The statistics are alarming. Some researchers estimate that at least 20 million women and 10 million men struggle with eating disorders at some point in their lives. Forty to 60% of girls ages 6-12 express concerns about their weight and getting “fat.” In a survey of female college athletes, over 25% had symptoms of subclinical eating disorders. Nine out of 10 women state that they will not eat — and will put their health at risk — when feeling bad about their body image.
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.
- Stay away from social media sites that promote unrealistic expectations about bodies.
- 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.
- Thank God 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.
- Beware of social media sites that foster preoccupation with food and eating.
- 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.
- Avoid websites and social media postings that encourage obsessive exercise.
- Choose activities that you can truly enjoy and make them part of your life.
Regarding Emotional Health…
- Make time in your life to connect with others on a regular basis outside of work or school, such as having friends over, joining a small group at church, or trying new activities. Isolation is where any unhealthy behavior thrives, so make relationships a priority and growth area on an ongoing basis.
- See a counselor if you are constantly feeling down, anxious, fearful, or lonely.
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 — based on the truth of God’s word — 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.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)