Every day there seems to be a constant stream of articles, tweets, posts and adverts encouraging weight loss. The health and fitness world seems dominated by before and after photos, everyone seems to be promoting one weight loss diet or another. Where did this come from? Yesterday I read an interview with Dr Gaudiani the author of ‘Sick Enough: A guide to the medical complications of eating disorders’, Dr Gaudiani was initially trained to treat weight and health as directly linked. Once she became involved in eating disorder treatment, she realised how much harm this can do.
I’m certain most people recognise the satisfaction of seeing the number on the scale drop down, how much of a compliment is it to hear “You’ve lost weight”, isn’t there a sense of accomplishment when you lose another pound or two, or hit the stone mark? To someone at risk of an eating disorder, this is easily internalised and becomes a marker of self-worth – except that the weight loss is never good enough. The problem with losing weight is weight loss goes against our own biology, humans have evolved to survive in times of scarcity. Weight loss diets simulate scarcity and famine, and our bodies will do everything it can to fight this. It will try to slow us down, it will make us crave high energy foods, it will provide hunger pains, it will also shut down non-essential functions and at the same time make our minds obsessive. Weight loss diets almost always go against our ‘grain’, that being the direction in which our body wants to go.
Eating disorders are almost always preceded by a weight loss diet, which then maintains the actual eating disorder. Eating disorder treatment involves removal of restrictive eating, improving nutritional status via a nutrient dense diet. By improving nutritional status the person can start to engage in life again, and start to learn how to take care of themselves so that self-worth is no longer reliant on an external measure.