Sunday, February 1, 2009

A New Beginning

Some of my readers relate completely to my last three posts. For some of you I have given you a glimpse into the life of a person with food issues. The reality is that disordered eating can affect anyone - small, medium, large, thin, plump, young, old, rich, poor, middle class, black, white, .....

Knowledge is a powerful tool. It is my opinion that one must first enter reality with knowledge so that they can make educated and supportive choices for their health.

So, where in the world does disordered eating come from?
Many factors can contribute to a situation in which it develops:
  • Low self-esteem
  • Unrealistic body standards portrayed by the media
  • Societal and cultural empasis on looks
  • Comments about body size and weight
  • Using food to deal with emotions
  • Ingnoring cues of hunger and satiety
  • History of abuse

Development of a Eating Disorder

At 6 weeks old we are able to regulate our own caloric intake. We knew when we were hungry and exactly when we were satisfied. Those that stay in touch with this ability will maintain a steady weight throughout their adult lives. (Notice the use of "steady weight", it is your natural weight not the weight some chart tells you that you should be.)

Unfortunatley, many lose the ability to listen and respond to the internal cues of hunger and satiety. Dieters often block them out or consciously ignore them. When one loses touch with this ability they no longer know when or how much to eat. They find it harder to walk away when food is still on the plate. It has been ignored for so long that people often do not realize it exists. This person is now an externally regulated eater. These external cues gain more and more power and people begin to mistrust their bodies.

But why do many health and fitness professionals promote externally regulating our food? It may be the product of the influence of dieting on the professional perception of how a person must eat to achieve and maintain a healthy weight; or many professionals believe their job is to promote weight loss and, by extension, externally-regulated, often restrained eating. Some even believe that there is no way for the body to self-regulate, and one must control the body at all times.

Internally regulated, non-restrained eating, is quickly unlearned as one grows up.

Today one usually hears:

  • "It's dinner time; come and get it."
  • "Oh, it's noon; we better eat."
  • "Finish the food on yor plate before you get dessert."

Alternative comments are:

  • "It's dinner time; how hungry are you?"
  • "It's noon but I am not yet hungry. I'll get the sandwich and save it until I am hungry."
  • "If you plan on eating dessert, make sure you save room so you don't end up uncomfortable full."

We also hear alot of, "if you keep eating like that, you'll get fat," which further undermines internally regulated eating. What if you heard this instead, "hey, we couldn't be that hungry because we just ate dinner. let's set this dessert aside for when we fell hungry again."

Externally regulated and emotionally driven eating can result in a person eating more than the body has asked for, and therefore more than the body needs, leading to weight gain and a resultant unnaturally high weight.

To be continued.....

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