We are upon the eve of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAW) and are encouraged this year to talk about it. So much about this eating disease is hush hush which only strengthens Ed’s (that is how we loving refer to a person’s eating disorder) manipulative powers. Although I agree we need to talk about those with eating disorders and bring the struggle into the limelight, I am being drawn to discuss something else: normalized disordered eating.
Everyday disordered eating experiences include:
- exercising only for the purpose of burning off what is consumed
- eating in hopes to survive the discomfort from uncomfortable emotions
- equating morality to food choices (good vs bad foods) and
- believing certain foods should have the power to promote internal shame and guilt.
When was the last time you thought: “I just ate so much ________ (insert any fun food here). I was so bad today.” Even worse, when was the last time you said this out loud amongst friends?
What concerns me is without a diet in hand, most do not know how to eat. Even more, our children are being brought up to consider only external cues to make food decisions. Internal cues to eat are not trusted or even acknowledged. I believe hunger, fullness, and satiety are God’s given gift to regulate our healthy weight on our own so we never have to visit with a dietitian for weight management. Yup, you have your very own dietitian residing inside you! It is probably somewhere between the pyloric sphincter and the Ligament of Treitz.
While I was relaxing on a beach chair a few weeks ago, I overheard a sad conversation. A normal-sized woman was telling her friend how she was having a tough time limiting her eating while on vacation. She listed the thorns in her side to be sweets, chips, and large portions served. Without taking another breath, she went on to tell her plan upon arrival home: a fish and carrot diet. A sort of detox that would “trick” her body into not wanting tempting foods and get her back on track.
I felt deep sadness for this woman. Instead of mindfully savoring her time and tastes while vacationing she set her brain in deprivation mode before the diet even began. And she wondered why each bite felt like a Last Supper. I also felt sadness for the fact she probably has a deep grievance within that is so tough to think about. Thinking about food in this way helps fill the space she doesn’t want to uncover. Why are so many more of us hurting?
According to the Academy of Eating Disorders, 4 out of 5 women practice disordered eating in their lifetime. I realize not every woman is experiencing an eating disorder as physically debilitating as Karen Carpenter but just because it doesn’t look as severe, does it mean it isn’t serious?
I regard disordered eating as serious because it is spreading like the plague. We are getting farther away from our body’s own intelligent mechanisms to promote our healthy natural weight. The more we fight the mechanisms, the more we become off kilter: too large or starving or both. The larger people become, the more disordered eating is culturally encouraged. Do you know any other industry that is allowed to promote a product that is 97% of the times ineffective or reversed after a year?
As I ponder my place in NEDAW, I know I am culturally a salmon swimming upstream. Thankfully, I know I am not the only one swimming against the current. A mindful and attuned movement toward eating is here and can save us. For an example, consider this resource: Intuitive Eating.