When conquering obesity leads to eating disorder or even death…..

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • The byline on this blog should be - Julia Robert’s sister…The Biggest Loser….Thin to the extreme and ultimate losses.  When you work as a dietician or nutritionist, or as a health professional involved in trying to promote weight loss and better health especially when the person (or child or teen) is extremely overweight, obese, or morbidly obese, the last thing you want to do is create a situation where the health dangers from excess weight are swapped for the health dangers of an eating disorder.  Or weight loss that is so extreme in nature, it puts the individual at risk for serious health issues or even impending death.  And I can tell you, it's a really tough landscape to navigate and no matter how hard the professional tries to avoid these outcomes, they happen.  If you do become a yo-yo dieter, you are often gaining and losing massive amounts of weight, and that stress on the organs in your body (kidneys, heart, pancreas) as well as on your knees and ankles, dramatically increases worrisome health risks. 

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    And yet, you know that when you're obese, the goal (sometimes repetitive) is to take aim for significant weight loss – even if it means another go around at another diet.  Experts know the inherent danger of serious excess pounds is real and can mean a heart attack, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and certain cancers, to name just a few risk factors.  So how do you achieve sustainable weight loss, with minimal fluctuation?  It's incredibly hard to do, unbelievably challenging in fact, and it often requires a commitment to very strict behaviors and habits.  How then do you avoid these restrictive behaviors, meant to keep you healthy, from turning into seriously problematic behaviors (like binge and purge, anorexia, extreme exercising, bizarre and restrictive eating patterns) that can ultimately ruin the quality of your life - in a different way, and also lead to increased risk of early death?

     

    Just a week ago, The Biggest Loser “winner” showed off her new body in the season finale, and the reaction from viewers and experts was quite mixed.  Her weight loss of close to one hundred and fifty five pounds in a relatively short period of time, revealed a five foot six inch woman, who now weighs one hundred and five pounds.  To be clear, I am the same height, carry quite a bit of muscle mass, wear a size four, and weigh one hundred and twenty five pounds (having lost 55 pounds as a teen).  So I know just how thin this woman is.  In her defense, she was participating in a program that offered a pretty staggering cash prize – if you win.  So it makes sense to go for the gold and reduce down to the lowest weight possible, right??  Also in her defense is the fact that she was a pretty accomplished athlete in her college years, and she weighed far less than when she joined the television show.  I just don’t think she weighed as little as she does now, and that IS a problem.  To return to your healthy weight as an athlete, I can accept.  To reduce in weight far past that (set) weight point is not very realistic, and it may be emblematic of an eating disorder that is already entrenched or yet to rear its head. 

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    Interviews posted suggest that in addition to a very low calorie diet, she was working out three or four times a day, once she left the show.  That kind of exercise commitment isn’t very realistic to maintain during the longterm weight maintenance period, but it’s totally understandable when hundreds of thousands of prize-money dollars are at stake.  Time will tell if this latest winner can hold at this new weight, or whether she will gain back some, most, or all of the weight she lost. Time will also show if she will become a lifetime yo-yo dieter and obsessive exerciser or suffer with some other food disorder.  That is, unfortunately, often the end result and reality when there is rapid and dramatic weight loss.

     

    Next up: Part Two - Julia Roberts' sister struggles with life and obesity...

     

    Amy Hendel is a Physician Assistant and Health Coach with over 20 years of experience.  Noted author, journalist and lifestyle expert, she brings extensive expertise to her monthly shareposts.  Her most recent book, The 4 Habits of Healthy Families is available for purchase online, and you can watch her in action on her shows Food Rescue and What's for Lunch?  Sign up for her daily health tweets or catch her daily news report at www.healthgal.com.

     

     

Published On: February 11, 2014