simple behavioral activities and tendencies that a person can manipulate. In fact, they are medical concerns that necessitate the attention and effective rehabilitation of medical professionals. This is because the causes of hunger which make a person crave for food, and satiety which creates the sensation of fullness, are brought by physiological factors which, when treated, may prevent one from being obese as well as save the life of an anorexic.
Myths and Physiological Factors of Hunger and Satiety
There are also various myths and misconceptions about hunger and satiety. One of these myths that I discovered is the belief that eating reasonably results in hunger or those eating healthy, while unappetizing foods results in starvation. Another concept which I found out to be incorrect is the incurability of eating disorders, For instance, many believe that because of the feeling of fullness, anorexics do not eat, which makes them thin and wasted, rendering their condition untreatable. These myths can be dispelled by providing medical treatments and therapies combined that will address the underlying physiological factors that resulted into the two eating disorders.
Meanwhile, the various biological reasons for human's preference and tendency to eat or not, which make one susceptible to eating disorders, would also be tackled as we continue this session. However, there is no specific organ or body part to which the sensation of hunger and satiety can be directly connected. Still, both sensations have been linked to the stomach and the brain. For instance, when a person’s stomach is empty, his or her craving for food is ignited. This longing for something to eat is caused by muscle cramps that take place in an empty stomach experiences, making him or her feel hungry as a result. One starts to feel hunger when the stored food or food reserve plunges below the normal level of energy scale. In short, hunger is actually just a physiological controller that measures a person's food intake. Therefore, as an empty stomach contracts more, hunger is likewise escalated (Magidenko, 2007).
The nerve endings, called mechanoreceptors, which are found on the stomach wall, are the ones which determine when a person feels hungry. The mechanoreceptors eventually relay the condition to the brain. This process is utilized in some medical weight-loss operations wherein the stomach bulk is operationally lessened by means of bandage or attaching “temporary bubble into the gastric cavity” (Magidenko, 2007).
It was also learned that the degree of blood glucose is likewise a significant cause of hunger. A critical decrease of glucose levels is nearly linked with the sensation of hunger basically because of intense compressions of its muscular tissue. On the contrary, a person feels satiated when an increase of the level of nutrients in the blood occurs (Magidenko, 2007).
Several studies also suggest that hunger and satiety are manipulated and supervised by the hypothalamus portion of the human brain (Struempler, 1998; Magidenko, 2007). Based from this, it can be said that the human brain is an attributing factor to one's eating disorder especially to a person with satiety manifestations. Hence, the hypothalamus is the one responsible for one's abnormal feeling of fullness (satiety) that makes the person think and feel that eating will make him or her sick.
Question and Answer
Now that we have discussed in great detail the symptoms of obesity and anorexia nervosa, as well as the physiological factors that contribute to hunger and satiety, I open the floor for questions. Hence, if you have any concerns about your condition, feel free to share them with the group.
Robert's question: “My girlfriend and I eat together all of the time, so we eat the same food and amounts of food, but she never gains weight like I do. Why is that?”
Counselor's answer: It is simply because of their respective metabolic ability wherein Robert's body has a harder time converting food into energy. As a result, the food that he eats are stored as fat in his body, causing him to gain weight. His girlfriend, on the other hand, never gains weight due to her active metabolism function. Moreover, studies show that the body of women is able to convert food into energy. This, in effect, maintains her slim body figure (Struempler, 1998).
Nancy asked: “My mom says that I became anorexic because I’ve been reading too many Cosmo magazines and want to look like those girls. Maybe I did, but I really just don’t crave food. What do you think it is?”
Counselor answered: The medical condition of anorexia nervosa or starving oneself to death normally manifests among women, particularly female teenagers (Struempler, 1998). Furthermore, previous studies have shown that anorexia nervosa is evident among your group who are engrossed in reading Cosmopolitan Magazine and other women’s magazines. This is because the results have revealed that this activity ignites young females’ desire to be thin or skinny, which many of them think can be achieved by reducing food intake or not taking in food at all, just like the fashion models in the magazines. This, in effect, increases your susceptibility to the said condition (Struempler, 1998).
Satiety, being the feeling of fullness, also contributes to anorexia nervosa, especially when a person does not eat since doing so makes him or her feel sick and full (Struempler, 1998).
Tyra's inquiry: “I don’t eat because every time I do, I just feel sick! Do you
know why this is?”
Counselor's response: Your perception itself is an indication of sickness because it is wrong to think and even condition your mind to believe that eating will cause you to feel sick. As mentioned by Struempler, it is the hypothalamus part of your brain that is influencing you not to eat in order not to feel sick. Your abnormal feeling of fullness is attributed to your hypothalamus' function and not merely on you perception that eating will make you sick.
Lindsey asked: “My parents were both obese, is that why I am”?
Counselor answered: Again citing Struempler (1998), the heredity factor is being considered as a potential genetic component that causes obesity. This is because the existing traits of a person are obtained from his or her parents and others from the family tree. Obese parents or clans are inclined to have obese children while parents or clans with slim or thin figures tend to have children with similar body figure (Struempler, 1998). Therefore, when both parents are obese or that obesity is in the family clan, the condition tends to also manifests in the child.
In view of the above therapy discussion, I hope that I was able to address the concerns of the above four participants. In conclusion, it is a person's choice to eat or not that determines his or her tendencies towards becoming obese or anorexic. One's abnormal hunger which drives a person to eat and eat more could lead to obesity. Meanwhile, constant feeling of satiety may cause a person to avoid eating and result in anorexia nervosa.
Ultimately, I hope that the participants of this session were able to realize that a human body needs food with the only right kind of nutrients in order to prevent obesity. It goes the same way with satiety, which when its feeling of fullness is corrected, can prevent an anorexic from starving himself or herself to death.
Magidenko, L. (2007). Hunger and Appetite. Doctor's Corner Newsletter. Retrieved May 20, 2008, from ABC Vitamins Life Database.
Struempler, B. (1998). Eating disorders: trim & slim II. Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES), HE-0444. Retrieved May 13, 2008, from ACES Database.
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