The only way to end Eating Disorders is to end the WAR on “obesity”

 

While reading my Instagram feed during National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I have been inspired by the recovery conversations. I have seen memes, blog posts, and heard podcasts empowering us to advocate for the changes in how we view eating disorders.

Eating disorders don’t fit the stereotypes. I admit I used to recognize eating disorders in just thin white teen girls. Don’t make the same mistake!

Eating disorders come in all sizes, all genders and gender identities, all ethnicities, and all backgrounds. You cannot tell if someone is experiencing an eating disorder by looking at someone.

Never.

I met with my first client affected by an eating disorder in 1999. Since then modern science has been able to connect so many dots to allow us to better understand eating disorders.

Here’s what we know:

  • there is a genetic link to eating disorders. Just like someone with a genetic predisposition for alcoholism avoiding alcohol, those with certain genetic traits should avoid certain behaviors to help avoid setting themselves up for an eating disorder. Does this guarantee no eating disorder will occur?? No and it does set up a protection from it and brings down the likelihood.
  • Which behaviors should be avoided? Dieting, pursuing weight loss, and/or manipulating food to promote weight outcomes. Diets have been found in research to predict eating disorder behaviors.
  • While not everyone who diets gets an eating disorder, diets set a person up for metabolic long term consequences like high cholesterol, high insulin, high blood sugar, and high triglycerides. These consequences are connected to weight cycling, that yo-yo effect from going on a diet and losing weight, then regaining the weight, then dieting again.
  • Most people experience some sort of disordered eating because of diet culture. We are taught at an early age that fat is bad and we should eat to avoid it all costs.

I like to imagine a world free of eating disorders and disordered eating. Imagine everyone experiencing this earth free from food and weight worries? Imagine what we would do if we didn’t have to worry about our weight, or what we would eat and not each day?

Imagine how much shit we would get done.

While we are dreaming, let’s work back a bit toward reality. What would be different in this eating disorder free world? What could we bring from this dream land to make it more like our current world?

I know what would be different.

We would no longer be fighting obesity.

We would not consider certain bodies “an epidemic” with billions emptied into eradicating these bad bodies.

We would no longer make judgements based on sight to predict health, intelligence, and worth.

Tap. Tap.

I need to check into your dream world for a second. Let’s be sure we are on the same page.

Be sure to note this dream world is NOT full of skinny people.

It is not full of people with BMIs of less than 25. or 30. or 40.

This lower BMI world is still FULL of eating disorder. More disordered than currently.

No longer fighting obesity to end eating disorders doesn’t mean no more fat people.

No longer fighting obesity means we catch up with science and decency:

No longer fighting obesity means we stop fighting bodies.

No longer fighting obesity means we honor size diversity.

No longer fighting obesity means appreciating health comes in every size.

And every size should exist. Every size should have access to care, education, employment.

Every size is celebrated for the soul it carries.

We will only find solutions to end eating disorders and disordered eating if we end fat phobia.

Why?

  • Making size a moot point will eliminate the need for diets. Eliminating the need and industry for diets will prevent those with the genetic predisposition for an eating disorder from as easy access to the pathology.
  • Recovering from an eating disorder means abstaining from diets. How can one abstain from diets when culture dictates that dieting is normal eating or pursuing weight loss is healthy? With diets no longer in style, healthy eating will include eating for self-care, variety, and satiety.
  • Fear of gaining weight is a significant part of the eating disorder experience. Unfortunately, our world normalizes and justifies this fear because of health misinformation, confirmation bias, and fat phobia. Eliminating this cultural fear of fat will help those recovering to do the same. Honestly, I cannot imagine anyone able to recover from this part of their eating disorder until this is eradicated.
  • Many people have a body who’s preferred weight is higher than the cultural norm. Try recovering from an eating disorder yet your eating disorder team says your weight is too high? Huh?? Yes it happens and way too often. Fat phobia within the eating disorder field is abundant and this prevents those needing to be at a higher weight from full recovery.

There are more reasons and time is short while I type this. I want to push publish before I pick up my kids from school 🙂 So I am leaving this incomplete until I can add more. Maybe you want to add more too? Shoot me an email (julie@juliedillonrd.com) and I will add yours, crediting your thoughts. ✌🏾

Wake Up Weight Watchers

I have been off the figurative grid the last few weeks to reboot. And, on a whim when I momentarily had wifi, I scrolled through Instagram only to see the horrifying news:

Weight Watchers, the diet company that has already stolen so much time, money, and self-compassion from us, is giving away memberships to teens this summer. 

Why is Weight Watchers choosing to give away memberships??

To teach body dissatisfaction?

To suck more innocent children into the hell of an eating disorder?

To help teens start a life of self blame for weight cycling?

To help promote weight gain?

Diets to Eating Disorders

Too many people have told me their life long and life threatening eating disorder started as a teen walking into Weight Watchers. Often they walked in with their mothers. Or, after the recommendation from their doctor.

As fellow dietitian Laura Thomas says, “Not everyone who goes on a diet gets an eating disorder yet everyone with an eating disorder has gone on a diet.” 

We know eating disorders have a genetic link and going on a diet is all it takes to start the ball rolling for an eating disorder to be born. Think of someone with alcoholism in their family, taking their first drink and that starts an abusive relationship with alcohol. 

Teaching diets to those with the genetic disposition for an eating disorder sets them up to experience the mental illness with the highest mortality rate.

You may be saying….But, Julie, we need to worry about teens with diabetes and eating disorders are rare.

12 in 100,000 children have Type 2 Diabetes (Writings Group et al., “Incidence of Diabetes”) yet 2900 in 100,000 children experience an eating disorder*. Statistically, we need to worry more about eating disorders than increased adiposity.

You may be saying….But, we need to do something about the obesity epidemic. At least Weight Watchers is doing something.

Diets like Weight Watchers are doing something: making us sicker and they don’t work. 

Show me the data from any diet study (including any Weight Watchers research) that keeps weight off long term (that’s at least 2 years) for most people. THERE AREN’T ANY. Somehow diet companies sell a product, make 60 billion dollars a year, the product fails for most people, and the failure is PART of the PLAN. The diet companies KNOW their products don’t work and have convinced us we the people are at fault. 

You know what data we do have? That diets don’t work for most people. As Deb Burgard says, “We need to call the diet industry the weight cycling industry.” Weight cycling raises cholesterol, blood pressure, triglycerides, insulin, blood sugar. The more we diet, or weight cycle, the more we weigh.

Huh?

Diets predict weight gain and eating disorders. 

So why in all H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks can Weight Watchers sell a product to our young precious children? How is this safe? Or legal? Or ethical? Or moral?

Why are we ok with this?

I love what my colleague Rebecca Scritchfield has to say about this Weight Watchers announcement in a recent Washington Post article. 

How can we stop this harm?

Consider signing this Change.org plea to stop this Weight Watchers campaign.

Do you have children that you worry about their eating or weight? 

Listen to this recent Love Food Podcast episode I did with my colleague Anna Lutz. She gives amazing insight.

Are you a fat teen?

Hello. I want you to know I see you. I don’t want you to change. You are acceptable as you are right now. You deserve to feel at home in your own skin and not torture yourself with a diet. Weight Watchers is a diet that doesn’t work for most people. Did you know you can trust your body to promote health? You have hunger, fullness, and satiety that let you know what your body needs. Don’t believe any diet sheet or think following points should dictate your worth. You are worthy already. That’s the point.

You don’t need them. 

But, we need you. 

Getting sucked into Weight Watchers or any other diet will only distract you from all that you bring to this world. 

Please don’t try to shrink yourself. Take up space. All that you want and need. I want to hear you and see you.

We need you not the points.

Warmly,

Julie

Here’s the footnote in case you dig that research stuff:

*K.R. Merikangas et al. “Lifetime Prevalence of Mental Disorders in US Adolescents: Results from the National Comborbitity Survey Replication-Adolescent Supplement.” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 49, no. 10 (2010): 980-9.​

What is PCOS really?

This special PCOS series written by nutrition grad student Kimberly Singh aims to help you understand PCOS, improve your relationship with food, and advocate for better care. She experiences PCOS too and gets the struggle.

 

What is PCOS?

PCOS is one of the most common endocrine disorders in those assigned female at birth, creating a hormonal imbalance that leads to a variety of symptoms. People with PCOS tend to have high levels of insulin and androgens (like testosterone), causing symptoms that affect their overall health, fertility, appearance, and metabolism.

What causes PCOS?

PCOS seems to be related to a combination of environmental factors and genetics. There are both maternal and paternal genetic links to PCOS. I was surprised when I linked my PCOS to my father’s female relatives.

Environmental factors that affect PCOS include geographic location, exposure to industrial products, and changes to the food system. Agricultural changes that affect the food system may also influence the development of PCOS. Some environmental factors are out of your control, and I know this can feel frustrating.

As I have learned about the environmental factors that influence my PCOS, I can understand how to better nourish my body through what I can control. I look forward to sharing how changes in the food system affect PCOS.

Want to find a way to treat your PCOS without dieting?

Grab a FREE download from Julie here.

Did my weight cause my PCOS?

Nope. Your weight did not cause your PCOS. A lot of health-related guilt can surround existing at a higher weight, but numerous studies show that weight gain does not cause PCOS. 

Should I wait to worry about my PCOS when/if I want to get pregnant?

You may not want to have children now or ever, but you can still manage your PCOS. PCOS affects more than just your fertility. It’s associated with diabetes, high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, anxiety, depression, and endometrial cancer. PCOS can also influence your cravings and how your body uses energy from food. Managing your PCOS can improve your overall health and energy regardless of if you are trying to get pregnant.

Is there a cure for PCOS?

There is not a cure for PCOS. This may seem scary, and you may be wondering if there is a special secret remedy to get rid of PCOS forever. The Internet may try to sell you on a special diet or remedy, and it may seem appealing, but I know you won’t fall for it!

Although there is not a cure for PCOS, there are many ways to manage it. In addition to various types of treatment, there are lots of changes you can make to your lifestyle in order to manage your PCOS.

A lifestyle change-I’m sure you have heard this before.

Suggesting a lifestyle change is usually accompanied by a friendly spiel about diet and exercise. Although nutrition and movement are important components of managing PCOS, there are many other aspects of your life! These may include learning ways to manage stress, build support, advocate for your needs, and, perhaps most importantly, how to listen to your body.

Stay tuned to learn more about these in future posts. Growing in these areas can help you manage PCOS.

In my experience, using a wholesome approach to managing PCOS helps me feel like I’m working with my PCOS, not against it.

It helps me work in sync with my body, and I hope it helps you do the same.

Let’s continue this conversation in the Facebook PCOS Support Group. Click here to join! Who in your family experiences PCOS too? Suspect someone else does yet never diagnosed? Wonder if best to let them know so they can get help too?

References

Diamanti-Kandarakis, E., Christakou, C., & Marinakis, E. (2012). Phenotypes and Enviromental Factors: Their Influence in PCOS. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 18(3), 270-282. doi:10.2174/138161212799040457

Dumesic, D. A., Oberfield, S. E., Stener-Victorin, E., Marshall, J. C., Laven, J. S., & Legro, R. S. (2015). Scientific Statement on the Diagnostic Criteria, Epidemiology, Pathophysiology, and Molecular Genetics of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Endocrine Reviews, 36(5), 487-525. doi:10.1210/er.2015-1018

Hayek, S. E., Bitar, L., Hamdar, L. H., Mirza, F. G., & Daoud, G. (2016). Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome: An Updated Overview. Frontiers in Physiology, 7. doi:10.3389/fphys.2016.00124

Merkin, S. S., Phy, J. L., Sites, C. K., & Yang, D. (2016). Environmental determinants of polycystic ovary syndrome. Fertility and Sterility, 106(1), 16-24. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2016.05.011

Polycystic ovary syndrome. (n.d.). Retrieved May 29, 2017, from https://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.html