Eating-disorders

WW Is Capitalising From Teaching Young Girls How To Hate Their Bodies

The only weight young girls need to lose is the weight of a capitalist agenda that preys on the insecurity we teach them to have. 

Forever 21 Sent Diet Bars To Women Who Purchased Plus-Size Clothing

Body shaming women is no way to make money and the marketing department should be ashamed.

Eating Disorders: Handle With Care

Culturally, eating disorders are associated with models, ballerinas and teenage girls desperate to look like Taylor Swift. We see stick thin girls with gaunt, sallow faces; ribs eerily prominent. The phrase ‘unrealistic standard of beauty’ is thrown around, which implies that eating disorders are easily cured with a meat pie and a stern talking to.

So why are they stuck in the heads of sufferers for years?

RELATED: Diane Keaton’s Struggle With Self-Esteem and Bulimia

I once had an eating disorder. I come from a dance background and I’m in the entertainment industry; there is always pressure to be trim, taught and toned. When I was in my early teens, I was put on a drug to control my temporal lobe epilepsy. While the drug stopped the seizures, the side effects were a slowed metabolism and increased appetite. That, coupled with the changing body of an adolescent girl, assured that I went (quite quickly) from an athletic dancer’s physique to a chubby, unfit package.

Seeing your body transform like this at the age of 14 is tricky. Couple it with the fact that your greatest passion; dance, requires extreme fitness/muscle tone and it becomes trickier. Add an obsessive, anxious personality and you have a recipe for disaster. Looking back, I really had no hope. I was obsessed with food. All I thought about was increasing my fitness and decreasing my weight. I went through periods of deprivation, followed by extreme (and secret) binging. My size fluctuated, along with my self-esteem and mental state.

I’m sure you’re wondering why I didn’t seek help; I was exhibiting every symptom. Here’s the thing; I never looked anorexic. I was never one of those skeletal images we’ve grown so used to. As such, nobody ever saw it as a disorder, not even myself. However, what society doesn’t realise, through lack of information or lack of interest, is that having an eating disorder DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY IMPLY anorexia or bulimia. There is another spectrum.

Let’s talk about OSFED; Other Specified Eating and Feeding Disorders. An OSFED sufferer can display many of the symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa, but will not meet the full criteria. This doesn’t mean that OSFED is any less serious; 30 per cent of people who seek treatment suffer from it.

Eventually, I began to realise that I had a serious problem. None of my friends obsessed over their weight like I did. With the support of my wonderful parents, I sought help and spent time with a psychologist. I’m now – at the age of 27 – very much out of the woods. However, if I had known earlier that there was more to an eating disorder than being dangerously underweight, I could have saved years of stress.

My purpose here is to clear up a few glaring misconceptions. I can think of 3 big ones:

  1. You can control your eating disorder.
    FALSE. Anorexia is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Other eating disorders follow a similar vein and require behavioural therapy.
  1. It is a plea for attention.
    SO FALSE. Having an eating disorder is psychological torture. The damning voices never leave you alone; they lead to self-harm and even suicide. There are far better ways to get attention.
  1. It is a sign of vanity.
    UNBELIEVABLY FALSE. There is no beauty to be gained by jaundiced skin and protruding ribs. Aside from that, the resulting body dysmorphic disorder distorts your image. A size 4 will look in the mirror and see a size 14 staring back.

Please; if you are reading this and you relate, seek help now, regardless of your size. Stop the juggernaut before it consumes you. Eating disorders are not trivial, they are serious mental illnesses and should be treated as such.

Image via Thefix.com

Should The Hashtag #Thinspo Be Banned On Social Media?

Search for the hashtag #thinspiration or #thinspo on social media and you’ll be confronted with images of extremely thin women and weight-loss quotes.

RELATED: Body Image Documentary Said To Create Global Change

What’s even more alarming is that if you click through to some of these photos the captions accompanied read: “I stayed under 500 calories today,” or “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” Hardly the encouraging words women struggling with self-esteem or body issues need to see.

While people may not be actively seeking out these particular images, a new study by the University of California recently found that they’re still harmful to those who see them, whether they search for them or not.

“Imagine a teenage girl or even a young woman looking for inspiration using terms such as ‘attractive,’ ‘fit,’ or ‘pretty,”’ doctoral candidate Jannath Ghaznavi pointed out to the Daily Mail. “She will likely find images of headless, scantily clad, sexualised women and their body parts.”

“A young woman looking at these images may think that’s what she should look like… That could prompt these girls and women to resort to extreme dieting, excessive exercise, or other harmful behaviours in order to achieve this thin ideal,” she continued.

In terms of different social media platforms, researchers found that Pinterest was the less sexualised and tended to show images that had “a little more muscularity while focusing on some kind of fitness.” Images via Twitter on the other hand were usually cropped to focus on specific body parts such as the torso or legs. What researchers were most concerned about, however, was that Twitter had a younger audience, therefore the images were more likely to leave an impression.

There’s no doubt that social influences play a part in eating disorders, so what’s even more alarming is that according to research conducted by Harvard Medical School, body image impressions can be easily transmitted second hand, so say via a social media feed. “Our study not only showed a second hand effect but demonstrated that this second hand effect is the exposure of interest,” professor Anne Becker told Time.

“Even among those with direct exposure, the harm from the exposure couldn’t be avoided because there may be friends and a social network that can transmit the exposure.”

So, is it time authorities banned certain hashtags or monitored the content that’s available to us on our homepages or feeds? And would this make any difference whatsoever?

Tell us your thoughts in the comments below…

Image via Shutterstock

Do You Suffer From Orthorexia?

We all know the type: the super-thin girl who refuses to ever eat cake, pasta, and/or bread and who never raises a glass of alcohol to her lips.

RELATED: Can Food Diaries Encourage Eating Disorders?

This same poor lass will rigidly order the same salad for lunch and exercise for more than two hours daily, obsessively watching her weight and food intake.

This clean eating obsession, or orthorexia, is a proposed, new eating disorder that’s increasingly common in young women and teenage girls, says leading Sydney dietitian, nutritionist and author Susie Burrell (pictured). Yet, it’s still not medically recognised as a bona fide eating disorder, Susie says.

no carbs diets, low-carb diets, baby weight, post-baby weight loss, diets, fad diets

“The classification for clinical disorders is clearly defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) – the official manual used by the American Psychiatric Association to classify psychological disorders, but as for any scientific definitions, there are outliers, and this is the case with this increasingly commonly seen condition – orthorexia,” she says.

Sufferers are so obsessed with clean eating they will only consume foods which are “pure” and “healthy”, and subsequently favour extremely low-calorie, unprocessed foods, which in turn kept their body weight extremely low. And while they are not malnourished, young girls and women with orthorexia customarily suffer from anxiety, low moods and depression.

So, is there a cure? Orthorexia sufferers need a more balanced and nutritious diet, plus good therapy to help them to identify and manage their emotions, rather than using food and exercise as an escape from them, Susie says.

And Christine Morgan, CEO of the Butterfly Foundation and national director of The National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC) concurs. “Orthorexia is a recognised illness and is being treated by eating disorders specialists in Australia,” Christine says. “However, it is not as yet officially recognised as a specific eating disorder.

“Anyone who obsessively manages the consumption of whole food groups is at risk of nutritional deprivation.” So, when does healthy eating go too far?

orthorexia, restrictive diets, health and nutrition

Top Warning Signs Of Orthorexia

  • You skip social occasions for fear of having to eat food you have not prepared.
  • Your skin is dull and your hair is falling out.
  • You have lost your period.
  • You feel constantly tired.
  • You have been experiencing recurrent injuries.
  • You will only eat a very limited range of foods, like fruit and vegetables, and are inordinately obsessed with these foods.
  • You never eat cake or enjoy an alcoholic drink.
  • You exercise for more than two hours a day.
  • People are constantly commenting that you look too thin.
  • You are still not happy with your body no matter what you eat or how much you exercise.
  • You feel guilty when not following strict rules about meals and, conversely, virtuous when eating “correctly”.
  • You experience social isolation in group-dining settings.
  • You avoid situations that might involve “processed” foods.

orthorexia, restrictive diets, health and nutrition

If you need help and support, phone the Butterfly Foundation National Supportline on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or visit their website.

Images via panosplatritis.com, healthology.com.au, howcast.com

Can Food Diaries Encourage Eating Disorders?

Is keeping a food diary a key secret to weight-loss success? Or is it an unnecessary evil which shames participants and which can lead to an unhealthy food obsession and even exacerbate eating disorders?

RELATED: Why Lower-Carb Bread Is A Dieter’s Best Friend

A much-loved tool widely used by personal trainers, dietitians and GPs alike to aid their overweight clients, food diaries are said to be all about the power of the pen. By writing down everything you put in your mouth, and keeping track of dieting pitfalls, such as emotional eating, plus portion sizes, you’re holding yourself accountable, so the theory goes.

What’s more, various weight-loss studies have stated people who keep a food diary lose up to twice as much weight as those who don’t.

eating disorders, food diaries, food obsession

Me? I despise food diaries and find them unnecessarily militant and punitive. I’m already working out at the gym and with an ex-army commando PT up to a total of five times weekly; why do I need to write down everything I eat as well, in the manner of a naughty schoolgirl? My stubborn refusal to keep a food diary annoys my PT no end, but given we’re getting good results each month, I am sticking to my guns.

Plus, I don’t know about you, but l found that writing down everything I ate made me start to obsess about every single morsel I was consuming. Surely, that’s not healthy? I don’t want to turn into one of those godforsaken calorie counters who can’t enjoy their food!

Call me a hedonist, but I quite like eating and drinking! I enjoy nourishing my body and eating treats, from time-to-time. For all these reasons, I recently put down my pen and stopped my nightly food diary entries, which were both time-consuming and annoying. And while I can see that it’s a good weight-loss tool for some, it just ain’t for me.

Sunshine Coast freelance journalist and mum of two Penny Shipway, 33, concurs – she too feels weight-loss or food diaries promote unhealthy food obsessions. “I’ve dabbled in food diaries in the past and found that not only were they short-lived, they were uninspiring and laborious,” Mrs Shipway says. “I didn’t want to become too obsessed with food – food is something to be enjoyed and savoured not something to be overly scrutinised and stewed over.”

So, what do the experts say? Here’s a round-up of pros and cons from health and exercise professionals to help you decide if food diaries are for you.

eating disorders, food diaries, food obsession

The PT: Scott McKay from Jungle Fit, Caloundra, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, who’s also my long-suffering PT:

“Food diaries are good for client accountability and they help you identify your shortfalls and areas you need to work on,” Scott says.

The dietitian: Leading Sydney dietitian, nutritionist and author Susie Burrell (pictured):

“I let clients decide if they want to keep a food diary or not. This way, they are in charge and directing their intervention which is what self-determination theory suggests,” Susie says.

“But for individuals who are low in self-regulation, or need to be more mindful of their eating behaviours, food diaries can assist with this, if they too think it will be helpful.”

eating disorders, food diaries, food obsession

However, the busy dietitian warns that severely restricted eating strictly recorded in food diaries – in response to western society’s obsession with everything thin and beautiful – can have catastrophic, long-term effects on young women’s body image, self-esteem and the prevalence of eating disorders, particularly in the teenage population.

She also cautions against an increasingly common condition in teenage girls – orthorexia. “Orthorexia was first described by an American doctor in the late 1990s, who was seeing an increasing number of female patients who were exhibiting a number of eating disorder related symptoms, including eating only an extremely limited food variety, and maintaining an extremely low body weight without satisfying the criteria for a clinical eating disorder,” Susie says.

“These girls were obsessed with only consuming foods that were ‘pure’ and ‘healthy’, and as a result tended to consume only extremely low-calorie, unprocessed foods, which in turn kept their body weight extremely low.

“Unlike sufferers of a clinical eating disorder, these girls were not malnourished, as their diets were packed full of nutritious food choices, but in many cases their mood state was low either a result of a low food intake or a result of other stressors in their lives such as school issues caused by a clinical depression.

“I have seen four teenage girls who too have presented in private practice with such symptoms. All cases have been teenagers between the ages of 14-16, from middle-class family backgrounds attending good schools.

“All girls have been classified as ‘very intelligent’ but struggle socially with the pressures only teenage girls experience from peers: the lure of boys, the pressure to achieve at school and to look good.

“A trigger, either family distress or negative interaction at school appears to be a common link with all cases, leading to depressed mood and the desire to be in control of as many other variables in their life as they can, such as their food intake and the way they feel about their body.

“From a clinician’s perspective, this is a challenging situation. The girls are underweight, but not unhealthy and their eating patterns are disturbed, without being clinically disordered.

“Unfortunately, the powerful media images of health and beauty are unlikely to disappear entirely and hence the incidence of conditions such as orthorexia is likely to increase. The key for health professionals and families affected is to know how to manage it before it is too late.

“Is your diet too healthy? There is nothing wrong with healthy eating – whether your definition of ‘healthy’ includes eating low-sugar, low-fructose, vegan or ‘clean’ eating – but when diet and exercise habits negatively impact other areas of life, whether it be relationships, mood or being able to maintain a life outside of the lifestyle choice, this is when obsessively healthy eating becomes an issue.

“In these instances, such dietary restriction is only a hop, skip and jump away from a clinical eating disorder and proactive steps do need to be taken to create balance from a nutrient, exercise and general life perspective.”

eating disorders, food diaries, food obsession

The clinical psychologist, who wishes to remain anonymous:

“Food diaries can be really useful because they encourage people to be accurate about what they actually eat – if filled out honestly. It’s very easy to snack and say to yourself:  ‘That was only a couple of mouthfuls, it doesn’t count’ so you forget about it,” she says.

“But those squares of chocolate, childrens’ leftovers and tastes of dessert add up. If you write them down in your food diary, you’ll have a more accurate picture of what you are really eating, and it might come as quite a shock.

“Check back over the past week and see what you could have cut out without missing too much – nibbles that you eat absentmindedly when making making your childrens’ lunch, for example. So if you are going to keep a food diary, be thorough and honest and in those circumstances they can be very useful.

“On the other hand, there are problems inherent in keeping a food diary, especially if you have obsessive-compulsive tendencies. People who are obsessive will tend to put an unnecessary amount of thought into what they eat and it may become a source of stress, reducing your pleasure in eating. If you find that you are obsessing about food, and eating is becoming associated with negative emotions such as shame and guilt, a food diary may not be for you.”

What Is The 5:2 Diet?

The body image eExpert: Christine Morgan, CEO of the Butterfly Foundation and national director of The National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC):

“Food diaries are useful for those who are trying to manage their recovery process from an eating disorder,” Christine says. “They help in recording what is eaten, assist dietitians and other therapists make sure they have healthy food choices and portion sizes. I don’t believe they cause an eating disorder. We have to remember that it is not the food diary that is the problem; it is the reason for which it is being used.

“Food obsession is never good, however I don’t believe using a diary causes or exacerbates such an obsession – it exists anyway. At the Butterfly Foundation, we only support a clinically trained dietitian or therapist who recommends a food diary.”

What do you think? Are you for or against food diaries?

Images via She Know.com, Conversations At Intersections, NY Daily News and Pixabay.

What Is Orthorexia?

We all know that healthy eating should be part of our lifestyle, but what happens when our habits becoming obsessively unhealthy?  That’s where the term orthorexia nervosa comes in, a term that literally means “fixation on righteous eating”. People who suffer from orthorexia become fixated on food quality and purity as well as how much they eat. Eventually their diet becomes so restrictive that their obsession becomes detrimental to their health as well the relationships with those close to them.

People who have orthorexia normally start out simply wanting to eat healthier but it then turns into an extreme diet where they’ll avoid any food that has been processed and eat only untouched, whole or organic food. Sometimes this can lead to malnourishment because vital nutrients are being eliminated from the diet.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with following a healthy diet but when you feel guilt or self-loathing if you haven’t stuck to your diet, if thinking about food is taking up far too much of your time or if your diet has left you isolated and alone then there are serious concerns.

Some common behaviour changes that could be a sign of orthorexia nervosa include:

  • An obsessive concern over the link between food choices and health concerns
  • An increased consumption of supplements or herbal remedies
  • The sufferer may consume less than ten different foods
  • An obsessive concern over food preparation technique, including the sterilization of utensils
  • The sufferer may avoid an increasing number of foods due to food allergies

Symptoms of orthorexia nervosa include:

  • Feelings of guilt when you deviate from a strict diet
  • Feelings of satisfaction or fulfilment from eating healthy
  • Avoiding foods that have been prepared by other people
  • Thinking about food all the time and always planning meals in advance
  • Avoiding dining out for fear of deviating from the diet
  • Depression and mood swings

And some common effects of orthorexia include:

  • Becoming socially isolated
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Malnutrition
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Cardiac complications
  • Death

Orthorexia symptoms are serious and can have long-term effects on your health and physical body, so should not be swept under the rug.  As with any other eating disorder, orthorexia needs treatment so if you think you or someone you know may be suffering from this condition talk to someone about it, preferably a professional such as a GP or psychiatrist.

Image via philly.barstoolsports.com

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