The statistics are alarming – some researchers estimate that at least 10 million women and 1 million men are struggling with eating disorders. 25 million are binge eaters, and an estimated 34 million are chronic dieters. 81% of ten year olds are afraid of getting fat, and three out of four women of normal weight ranges think they are fat.
As alarming as these numbers are, they probably don’t surprise most of us. Almost everyone can name at least one person they know who is currently afflicted or who has battled disordered eating in the past.
There are many complicated factors that can lead to eating disorders, including life experiences, personality type, societal pressures and even genetics. Still, obsessions with food, eating and weight are central to all disordered eating.
Listed below are the types of attitudes and practices you can adopt to help guard against eating disorders. Be aware, and pass this information on to people you care about.
- Don’t measure your worth by a number on the scale.
- Aim for a healthy, realistic weight for your body type.
- Read magazines that promote a variety of body types and positive self-image.
- Change the channel when watching TV programs that treat teen girls and women as sex objects.
- Write letters to advertisers.
- Marvel at the wonderful variety of bodies in the world–each one unique.
- Accept your body at its natural shape and size.
- Be thankful for the amazing things your body does every day.
- Focus on inner beauty in others and yourself.
- As a rule, eat three healthy, balanced meals a day, and snacks as needed.
- Build in treats to enjoy in moderation.
- Read food labels and check portion sizes as an occasional learning tool, not an everyday ritual.
- Find alternatives to meet your emotional needs, instead of using food to do so.
- Become aware of your hunger and fullness signals.
- Exercise regularly to stay healthy. Even just 20-30 minutes a day of low-impact walking gives you a huge health boost and can even prevent against depression and other ailments.
- Choose activities that you can truly enjoy and make them part of your life.
Regarding Emotional Health…
- See a counselor if you are feeling down, anxious, fearful, or lonely.
- Make time in your life to connect with others on a regular basis, outside of work, such as in a small group, at church, having friends over or other activities. Isolation is where any unhealthy behavior thrives so make relationships a priority and growth area on an ongoing basis.
Final Thought: The Power of Words…
What we say out loud tends to be what we believe. Most eating issues are propelled in some way by lies and/or negative self-talk. Choose not to be a part of it. Don’t join in on conversations that focus on diets, body comparison and the like. Instead, make opportunities to say positive things, whether just to yourself, to friends, or especially to family members. Together we can help end our war with food and our bodies and live the life we were created for.