The Dieting / Eating Disorder Connection

Almost all of us have dieted at one time or another. Some of us have dieted on and off our entire lives. It is a widely accepted and encouraged practice for weight control in our culture but can dieting lead to an Eating Disorder? Many say,
yes it can, and not just in ourselves.

Dieting can lead to unhealthy and sometimes dangerous attitudes towards food. The nature of dieting is restriction and so we tend to place certain negative values on certain foods: too many calories, too much fat, bad. This creates tension as we struggle over our food choices. Food becomes the enemy. A child/teen exposed to these attitudes in a dieting parent, sibling, or friend has an increased risk of developing an eating disorder.

"Those who diet moderately are five times more likely to develop eating disorders than those who don't diet. For those who diet 'severely,' the chances of an eating disorder are eighteen times greater," says Matthew Tiemeyer, "Dieting and its Contribution to Eating Disorders."

"The problem with dieting is that without guidelines or a support system in place, we can set unrealistic weight-loss goals for ourselves and lose control trying to attain them. That’s when eating disorders begin to unfold." according to the Center For Eating Disorders', "Put down the cookie - pick up an eating disorder?"

The most common eating disorders resulting from dieting spun out of control are "Anorexia Nervosa -
a disorder that is caused by an intense fear of gaining weight, and Orthorexia - an extreme take on healthy eating where the individual will not allow him or herself to eat anything that is not deemed 'healthy'."

Dieting has become a national pastime, especially for women.
∗ Americans spend more than $40 billion dollars a year on dieting and diet-related products.
That’s roughly equivalent to the amount the U.S. Federal Government spends on
education each year.
∗ It is estimated that 40-50% of American women are trying to lose weight at any point in

The Big Deal About Dieting: What You Should Know
∗ Dieting rarely works. 95% of all dieters regain their lost weight and more within 1 to 5 years.
∗ Dieting can be dangerous:
- “Yo-yo” dieting (repetitive cycles of gaining, losing, & regaining weight) has been shown
to have negative health effects, including increased risk of heart disease, long-lasting
negative impacts on metabolism, etc.
- Dieting forces your body into starvation mode. It responds by slowing down many of its
normal functions to conserve energy. This means your natural metabolism actually slows
- Dieters often miss out on important nutrients. For example, dieters often don’t get enough
calcium, leaving them at risk for osteoporosis, stress fractures, and broken bones.

So, what is the solution? Stop dieting.

Sustainable weight loss calls for a healthy lifestyle change that includes food choices that are nutritionally rich with sufficient calories. Set realistic goals that allow room for mistakes and remember that it's not a contest, nor is it a race to be thin.

picture source: MrsMenopausal


Unknown said...

“Thank you, Weighing the Facts, for recognizing the relationship between dieting and the possible development of eating disorders. Continuing to educate is one way to help those who may be suffering from an eating disorder. Thank you for supporting our cause,
~The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt”

MrsMenopausal said...

Thank you for the link you supplied to your article in the comments to my post on falling for a diet scam.

It was very informative. It also opened my eyes to an eating disorder that I was not familiar with at the time, Orthorexia.

I truly appreciate you taking the time to comment. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. Yes, one my first memories was of my parents on The Atkins Diet, the workout tapes and them losing weight. Don't know why I remember it so clearly, I guess I was about 6. And my mom claims that she's not a yo-yo dieter because she loses weight, keeps it off for awhile then gains it back.
Sorry mom, but's still a yo-yo pattern! Maybe just a more gradual yo-yoer.

MrsMenopausal said...

Anonymous, I remember the constant dieting in my house from early on in my childhood, too. The Scarsdale diet is the one that I first recall.

Thank you for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate it.