I typically stay away from these types of topics on blog posts. Ok, I lied. I stay away from these topics period because, to some, it may be offensive, and I never like to offend anyone. But I’m writing this today because it’s important that we start the conversation; that we become aware. This topic that I’m referring to is Eating Disorders. I think it’s important that we start breaking down eating disorders because it is my observation (as a professional) that many of us make assumptions about what people look like when it comes to that diagnosis. There’s a certain stigma attached. But what I’m willing to bet is that, most of us don’t consider that we, too, could fall on the spectrum of eating disorders. There, I said it! Now before you all jump down my throat, eating disorders includes a huge spectrum. So, I usually say disordered eating because while many of us may not be clinically diagnosed, it still doesn’t mean you couldn’t have some of these tendencies. If you live in America, are on social media, and have tried diets then you may fall on this spectrum.
Here are some facts for you to ponder:
- Did you know at least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the US?
- Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness?
- 13% of women over 50 engage in eating disorder behavior
- Genetics, environmental, and personality trains all combine to create risk for an eating disorder
- 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting and that of 20-25% of those individuals develop eating disorders
The last fact is the scariest to me. It’s scary because we all know someone or maybe even ourselves that have engaged in dieting behavior. I mean diets and dieting are all over the place, so wouldn’t one consider it the norm? What do I mean by ‘dieting?’ A fellow Dietitian/Nutrition Therapist said it perfectly (Haley Goodrich with InspiRD).
- Dieting is an externally focused practice where food decisions are informed by an outside source instead of turning inward to the wisdom of the body. The intention or goal of dieting is to manipulate body size or appearance in the name of ‘health’ (and to seek acceptance in society).
And from that where are some consequences that can come from dieting (aside from it engaging in risky behavior as it can be a precursor to an eating disorder)?
- Chronic dieting teaching the body to retain more fat (for protection)
- Chronic dieting slows the rate of weight loss with each success attempt
- Decreases metabolism
- Increases binges and cravings
- Increase risk of premature death and heart disease
- Cause satiety cues to atrophy
- Case body shape to change
So, think about it. Are you currently on a diet? And if so, why are you dieting? I’m not suggesting all dieters will go on to have an eating disorder. What I am pointing out is, it comes down to your intent and your why? If your ‘why’ has something to do with weight issues, body dissatisfaction, and/or behavior pointing to eating problems (restriction, overcompensation with food and/or exercise, feeling a loss of control), then maybe it’s a sign to begin healing your relationship with food, body, and self before it becomes a slippery slope and progresses to an eating disorder.
I’m also going to go one step further and say this isn’t your fault! Diets are tricky. It gives us a false sense of control, hope and instant gratification. BUT they trick us into thinking it’s our fault when we can’t lose weight, no body composition changes come with our efforts, and we continue to feel out of control around food. It’s called the diet mentality cycle. They are not our friends. And at this time, we live in a culture where new diets come out multiple times a year. If diets worked, why would there be new diets being developed and marketed? It’s not YOU! It’s the culture we live in plus of many other factors (see the pictures below). To sum it up, this is not a willpower thing of which diets would like you to believe.
I'm going to end with this; awareness. Awareness is the first step. By starting there it’s already a huge win! Awareness gives you the knowledge and insight that something is happening and exists. From there you can then make a choice! If you do decide to engage in a diet (maybe it’s for medical reasons, maybe not) look at the reason behind it and look at it from all angles. Here’s your challenge (in my practice I like to frame change as experiments or challenges). Now that you have some basic statistics of eating disorders and behavior patterns of disordered eating, can you notice diet talk in our culture (commercials, marketing, fitness industry, between friends, in healthcare) and be aware of what messages are being put out?
1. Hudson, J. I., Hiripi, E., Pope, H. G., & Kessler, R. C. (2007). The prevalence and correlates of eating disorders in the national comorbidity survey replication. Biological Psychiatry, 61(3), 348–358.
2. Le Grange, D., Swanson, S. A., Crow, S. J., & Merikangas, K. R. (2012). Eating disorder not otherwise specified presentation in the US population. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 45(5), 711-718.
3. Eating Disorders Coalition. (2016). Facts About Eating Disorders: What The Research Shows.http://eatingdisorderscoalition.org.s208556.gridserver.com/couch/uploads/file/fact-sheet_2016.pdf
4. Smink, F. E., van Hoeken, D., & Hoek, H. W. (2012). Epidemiology of eating disorders: Incidence, prevalence and mortality rates. Current Psychiatry Reports,14(4), 406-414.
5. Tribole, E., Resch E., Intuitive Eating. Page 48.