We are bombarded by messages about food, its effects and what is good and bad for us. Just when you think you’ve grasped these ideas they seem to change again. The messages can also seem contradictory. We know that too many sweet or fatty things help to pile on the pounds, yet there’s a bikini-clad model gorging on a chocolate covered ice cream.
Is there an adult out there who hasn’t been on a diet of some sort? Well, of course there is, but plenty more of us find ourselves standing on the scales and wondering where all the extra pounds have come from. Then there are the diet fads. Come on, what have you tried? The boiled egg diet, perhaps? Maybe you were a fan of the Atkins diet, or the South Beach, or Grapefruit diets? Losing a few pounds when you’re overweight is a good thing, although as most people know some dietary fads were too extreme to be healthy. Keeping a check on weight is one thing but some people get so anxious about their weight, shape and diet that it starts to really affect their life. If this happens it’s called an eating disorder.
Eating disorders are known to affect men and women but the causes seem to vary. Certainly we’re more aware of ideal type images and the ways in which these can strongly influence people. We also know that eating anxieties tend to start during teens and early twenties. This may be due to any number of stressful issues such as exams, or coming to terms with bodily changes and sexuality, or unrealistic expectations about shape and weight, and more besides.
Self-esteem issues are often bound up with eating disorders. Childhood abuse, the death of a close friend or relative, other traumas such as sexual, physical or psychological abuse are just some examples where negative emotions are generated and may lead to eating disorders.
Food can also become a way of exerting personal control. This can happen when people feel they will be happier (I’ll be more attractive and better liked) or punished (I’ll make myself sick) or as a means of distraction. Distraction is sometimes used in situations of parental conflict where a child provides something for parents to worry about instead of arguing. The anxiety for the child is that if they put weight back on the conflicts will begin again.
In my next post I’ll be looking at the ways in which control of eating can affect both the body and the emotions and how to turn things around, should you want to change.