Skinny Revisited

Using the language of anorexia to heal

Dieting —When Have You Gone Too Far ?

How to know if you're on the way to developing an eating disorder.

It’s the start of a new year and that might translate into paying a bit more attention to how you look. A few too many cannoli and holiday pie can lead to pants that are tight and not because they shrunk in the wash. And it's likely that dieting is on the top of your new year’s resolution list. Dieting, the radical and severe decrease in the intake of food for a prescribed period of time, is never the way toward long term health. Being more mindful of what you eat and healthy lifestyle changes that include exercise are one mindset, but dieting is another-- one with risk and a high rate of failure. 

So, how do you know when you've gone too far  and are on the way to developing an eating disorder? More specifically, how do you know if you are potentially anorexic? Given the climate of our culture where skinny continues to dominate the world of fashion, it is really easy to push the limit on what is healthy and what is life threatening. The problem is that an eating disorder is a “diet” that you just can’t stop. Due to the obsessive nature of anorexia, thin is never thin enough. The obsessive thinking component of the disorder has you making comparisons to others and feeling “never good enough and never thin enough” as part of the thinking process. And stopping at nothing to achieve the body you think is “skinny”and “beautiful.

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The following are some things to pay attention to that might indicate an eating disorder:

-Severely limiting your food intake and ignoring hunger signals as a way of life.

-Going to the gym obsessively to work off calories—hours at a time, several times a week.

-Obsessing about eating in a manner that overshadows much else of what you do or think about during the course of the day.

-Feeling inordinately guilty about what you did eat to the point of trying to figure out how to work off the calories in an exaggerated way.

- When even you know you've gone a bit too far with the dieting;  when family and friends stop cheering you on and instead express concern. 

-You’re feeling weak and lightheaded.

-You are a master at counting calories and eat less than 1000 calories a day on a regular basis.

-Your regular jeans swim on you and your bones protrude

-You have not gotten your period and you’re not pregnant.

-Your hair is falling out a lot.

-Swollen ankles—(get immediate medical attention)

-You look at “pro ana” internet sites and think that they make sense and offer good ideas.

The bottom line is that if you think you might have an eating disorder there’s a chance that things are out of balance in your life and it would be a really good idea to have a professional evaluate your eating . Your life might depend on it.

Maria Baratta, Ph.D.L.C.S.W., is a clinician based in New York. Her book, Skinny Revisited, focuses on the healing of eating disorders.

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