From Dieting to Disordered Eating: How Losing Weight Can Turn Into an Obsession
She Started with the Best of Intentions
Sarah had always been overweight but it had never really bothered her. She never felt self conscious about her appearance and always felt attractive even though she was carrying a few extra pounds. She was bigger than her friends, but it didn't stop her having just as many boyfriends in her youth and a marrying a wonderful, handsome, caring man.
As the years went by Sarah slowly became aware that the extra few pounds were turning into many. Her clothes size keep going up every couple of years. Eventually she realized the time had come to go on a diet and lose some weight.
Sarah's weight loss success was effortless and rapid. By eating less than her normal portions, eating only healthy food and exercising daily, she quickly dropped 50 pounds and was suddenly the smallest she had ever been in her life. Surprisingly, instead of being thrilled at her success, she was confronted with a whole new set of problems.
She Never Realised What Could Happen
She was frightened that she would regain all her lost weight so she restricted her diet even more and exercised to exhaustion. When she couldn't endure the hunger and fatigue a moment longer she invariably binged. Then she would need to cut back to compensate for her overindulgence and the cycle would begin all over again.
She started avoiding social situations where food was served, she missed nights out with her friends because she needed to get up for the gym early the following morning, and she barely stopped thinking about food. Her life was hell.
She realised that she had started out innocently wanting to drop a few pounds and had ended up in the dark and dangerous world of disordered eating.
It Could Happen to You
Unfortunately, Sarah's story is not unusual or unique. It is something that is rarely spoken of -- especially as it normally happens to bright, successful, grown women who appear to have their lives in control. Few women understand that the journey from successful weight loss to a binge eating disorder is almost inevitable unless you take these precautions.
(1) Ensure that your weight loss program permits all kinds of food and doesn't label food 'good' or 'bad.' Restricting the types of food you eat will make you crave what you can't have all the more. Portion control and moderation are better than eliminating whole food groups.
(2) Focus on the quality of your food OR the quantity -- not both. You can eat the same things you eat now, in smaller amounts and lose weight. You can make healthier choices and continue eating the same amount of food and you will lose weight. Don't end up eating 2 rice cakes and an apple for lunch for long periods of time.
(3) Don't go it alone. Choose a safe weight loss plan that has personalised support (like Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, or an online system run by real people) so that you can get objective feedback about your nutrition, training and progress. If you make up your own rules as you go along, you might end up doing yourself more harm than good.
(4) Don't believe that more is always better in the gym. If exercising is the most important part of your day because you are terrified you will gain weight if you stop, then you have gone too far. Get a fitness professional to write you a program and follow it. Don't do hours of cardio, or two workouts a day, especially if you are sick and sore most of the time.
(5) Get some help if you feel overwhelmed. You can choose to eat well and train hard and achieve healthy weight loss, but if you feel like you are trapped by the rules and regulations you have set for yourself then talk to someone. Tell your best friend, talk to your partner, call an anonymous help line, or see your doctor. Try to figure out what is going on as soon as you start to feel uneasy about your new lifestyle. Don't pretend everything is fine, when it might not be.
Take Care of Yourself
The desire to be in strong, fit and in great shape is wonderfully healthy and the road to success is not easy for anyone. But follow a weight loss diet with care because some dieting behaviors can lead directly to eating disorders. Always balance moderation with hard work and dedication and you will achieve the body you've always hoped for. And that new body will bring joy to your life instead of increasing your pain.