The Mind-Body Connection

On eating disorders, self-injury, the psychosomatic component of physical illness, somatization, and the importance of touch

Why Diets Can Be Dangerous

For some people there are times when a diet can become an eating disorder.

If you are like most people who have found this terribly cold, snowy winter very difficult, you may have hunkered down at home, staying warm and eating comfort food. You may have discovered that you’ve put on a few unwanted pounds. If you want to lose weight, the list of diets you can go on is endless. They will all help you lose weight. Losing is the easy, exhilarating part. But keeping the weight off is a whole other story. Once you go off the diet and go back to your usual way of eating, the pounds start coming back on. So what do many do? They go back on a diet. And the same thing happens in an endless cycle of yo-youp and down losing, gaining, losing, gaining etc.

For some people there are times when a diet turns into a whole other entity and becomes an eating disorder. No one intends this to happen, but it can when someone becomes so exhilarated at seeing a weight loss and feeling so in control of their weight that they make their diet even stricter and more weight loss follows. And then the diet becomes even stricter, and so on and so on. Without realizing how and when it happened, food choices become more and more narrow, and dieting becomes addictively out of control, like a runaway train. This is how someone who started a diet can become anorexic. When losing weight takes over your life, and your behavior around food becomes more secretive, you may find your life becoming more and more isolated. No matter how little you actually eat, thinking about food can take over your mind, even your dreams.

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Some manage to continue to starve themselves but not many people can keep it up and so after awhile, many find themselves stuffing themselves, then purging with self-induced vomiting or laxatives to rid themselves of the food, then starving themselves again. Others may just start another diet, then lose weight, then go back to stuffing themselves in an endless cycle of losing and gaining, losing and gaining.

Eating disorders are potentially life-threatening conditions. People have starved themselves to death. Or eaten themselves into obesity, which is an invitation to diabetes, other metabolic disorders, and cardiac conditions. Bulimia causes the balance of electrolytes in your body to go seriously amiss, which can cause life-threatening kidney and heart irregularities.

If you find that your dieting has begun to get out of control, do not wait to get the professional help you need. The longer you wait, the more entrenched the eating disorder becomes. Make sure that you consult with a psychotherapist who has had specialized training and experience in treating people with eating disorders. Being in treatment with someone who has not had specialized training and experience can be dangerous. Directories of mental health professionals who specialize in eating disorders can be found online at the websites for National Eating Disorder Association, Academy for Eating Disorders, EDReferral, National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, and even one with the odd name of Something Fishy. People can and do recover from eating disorders, so do not wait.

 

Sharon K. Farber, Ph.D. is a Board Certified Diplomate in clinical social work, maintaining a private practice in psychotherapy in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY.

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