I am a teenage girl with odd eating habits

ASK DOC: I can’t stop overeating

I can’t seem to control my eating. Whenever I see food, I cannot resist the urge to eat it.

Dr Flo, I am a teenage girl with odd eating habits. I can’t seem to control my eating. Whenever I see food, I cannot resist the urge to eat it. I can eat over four generous helpings in one sitting.

Now I am overweight, bordering on obese and my tummy looks like that of a woman who is four months pregnant, and everyone, including my mum and hairdresser, is raising eyebrows.

I recently fell from the sofa and injured my backbone and I have been in pain ever since, especially when I’m in a car and it jolts suddenly. My eating habits and my being overweight are making me feel depressed and my self-esteem is at an all-time low. I hope you can help me.


Dear Maria,

You are suffering from binge eating disorder. It is characterised by eating an amount of food that is larger than what most people would eat in a similar time frame and a sense of lack of control during the episode either over the eating itself, or the what or how much is being eaten.

During the binge eating episodes, you may eat faster than normal, you may eat until you are uncomfortably full, you may eat large amounts of food when you are not physically hungry, you may eat alone because of feeling embarrassed about how much you are eating and you feel guilty, disgusted or depressed afterwards.

Binge eating disorder is a serious disorder that causes a lot of psychological distress and also has serious health implications, like being overweight, sleep problems, digestive problems, menstrual irregularities, joint pains, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. It is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, psychological, behavioural and social factors.

Binge eating disorder is manageable, and you can overcome it. To manage it, you need to see a counsellor or a psychologist or a psychiatrist for individual, group and/or family therapy.

You may also be started on some medication to manage the depression and anxiety. You also need to visit a nutritionist so that you can know what your body needs for you to be healthy. You also need to start exercising, preferably with the help of a personal trainer. It is important that you talk to someone about the issue; do not try to handle it alone; and once you start on a treatment plan, stick to it.

Do not try to diet or go on weight loss programmes, stick to what the nutritional counsellor and your doctor advise.

Dr Flo, I have had this problem for a while and it is not going away. I feel pain in my urethra when passing urine. This happens when I don’t drink a lot of water and it happens in the evening or at night. I’ve seen a doctor twice about it and he told me that I had a urinary tract infection and gave me medication, but that’s didn’t resolve my problem.

The only thing that seems to work is drinking a lot of water during the day, but I’m worried about how long I will have to keep doing this and its long-term effects on my health. Please advise me and if possible tell me which specialist I should consult. Jeff

Dear Jeff,

Pain or discomfort when passing urine is called dysuria. It can be caused by having a urinary tract infection, kidney stones, injury or damage to the urethra, prostrate disorders, chemicals like spermicides and bath lotions, and some medicines like those used in chemotherapy.
Acidic foods and drinks like caffeinated drinks, soda, alcohol and citrus foods can also cause dysuria.
Another common cause of dysuria, which you seem to have, is dehydration. When you don’t take enough water, the urine becomes quite concentrated, has a darker colour and a stronger smell. The concentrated urine can then cause irritation of the bladder and urethral lining causing pain when passing urine.

If you sweat a lot, then your hydration requirements are even higher. Ideally you should take eight glasses of water, that is between 1.5 and two litres a day. This is actually good for the healthy functioning of your body, and should not feel like an inconvenience.

You can go for a medical check-up to make sure that there are no other problems, but keep taking sufficient amounts of fluids every day.

Dr Flo, I have a persistent backache. One of my friends told me that it is because I am not having sex. Is this true and how can I get rid of this pain for good?


Dear Joachim,

The lower back supports the upper body, and helps with movements of the lower part of the body. Because it gets a lot of mechanical stress and strain, it can easily get injured. In fact, up to 80 per cent of adults suffer from low back pain at some point or the other.

The pain can range from mild to very severe, making it difficult to move. It can also last a short time or many months or years.

The back is made up of bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, inter-vertebral discs, nerves and the spinal cord.

If any of these are injured in any way, then you can get low back pain. You can also develop back pain due to skin problems (e.g. herpes zoster) or problems with the internal organs protected by the back e.g. the urinary tract, the internal reproductive organs and the digestive tract.

It can be mechanical pain, that is, pain in the muscles, joints or ligaments that is triggered by movement, physical activity, poor posture or loading. It can also be radicular pain, which is the pain that develops when a nerve is compressed or inflamed, causing pain in the back and/or also in the thighs and legs.
The pain may also be due to problems with the discs, arthritis, or from infections and even tumours. Not having sex is not a cause of recurrent back pain.

Since the pain you have is recurrent, it would be advisable for you to visit a doctor so that you can have a thorough examination, including an X-ray examination or MRI scan of the lower back done, so that you can know the exact cause of the pain.

You can use medication to reduce the pain and inflammation. You would also benefit from using warm compresses, massage and physiotherapy. Avoid working while bending or lifting heavy things. A lumbar support may also help. Also maintain good posture at all times.

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