Tag Archives: dieting

overeating – a neglected eating disorder

unhealthy habits and demographic changes are combining to place an unprecedented burden on the health-care system that may not be manageable, the heart and stroke foundation said in its 2010 annual report on canadians’ health.

so says the CBC about an alarming increase in heart disease and the potential for heart disease, adding `most of this is preventable.” the solution is

encouraging canadians to be more physically active, eat a healthy diet and be aware of their risk factors for heart disease.

“we all eat from stress, or because we don’t have time to prepare things,” said cheryl shapiro, a heart patient in toronto who was diagnosed with high blood pressure eight years ago.

she encourages people to read labels. “we don’t realize what we’re putting in our bodies.”

it is difficult to fit in the recommended minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least three times a week, shapiro said, but she does walk her dog regularly.

part of the solution is to create infrastructure to make it easier for people to walk to the store rather than driving everywhere to avoid exercise, abramson said.

“it’s easy to take shortcuts,” abramson said. “but in the long run, those shortcuts will be disastrous for our health.

there was a bit more about this on the radio but the gist was the same. what i found interesting – always find interesting about such news stories – is that obesity and being overweight is almost exclusively seen as a lifestyle choice. the equation of overweight = fat = out of control, unattractive, lazy, weak-willed etc. is not made explicitly but it’s really just three letters away. indeed, when i looked at the first five or six pages of the comments, i saw the word “lazy” six times. neither in the story nor in the comment pages did i see the word “eating disorder” or “addiction”.

i often get the feeling that in the world of psychiatric diagnoses, anorexia is much more noble than overeating. the overly thin person who uses her will power to deny herself a piece of broccoli is so much more appealing in our culture than the slob who sits in front of his TV, gobbling ice cream. of course both are caricatures and tell only a very, very thin slice of reality (for example, you could have two very similar looking people side by side, one of them struggling with undereating, the other with overeating. it doesn’t always show in the body size.)

there is controversy in the psych community over whether overeating is an addiction. i must say that i find NEDIC‘s approach in can i be addicted to food? just as naive as the above article. it ends up saying “once we begin eating in a normal, healthy way again, we won’t have the same desire to eat as much high-calorie, high-carbohydrate food, or foods we think are “bad”.” that sounds really easy, doesn’t it?

now of course “addiction” is just a label, so let’s not split hairs here (although personally i am firmly on the side of gabor mate’s definition of addiction, which would agree with the use of the word in connection with overeating). rather, let’s be clear on this:

there are many people who eat much more than they want to and are unhappy about it. they try and try and try and nothing seems to work. they experience things like this: they cry during binges because they hate that they are eating non-stop. they go to bed night after night with terrible stomach pains because they have eaten too much. they eat out of garbage bins, eat frozen and spoiled food. they go to great pains to hide their eating from others, often ordering nothing but a little salad when they go out with others. they go from macdonald’s to burger king to wendy’s, pretending they are buying for a family. they spend thousands of dollars on diets that work for a while and then go back to bingeing. they commit suicide over the shame they feel over their out-of-control eating.

this is not a little lifestyle problem that will go away with a bit of education and an admonishment to use more willpower. many people who overeat know a lot about nutrition already and know they should exercise more, just like many people who smoke know what their lungs look like. they are deeply unhappy that willpower doesn’t seem to work. my best friend’s mother, an astonishingly intelligent woman, died of lung cancer, greedily sucking on a cigarette just before she went into her last coma. while not every person who is overweight suffers with such intensity, there are nevertheless similarities. overeating, for many, is a disfiguring, depressing, despairing dis-ease that is difficult to fight. i wish that this will be acknowledged more in the coming years. come to think of it, MentalHealthCamp, our second conference on the intersection between social media and mental health, will be a great way to address this.

(this is another post for national eating disorders week)

happiness in the new year

happy childrenhappy new year to all! what more should i say? of course i want you all to be happy. but what does that mean? what does happiness mean? so many different things to different people. “contentment with one’s situation,” i read somewhere today, “is the greatest happiness one can have.” definitely, that is one great happiness. one among many – and a happiness that may seem meaningless to some.

since there seem to be so many ideas around happiness, i thought i’d see what some of our readers say about it. here you have it:

  • rivka  mentions ayn rand’s question of whether an individual has a right to happiness.
  • leprechaun makes a connection between happiness and luck
  • christa from giggle on says we’re responsible for our own happiness; similarly, dan says happiness is a choice.
  • donna finds joy and happiness difficult to come by after spending years in a cult.
  • marja talks about the happiness that washed over her after her garden party that launched her latest book, a firm place to stand, about her experience supporting others and being supported in mental illness (neat tidbit – i was in the middle of writing this sentence when tina, who had originally introduced me to marja, phoned me up out of the blue)
  • “joy and purpose is found in living a life looking outward and upward; not inward” says meri ellen
  • in the anorexia forum, supportive messages:
  • “your body needs food! you are very underweight and your body is probably screaming for nourishment! i know it is soooo hard to eat but you have to. you need more than what you are consuming right now. you want to gain your life back. you want to be healthy and happy! anorexia takes both health and happiness away and you do not want that. you want to enjoy life and live it to the fullest :)”
  • “health and happiness is the most important thing in life- not what you look like.”
  • the same person talks about overcoming the voice of anorexia, eating a snack, and the happiness that brought being proud of herself for that
  • andrew wonders whether there is a connection between income levels and health
  • “happiness happens when you’re not worrying about it.” says hibs
  • chelle feels she’s found the secret to happiness: live in the moment.; let go of all your grudges; don’t be the judge; accept what happens as a bigger plan in life; want less; help others
  • chollie feels that happiness starts with humility
  • snow thinks that happiness is elusive, and that people often fake being happy
  • and lastly, i just got a message from a friend who said, “i’m so happy i’m not starting a new diet today!”


quite the grab-bag. what’s your take on happiness?

image by carf

is overeating a problem for you? 22 questions to help you find an answer.

it’s january 29, and you’ve had a hand at trying your new years resolutions. i sincerely hope they’re going well.

one of the three most common new years resolutions concerns dieting or just generally changing the way you eat. if that something you’ve decided to do and it’s going well, good for you.

if dieting is something you tried and it doesn’t seem to work, it’s possible that you have a compulsive or addictive relationship with food. here are a few questions that may help you reflect on whether that’s the case.

(is this something you’d like to discuss in private? give me a shout.)

  1. do you often tell yourself “i won’t eat” and then you do it anyway?
  2. do you go on eating binges for no apparent reason?
  3. do you have feelings of guilt and remorse after overeating?
  4. do you give too much time and thought to food?
  5. do you look forward with pleasure and anticipation to the time when you can eat alone?
  6. do you plan secret binges ahead of time?
  7. do you eat sensibly before others and make up for it alone?
  8. is your weight affecting the way you live your life?
  9. have you tried to diet for a certain period of time, only to fall short of your goal?
  10. do you have a history of yoyo dieting?
  11. do you resent others telling you to “use a little willpower” to stop overeating?
  12. despite evidence to the contrary, have you continued to assert that you can diet “on your own” whenever you wish?
  13. do you have persistent food cravings?
  14. have you forgotten what it’s like to be hungry?
  15. are you at a loss to understand why someone would refuse a tasty morsel of food with the words, “no thanks, i’m full”?
  16. do you eat to escape from worries or trouble?
  17. have you ever been treated for obesity or a food-related condition?
  18. does your eating behavior make you or others unhappy?
  19. are you ashamed of how, when or how much you eat?
  20. do you avoid looking into the mirror because you can’t stand to see how you look?
  21. does it often feel that food is one of the few things in your life you can control?
  22. does it sometimes feel that food is your best friend?

(these questions were adapted from and inspired by OA)

(thanks to therepeutic reiki for including this post in the carnival of healing #124

carnival of eating disorders #11

welcome to the november 30, 2007 edition of carnival of eating disorders.

i see this carnival as serving two purposes: one, as a concert of the voices who live with eating disorders – as people personally affected by them, as friends and loved ones, as professionals. the other purpose is to educate people who do not deal with eating disorders on a frequent basis. there are a lot of misconceptions out there, and it’s important to set them right.

one misconception is that bulimia and anorexia “are for young women only.” for one thing, these eating disorders are also experienced by children, by men, and by people over 25. the other is that the aftereffects of anorexia and bulimia can last a lifetime – not that these aftereffects can’t be managed, they can even be a good source of learning – but these eating disorders are not like the flu. you don’t just have them for a while and then it’s over and forgotten.

with this in mind, let’s hand it over to faith from that is so queer, who talks about her experience of being a 36-year-old woman living with bulimia, in body ambivalence:

i am 36 years old. i will be 37 in six months and 1 day.

for all of the progress i’ve made in the past two years, especially since i didn’t even start recovery until after 17 years of on and off bulimia, i’ve gotta tell you, there is a huge part of me that feels so damn stupid.

despite knowing a community of intelligent, thoughtful and strong women with eating disorders, i still have a voice in my head saying eds are for nicole richie and your sorority sister. not smart, funny women like us.

so often when i disclose, people say things like, “i had a period of bulimia in high school.” or “i had anorexia in my freshman year of college.”

how juvenile do i feel as a 36 year old married woman, with a house and a job and all the responsibility that goes with it, sticking my finger down my throat.

next, carrie‘s corn at ED bites is about recovery from anorexia, about “plateau” feelings she’s having. she points out something that is very “loud” in the lives of people with eating disorders (and addictions, as well): the thoughts around the addictive substance or behaviour.

i’m still neurotic about food, but i can and do eat enough to maintain my weight.

at the same time, it’s still a tremendous battle. there are many days when i don’t want to eat, when i would rather go back to restricting because it’s easier and i know what it is. i have these constant thoughts telling me, “you can do this. really, you can. do you need that granola bar? that piece of cheese? that extra helping?”

and all i can think to reply is, “duh- i know i can do this. i’ve been doing it the past 8 years. it’s not rocket science. but i can’t. i won’t.”

i’m left with an enormously crappy feeling at the end of it all. okay, fine, i ate the food that i needed to. i get that this is a victory. but it feels like a hollow one. the progress is that i can respond to those eating disordered thoughts in a positive and healthy way. i just want those thoughts to go away.

following this, lucynda riley asks us, hold me accountable at a public diet. this is part of her first entry:

this is the first entry into this blog. i’ve been on a diet for a month. i haven’t made a lot of progress. i think i am a tiny bit thinner but not a lot.

a week later we find this entry:

… when I put on my favorite heavy denim skirt (that i made last year before i started dieting) it hung loosely on my hips. i had to pull out and remove 2 inches of elastic before it would stay on my waist and even now its not very tight. i did that with my green skirt two weeks ago.

so maybe this blogging is helping?

in that entry, lucynda talks about a “perfect size”. i’d be interested to hear what you, dear readers, think about that. what does it mean to be a perfect size? what’s your relationship with the “ideal weight”? how do ideal weight and size relate to, say, comfortable or healthy weight and size?

these are the three entires featured this time around. of course, there were more submissions. i have to tell you that i don’t mention all submissions – some of them really don’t have much to do with eating disorders. for example, i rarely include recipes, anything that talks about new diets, or is just a very general article about eating disorders. there’s lots of other places where you can read about that. so you can be sure that i’ve vetted every article you find here. that includes these ones:

therapydoc offers hoo-du ya love, substances, and the bake sale at one of my favourite blogs, everyone needs therapy. this post is a warning about hoodia gordonii.

chris gives us here’s one way to eat healthier snacks. the blog is the healthy snacks blog.

sagar presents top 50 vegan and vegetarian restaurants in the world. she’s a travelhacker.

james d. brausch at weight loss dude has a question: does rice make you fat?

that’s it for this edition.

so, people, if you have written an article on any of these topics, please, submit it to the next edition of carnival of eating disorders, to come out on december 31. use the carnival submission form.

oh, and here are my questions again:

what does it mean to be a perfect size? what’s your relationship with the “ideal weight”? how do ideal weight and size relate to, say, comfortable or healthy weight and size?

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver