Monday, June 8, 2015

Anorexia Nervosa & Activity Anorexia

 graphic on how Anorexia affects your whole body
An extremely interesting concept that caught my eye while looking through our book Introduction to learning and behavior by Honey, Powell, and Symbaluk was the concept called activity anorexia. This concept was defined by Honey, Powell, and Symbaluk as “an abnormally high level of activity and low level of food intake generated by exposure to a restricted schedule of feeding (493). The authors describe the effects of activity anorexia with the use of rats by explaining that if a rat has access to food for 1.5 hours each day and access to wheel running for 22.5 hours the rat will increase their amount of running time during the wheel running interval time. Also, the authors noted that “the more they run, the less they eat, and the less they eat, the more they run” (Honey, Powell, & Symbaluk, 2013, p. 492). Surprisingly, if the experiment is not terminated after about a week, the rats will actually emancipate themselves and die.
The scary effects of activity anorexia was compared to anorexia nervosa in humans. The rats are purposely put into the specific situation that causes activity anorexia, but why do humans put themselves into a situation that causes anorexia nervosa? The Office of Women’s Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services explained in their 2012 article called Anorexia Nervosa Facts Sheet that “there is no single known cause of anorexia (“Anorexia Nervosa Facts Sheet, 2012, p. 2). This article explained 5 potential things that could play a part in the onset of anorexia nervosa as:
  • “Culture. Women in the U.S. are under constant pressure to fit a certain ideal of beauty. Seeing images of flawless, thin females everywhere makes it hard for women to feel good about their bodies. More and more, women are also feeling pressure to have a perfect body.
  • Families. If you have a mother or sister with anorexia, you are more likely to develop the disorder. Parents who think looks are important, diet themselves, or criticize their children's bodies are more likely to have a child with anorexia.
  • Life changes or stressful events. Traumatic events (like rape) as well as stressful things (like starting a new job), can lead to the onset of anorexia.
  • Personality traits. Someone with anorexia may not like her or himself, hate the way she or he looks, or feel hopeless. She or he often sets hard-to-reach goals for her or himself and tries to be perfect in every way.
  • Biology. Genes, hormones, and chemicals in the brain may be factors in developing anorexia” (“Anorexia Nervosa Facts Sheet, 2012, p. 2).

    The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) explained surprising statistics on eating disorders and the desire to be thin in their article Get the Facts on Eating Disorders (2014). The NEDA explained that:
  • “42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner (Collins, 1991).
  • In elementary school fewer than 25% of girls diet regularly. Yet those who do know what dieting involves and can talk about calorie restriction and food choices for weight loss fairly effectively (Smolak, 2011; Wertheim et al., 2009).
  • 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat (Mellin et al., 1991).
  • 46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets, and 82% of their families are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets (Gustafson-Larson & Terry, 1992)” (“Get Facts”, 2014, p. 3).
An extremely interesting part of both activity anorexia and anorexia nervosa were the effects it have on both the female rat and female human population. Introduction to Learning and Behaviors by Honey, Powell, and Symbaluk explained that “evolutionary pressures may also contribute to the increased incidence in anorexia in women. When placed on a calorie restricted diet, female rats demonstrate increases in both activity level and learning ability more so than male rats, which may represent an evolutionary-based tendency that enables females to compete efficiently for resources in times of food scarcity. This is in relation to a statistic explained by The Office of Women’s Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services explained in their 2012 article called Anorexia Nervosa Facts Sheet in which they stated that “85 - 95 percent of anorexics are female” (“Anorexia Nervosa Facts Sheet, 2012, p. 2).

Here’s a Video of the two skinniest women in the world, 1 who suffers from a genetic disorder, and 1 who suffers from Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa Facts Sheet. (2012). Office of Women’s Health of the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services. 1-3. Retrieved from:
Get Facts on Eating Disorders. (2014). The National Eating Disorders Association. 1-4.
Retrieved from:


  1. Lindsey,

    I think you picked a very important article to elaborate on. I truly believe that culture plays a huge role in encouraging eating disorders, especially in women. When women compare themselves to the stick figure women they see in the magazines, they immediately feel jealous and want to change their looks. What these ordinary women don't realize is that the women they see in the magazines are unrealistic expectations on what real women should look like. Also, often times, women in magazines are edited to appear more attractive. It is time for our culture to stop placing so much emphasis on what's on the outside and more on what's on the inside.

  2. Lindsey,
    Great post! I think that the topic of Anorexia and eating disorders in general is extremely relevant in today's society, and although there is not one specific cause, all of the factors that you listed above contribute heavily. It is a shame the way that society and the media put so much pressure on people to attain the "ideal body", but I found it very interesting that even in the rat study females were effected by the activity anorexia more than the males. It makes me wonder if females are naturally at a disadvantage when it comes to eating disorders and body image based on a scientific factor. Your post was very intriguing, and I enjoyed reading it and learning about the correlation between activity anorexia in rats and anorexia nervosa in human beings.