Diet obsession feeds unhealthy behaviors
From Spotlight on Health - Spring 2009
As many as 10 million females and 1 million males in the United States struggle with a life-and-death eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. Millions more struggle with a binge-eating disorder.
The struggle has increased dramatically during the past 40 years. Ironically, so has America’s obsession with dieting and being thin. Young people are bombarded daily with messages that being thin is where it is at. Approximately one out of four TV commercials send some type of message defining beauty. This distorted messaging has led to unhealthy eating behaviors.
- More than half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting and taking laxatives;
- 45 percent of American women and 25 percent of American men are on a diet on any given day;
- Americans spend more than $40 billion on dieting and diet-related products each year.
Illustration © Nucleus Communications, Inc.
Signs to watch for if you suspect your son or daughter may have an eating disorder:
- Mood swings;
- Keeping isolated;
- Weight changes;
- Going to the bathroom following meals;
- Preoccupied with weight;
- Talking excessively about food; and
- Changes in eating habits, such as playing with food, food left in lunch box.
“Establishing a healthy relationship with food for your children early on is important in preventing eating disorders,” said Jennifer Harris, licensed registered dietitian with St. Cloud Hospital Behavioral Health Clinic and member of the eating disorders team. “Kids are able to self-regulate how much food they need. Over-managing their food intake can create future problems.”
The eating disorders team recommends the feeding approach called the “Division of Responsibility” approved by Ellyn Satter, a national expert on childhood eating habits. The approach teaches that parents are responsible for the what, when and where of feeding. The child is responsible for how much and whether they will eat.
“As parents, it is best to focus on the ‘do’s’ and not the ‘don’ts’ when creating healthy eating habits,” said Lauren Forest, licensed psychologist with St. Cloud Hospital Behavioral Health Clinic. “Appreciate the child you have, not an idealistic version of one.” If you have concerns and need to seek professional advice, contact the Eating Disorders Outpatient program at (320) 229-4918.
Learn more about the Eating Disorders program.