Ditch the Diet Mentality
Eating Disorders & Societal “Standards of Female Beauty” Eating disorders are a serious medical concern, although they are often swept under the rug as an “awkward topic”. Exposure to mass media is associated with a negative body image, which may result in disordered eating patterns.1 For years, humans have had a longstanding desire to appear attractive to others2 and practice restrictive eating patterns to pursue a desire for thinness. A study published in 2014 found that disordered eating patterns were associated with individuals who were more self-critical with reduced feelings of self-compassion.3 In colonial times, women of higher status have gone so far as to having surgery to have ribs removed to reduce their waist size.1
Eating disorders affect males too! Recent studies have suggested that disordered eating may be underestimated in men.4 Young men often feel pressure from the media to be lean and muscular. This may lead to an obsession with increasing muscle mass, leading to countless hours spent in the gym or a newfound interest in counting calories or tracking macronutrients. The westernized “ideal” male body is very low body fat % and increased muscle mass.
Why Diets Don't Work
Diets aren’t sustainable in the long run. The more restrictive and highly regimented a diet or meal plan is, the harder it is to follow. Some diets limit the time you’re allowed to eat, cut out entire food groups, or have strict limitations on a specific macronutrient (ahem, carbohydrates). Going out to eat with friends can become a challenge, introducing unnecessary stress and anxiety. Meal prepping for an entire week can feel like a second job – and who wants to eat the same food every day for a week anyways?! This is why I value working with clients to create SMART goals. The SMART acronym stands for Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Oriented. By setting small and realistic goals, clients can make life-long changes instead of a crash diet.
“Good” vs “Bad” Foods
Have you ever eaten a salad, and felt proud of yourself? On the contrary, have you felt repercussions of shame after eating a cookie? Our society has wrongly placed morality on foods, by labeling them as “good” or “bad”. Yes, some foods do have greater nutritional value however eating dessert does not make you a bad person. In addition to this, fad diets often demonize carbohydrates. If a food product is low-carb, it suddenly falls into being a “good food” – this can be greatly misinterpreted.
All foods fit into a healthy and balanced life. The more we place morality on foods (good vs. bad), the more we allow emotions to take over before/after mealtimes. Certain foods hold sentimental value (i.e. the cookies your grandmother used to bake, or your mom’s homemade macaroni and cheese). Therefore, if we start labeling these foods as “bad” it creates an emotional conflict. Avoidance of these “bad” foods can lead to restriction, and research has shown that restriction of certain foods can lead to negative feelings and an increased risk of binges. By allowing yourself to eat ALL types of food (in moderation), we remove that “forbidden fruit” mentality and can begin to build a foundation of normalized eating.
Individuals from all walks of life are at risk of developing an eating disorder. I have seen a variety of clients who struggle with eating disorders - they are not specific to any gender, age, income level, or ethnicity. We want to help you ditch the diet mentality and make peace with food.
Derenne JL, Beresin EV. Body Image, Media, and Eating Disorders. Academic Psychiatry. 2006;30(3):257-261.
Gilbert P. The evolution of social attractiveness and its role in shame, humiliation, guilt and therapy. The British Journal of Medical Psychology. 1997;70(2):113-147.
Pinto-Gouveia J, Ferreira C, Duarte C. Thinness in the Pursuit for Social Safeness: An Integrative Model of Social Rank Mentality to Explain Eating Psychopathology. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy. 2014;21:154-165.
Doumit R, Abi Kharma J, Sanchez-Ruiz MJ, Zeeni N. Predictors of Disordered Eating in Young Males. Community Mental Health Journal. 2018;54:236-244.