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Health & Food

An Insight on Eating Disorders

As many of you know, I used to have an eating disorder. While I have no one to blame but myself, I do know that my mom’s constant weight-talk that went on (and still goes on) my entire life affected me more than I ever knew (this article talks a bit about how mother’s attitudes about dieting and body image affect their children). My mom is certainly not the only women who talks about weight in front of their children, but I think among the thousands of things my mom has taught me, one of the most important thing is to never discuss weight and dieting (unless in a positive way) in front of my own children. Clearly there are many other variables that go into creating the perfect candidate for an eating disorder; for me my Type A personality played a large role. I had sort of a hard time during my junior year of high school and I felt the overwhelming need to control something, and controlling my weight was easy. I was damn good at it, but in a very unhealthy and torturous way.

Here are some eating disorder (anorexia and bulimia) statistics from the South Carolina Department of Mental Health

  • It is estimated that 8 million Americans have an eating disorder – seven million women and one million men
  • One in 200 American women suffers from anorexia
  • Two to three in 100 American women suffers from bulimia
  • Nearly half of all Americans personally know someone with an eating disorder (Note: One in five Americans suffers from mental illnesses.)
  • An estimated 10 – 15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are males

And what about disordered eating? The Journal of the American Dietetic Association recently published a study that concluded “disordered eating behaviors are not just an adolescent problem, but continue to be prevalent among young adults. Findings suggest that early use is likely to set the stage for ongoing use, and there is a serious need for early intervention”

So even those who don’t have full blown eating disorders may still be living a life overly focused on food, fat, calories, etc. After I had anorexia I developed disordered eating, where I ate plenty of calories, but was still constantly preoccupied with food and how it would effect my body. I thought about food constantly, whether in a positive or negative way (when I say positive, I mean that I was still depriving myself to the point where I would get overly excited when I allowed myself a bowl of ice cream). This was not normal, this was disordered eating.Sometimes I get scared to have children of my own because I really believe that these statistics are only going to get worse as our children plant themselves in front of the TV more often and view weight-related commercials or segments on TV. Or even when they are in school checking their Yahoo mail, and this pops up;

I think I’d rather my child watch porn on TV than view this type of add, with unrealistic cartoon images of someone going from obese, to Barbie thin, making them think this is something they should do in order to be accepted. And these ads are just the tip of the iceberg. Go ahead and pick up any type of health or fitness magazine and you’ll quickly notice that every single picture is of a skinny and fit girl or guy, because, after all, you can’t be 30 pounds overweight and healthy. Nope, you must be thin, thin, thin. And gorgeous, of course. The only overweight pictures in magazines these days are ones of the person “before” their diet, always followed by their new skinny and “healthy” picture.

While my eating disorder has been behind me for several years now, I was absolutely elated to receive a package in the mail at work, which contained a book titled; Gaining.A friend from my high school, who I saw for the first time in several years at our reunion this year, sent it to me. I was so touched. She told me she reads my blog and had recently read this book and thought I might enjoy it.

I found this review from Publishers Weekly on Amazon.com;

Thirty years after Liu penned Solitaire documenting her teenage experience with anorexia nervosa, she recounts her midlife relapse and recovery. Liu exposes many myths surrounding eating disorders, with a combination of research and in-depth interviews with other former anorexics and bulimics. She interviews men and women of various cultural and economic backgrounds to refute the notion that anorexia and bulimia affect only “modern rich white girls.” Liu’s interviewees range from Rob, a 50-year-old physician, to Jessica, an Australian 25-year-old aspiring actress. Liu devotes many chapters to the impact of family on the anorexic or bulimic, contradicting the accepted belief that the victim is “the sick one”; rather, she locates the starting point of the disease in genetics, family life, shame and personality. Like other victims, Liu finds a history of mental disorders in her family, ranging from alcoholism to obsessive-compulsive disorder. According to Liu, a manifestation of an eating disorder is a call for help and should be treated as early as possible, and she fleshes out facts and statistics with her personal interviews, making this book poignant even for those who have not suffered from an eating disorder. (Feb. 22)

I plan on writing my own review of this book once I am finished.

Here are some good reads on eating disorders that I have recently found online or in magazines. The last one is a blog post I wrote last year.

When Eating Disorders Strike in Midlife

Insights From Eating Disorder Counseling
(Great tips for any clinician working with people who have eating disorders)

Pro-Anorexia Websites; Kate and Pippa as “Thinspiration”
(This is truly disturbing)

More Young Children Are Alarmingly Thin

(This was in our local paper yesterday. The stats are startling)

Do You Weigh Yourself?

Question: Do you have any personal or non-personal experiences with eating disorders?

Let’s not forget, while most information focuses more on anorexia and bulimia, binge eating disorder and orthorexia (the newest “eating disorder”) are also serious eating disorders that can destroy lives. If you or a loved one have signs of an eating disorder, I encourage you to seek help before the problem grows deeper.

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