Body Image and the Fearless Foursome: Dieting and Bingeing

Dieting has become a rite of passage for teen girls.  I challenge you to find a teenaged girl who hasn’t tried dieting.  Sometimes the dieters lose weight, and other times they don’t.  Either way, they often hurl themselves onto a path of life-long roller-coaster dieting.  Whether the first attempt ends in success or failure, it likely gives them a taste where they long for more.  If they lose weight, they become believers, and if not, they profess to try again and again until they get it “right”.

Just when they begin to feel sure-footed from the triumph of dieting, the ground shifts beneath them, bumping them onto the merry-go-round of self-contempt.   They feel completely deprived, and begin to crave what they’ve started to call bad foods.  This turns them into eating machines.  The hunger wells up within them like a hurricane ready to ravage everything in its path.  They crave  fatty foods and sweet foods and salty foods.  Hunger consumes them.  Food, food, food, is on their minds a great majority of their waking hours and sometimes in their dreams as well.  They’ve opened the floodgates of eternal hunger and will never be the same.  They crave foods they love, as well as foods that they did not used to like before they felt deprived from dieting.

They now feel insatiably starved, which leads to the first all-out binge.  The binge fools their hearts into happiness, but only briefly.  This leads to a free-fall into the shaft of despair and depression, with waves of guilt and shame knocking them into the heart of hopelessness.  Around and around they spin on the merry-go-round of self-contempt, dizzy and depressed from a level of hopelessness they never knew possible.

Research shows the majority of people who lose weight by dieting usually gain it all back, plus more.  So what’s the answer?  Stay tuned for more.

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Body Image: Dieting, Bingeing, and Self-Contempt

 Food to Eat to Lose Weight

Dieting has become a rite of passage for teen girls.  I challenge you to find a teenaged girl who hasn’t tried dieting.  Sometimes the dieters lose weight, and other times they don’t. 

Either way, they often hurl themselves onto a path of life-long roller-coaster dieting.  Whether the first attempt ends in success or failure, it likely gives them a taste where they long for more.  If they lose weight, they become believers, and if not, they profess to try again and again until they get it “right”.

Just when they begin to feel sure-footed from the triumph of dieting, the ground shifts beneath them, bumping them onto the merry-go-round of self-contempt.

They feel completely deprived, and begin to crave what they’ve started to call bad foods.  This turns them into eating machines.  The hunger wells up within them like a hurricane ready to ravage everything in its path.  They crave  fatty foods and sweet foods and salty foods.

Hunger consumes them.  Food, food, food, is on their minds a great majority of their waking hours and sometimes in their dreams as well.  They’ve opened the floodgates of eternal hunger and will never be the same.

They crave foods they love, as well as foods that they did not used to like before they felt deprived from dieting.

They now feel insatiably starved, which leads to the first all-out binge.  The binge fools their hearts into happiness, but only briefly.  This leads to a free-fall into the shaft of despair and depression, with waves of guilt and shame knocking them into the heart of hopelessness.

Around and around they spin on the merry-go-round of self-contempt, dizzy and depressed from a level of hopelessness they never knew possible.

Research shows the majority of people who lose weight by dieting usually gain it all back, plus more.  So what’s the answer?  Stay tuned for more.

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Body Image and Eating Disorders: My friend says she doesn’t have an eating disorder, but I think she does

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A few mornings ago it happened again.  While staring at the TV in my “I desperately need more coffee” stupor, another ultra thin, bony movie star denied that she has an eating disorder.  I almost flipped channels on her because I am very tired of all the denial in Eatingdisorderville.  I don’t keep up on celebrity tidbits, but my morning wake-up show interviewed this woman.

This is not an uncommon denial.  I know several people who deny that their thinness is the result of an eating disorder.  Yet I sense they are extremely uncomfortable around food and are hyper-critical of their bodies.  On the other hand, I have a beautiful friend in her fifties who is thin yet does not have an eating disorder.  People have been quick to accuse her, yet I have been with her on several long trips and could not help but notice her relationship with food.  She definitely does not have an eating disorder.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t sit around and observe what people are eating and not eating.  Yet at the same time, due to my training and experience, I have noticed how many thin women meet the criteria for anorexia yet deny having an eating disorder.

From Behavenet:

“Early signs may include withdrawal from family and friends, increased sensitivity to criticism, sudden increased interest in physical activity, anxiety or depressive symptoms.

  1. Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height (e.g., weight loss leading to maintenance of body weight less than 85% of that expected; or failure to make expected weight gain during period of growth, leading to body weight less than 85% of that expected).
  2. Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight.
  3. Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight.
  4. In postmenarcheal females, amenorrhea, i.e., the absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles. (A woman is considered to have amenorrhea if her periods occur only following hormone, e.g., estrogen, administration.)

Specify if:

  • Restricting Type: during the current episode of Anorexia Nervosa, the person has not regularly engaged in binge-eating or purging behavior (i.e., self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas)
  • Binge-Eating/Purging Type: during the current episode of Anorexia Nervosa, the person has regularly engaged in binge-eating or purging behavior (i.e., self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas)”

If you think a friend or relative may have an eating disorder and is denying it, research the subject carefully and proceed with love.  In my experience, the majority of women who are excessively thin do have eating disorders.  Obviously this is a tough call because sometimes it is difficult to know.  Yet if you sense an extreme fear of fat, and/or a magnified fear of food, you may be on to something.  At that point, it is best to educate yourself and to proceed carefully in loving her and calling her (or him) to glory.  Normally the first place to start is to learn all you can about the eating disorder.  And then tread lightly, remembering that to engage her in a power struggle about her denial is generally not a good idea.  Sometimes interventions work well, but before you proceed, study the subject from good sources.  I recommend www.aplaceofhope.com.  Then you can begin the process of calling your friend or relative to glory.  After all, that’s what friends and family are for.   Because if you don’t, she may end up robbing herself in terms of life expectancy.  The prognosis for untreated eating disorders are dark, yet  the glimmer of hope abounds with experienced eating disorder specialists.

Statistics:

  • 5-10% of anorexics die within 10 years after contracting the disease and 18-20% of anorexics will be dead after 20 years.
  • Anorexia nervosa has the highest death rate of any psychiatric illness (including major depression).
  • The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15-24 years old.
  • Without treatment, up to 20% of people with serious eating disorders die. With treatment, the mortality rate falls to 2-3%