Diet Myths and Eating Disorders

Dieting, a 50 billion dollar industry, is risky business. Statistics show that those who diet are five times more likely to develop an eating disorder than those who don't. The act of restricting food intake, and viewing certain foods as "bad,"make food the enemy. More often than not the weight lost from dieting is often gained back, bringing with it several additional pounds. The sense of failure from this has also been known to lead to eating disorders. Cycling weight loss and weight gain compromises health, too; blood pressure increase, decreased stores of necessary good fats, and increased risk of developing several diseases and health issues.

The renowned Eating Disorder treatment center, Remuda Ranch, has recently released this list of popular myths about dieting:

  • #1 -- Dieting will result in weight loss and thus improve health. Ninety-five percent of diets fail. A continued focus on weight loss as a means to health will in all likelihood only result in poorer health. A shift to wellness by caring for the body as a whole-mind, body and spirit-is more effective in achieving metabolic fitness. This means getting and staying active without turning into a compulsive exerciser and eating intuitively with balance, variety and moderation.

  • #2 -- If I don’t have rules around eating, I will be out of control. Part of normal eating involves trusting the body’s natural hunger and fullness cues. Eat when you are hungry or have a craving. Choose foods that you believe will satisfy you. Stay connected to your body and eat with awareness and enjoyment. Stop eating when you’re full or satisfied.

  • #3 -- Anyone can weigh what he or she wants as long as they diet and exercise hard enough. Contrary to popular belief, one of the strongest determinates of healthy body weight is our genetic code that was configured in the womb. We can only alter this natural set point a small amount with diet and exercise. Fat doesn’t always mean unhealthy and thin doesn’t always mean fit.

  • #4 – Dieting means I have strong will power and I’m morally good. Labeling food as “good” or “bad” has dire consequences. What happens when an individual eats a food that is perceived as “bad” for them? They may feel guilty and want to get rid of or purge those calories by exercise or fasting for the next day or two. If there are limits about never eating “bad” food, when an individual feels emotionally vulnerable, what might be the first food that he or she seeks? The “bad” food, and usually not in moderate portions. Keeping food neutral is key. When food is kept in its proper place in life, with no inherent moral value, intuitive eating is a natural result.

  • #5 – Everyone diets, it’s just the way it is. Just because many people are stuck in the cycle of dangerous dieting, doesn’t mean it’s the best way or that you have to follow. The best thing one can do for overall peace of mind and wellness is to cease the cycle. Individuals on diets are often irritable, fatigued and have difficulty concentrating or engaging in enjoyable social settings that involve food.

“Because there are so many diet myths out there, the best resource for truth is a registered dietitian or medical doctor,” says Juliet Zuercher, registered dietitian and director of nutritional services at Remuda Programs for Eating Disorders. “Unfortunately, eating disorders often develop after dabbling with diets. Beware of the underlying dangers in this cultural phenomenon.”

See archives for related article:The Dieting/Eating Disorder Connection

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Put Down That Cookie, Pick Up an Eating Disorder?

picture source: MrsMenopausal


Anna said...

I just had a conversation with my mom (who knows I had an eating disorder and helped me through it initially but isn't really aware that I still struggle with it) about how girls who diet young actually weigh more in later life.

it left me somewhat depressed. SIGH. I want to tell her but I don't know how

MrsMenopausal said...

{{{{{{{{{anna}}}}}}} It sounds like your mom is very supportive of you and willing to help. That's wonderful. Don't concentrate on the how of telling her. Just speak up. If you feel you can't, please tell someone who can help you.

In the sidebar of this blog there are lists of hotlines, websites, and organizations. Please check them out. is a wonderful, free site for recovery. Join, speak up there. The forums aren't visible in full unless you join. They understand where you've been and are now. I'm sure you'll find a lot of help and support there. It's a wonderful site.

If there's anything I can do to help, please let me know.

Anna said...

Thanks. I actually talked to her today and I think it's going to be okay. :)

She was bulimic in college, which I didn't know until today (bulimia is one realm of EDs that I have not experienced, thank God). Funny how these things get passed on to the next generation, though, despite the fact that she has always been so supportive of me no matter what I look like and has always encouraged intuitive eating....

I have looked at We Bite Back and I like it. Thank you for your blog. :)

A. said...

Thank you so much for this. It seems like everyone I am friends with does not understand the connection - even my own best friend doesn't, and goodness knows I've tried to explain it enough to her!

It saddens me so much when I'm let down, when I find a great eating-disorder awareness site and suddenly there's an article on how FAT IS BAD! - which is the general culture nowadays that ultimately (through influencing family, others' reactions towards my 13-year-old self with medically-induced BED, and my own perceptions and dispositions) helped and/or caused me to develop my eating disorder.

And I feel for Anna. I feel for her a whole lot, 'cause I could never tell my own mother - she's one of those people who thinks that eating disorders are just 'stupid' and that people who starve themselves (like me) should 'just eat' and those who binge/overeat should 'just stop eating'.

guh. I don't know what to do, and since I'm ED-NOS, I can't just go to my doctor and say, 'I've been starving myself.' ^$&*#! They'd probably congratulate me on losing weight.

In any case, thank you so much for having this blog - I'm adding you to my blogroll now...

MrsMenopausal said...

Anna, I'm so glad to hear you told your mom and it went so well. We Bite Back is awesome. You'll get a ton of support and help there. Thank you for taking the time to comment and let me know how things went for you. Good luck to you. Keep in touch. :)

MrsMenopausal said...

Unfortunately, there are many out there with the view you describe. They don't know, they're not informed. If you told your mom what you're dealing with she may feel compelled to research it more and learn what it's all about.

Please don't let being ED-NOS be a reason not to speak to your doctor. Explain that you know you're dealing with an ED. If you don't get a helpful response then go further, seek more help elsewhere.

Can you see a therapist that specializes in EDs? Make some calls and see what's available to you. I suggest that you also check out the list of organizations, helplines and resources in the side bar here and, too (It's a great site and I'm sure many know what you're dealing with and will be able to guide you).

Don't give up on seeking the help you need until your find it. If I can help, let me know.

Thank you for the compliment on my blog and for the add. I appreciate both.

mariasol said...

Ironically, there is a myth within Myth#1. The oft repeated "fact" that 95% of dieters regain the weight is based on ONE study, in 1958 with 100 participants. There really is no data that say how many successful dieters keep off the weight, especially when it comes to people losing it on their own outside any controlled studies.

MrsMenopausal said...

I didn't know that, Mariasol. Very interesting. Thanks!