In case you didn’t know, this week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. While I don’t specialize in counseling for diagnosed eating disorder, I have realized that many, many women have some form or another of disordered eating.
I’m not a psychologist, but one thing that’s common with many of my clients is that conversations about childhood come up frequently in sessions. Even 10, 20 or 30 years later, things that happened to them as young girls still affect their eating habits, body image and thoughts about food. Here are some common scenarios that come up in my office:
- She saw her mother weigh herself frequently, stand in front of the mirror saying that she’s fat, or talk about weight non-stop.
- One or both of her parents did a lot of diets growing up, or even made the family follow those diets.
- It was pointed out to her when she looked like she had gained weight.
- Weight loss was celebrated in her house much as celebrating real life achievements.
- She had to sit at the table and finish dinner, even when she was full.
- Her eating habits were talked about openly- “she’s a really good eater” or “she’s not a good eater”
- She wasn’t allowed to have a snack or a second serving, even when she was still hungry.
- Something difficult was going on her life, like loss or parents divorcing, and she used food to cope with her emotions. The focus was on her weight/food with no mention of addressing her emotional struggles.
All of these things have something in common: none of these situations make us healthier. And they sure as hell don’t make us skinnier.
I hope we can all step back and realize that making a big deal about food, weight and body size sets the stage for a poor relationship with food and nutrition.
Here are some things we can do to help our children, friends, family and even coworkers have healthy relationships with food:
#1- Compliment what’s on the inside instead of what’s on the outside.
The content of someone’s character, who they are as a person, and any achievements going on in their lives are so much more important than whether they have lost or gained weight.
#2- Talk about listening to your body and doing what feels great
Let’s get rid of all of the food talk- what’s “good”, what’s “bad”, commenting on what people are eating, etc. Instead, focus on what makes YOU feel the best and gives you the most energy.
#3- If someone has experienced a drastic weight change (either loss or gain), then dig deeper to the root cause rather than focusing on the number on the scale
A large weight gain or loss can be a cause for concern, and indicative of an underlying emotional or medical condition. Focusing on food and the actual weight likely doesn’t address the root cause of the weight change. If there’s an emotional issue going on, focusing solely on food can sometimes make things worse.
I am hypersensitive to this because I see women with polycystic ovarian syndrome in my practice. It’s common that they’ve experienced a weight gain and then have been killing themselves at the gym, only to find out later that they have PCOS.
Hope you guys have a great Friday!