Posts Tagged ‘Eating disorders’

Equal Opportunity Eating Disorders

March 29, 2011

Pop quiz: When you think of a person who has an eating disorder what image comes to mind?

If you said a teenage girl, then you’re like most people, including myself.  Sure we’ve all heard the stats that teenage boys also suffer from eating disorders, but often it’s young girls who are the face of the disease.

But this is changing.

More and more, women in their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond are being diagnosed and treated for eating disorders.  And we’re not just talking about women who have relapsed.  Many have developed the disorders midlife.

When I first found this out it seemed strange because I’ve always thought of older women as people who are very secure in their lives and at peace with the way they look.  But it turns out they’re just as insecure as the rest of us.  They’re also not immune to the psychological stressors that lead to an eating disorder.  Where a young girl turns toward obsessive exercising and control over her diet as a way to deal with her parents’ divorce, an older women turns toward the same behaviors as a way to deal with her own divorce.

The reason why not much attention has been paid to this group until now is because the normal symptoms of an eating disorder are easier to conceal in older women.  If a teenage girl stops getting her period, it’s a big deal.  If a woman in her 50s stops getting hers, it’s chalked up to menopause.  Osteoporosis is a warning sign in a young girl, but women tend to lose bone density as they age, so once again a symptom is overlooked as just being a normal part of the aging process.

So what can be done?  The answer is as simple as getting the word out that eating disorders don’t just affect the young.  Like many illnesses, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder can afflict any person no matter their age.  The next step would be to get these people the help they deserve.  Here are some resources:

Columbia Center for Eating Disorders at Columbia University

National Eating Disorder Association

Eating Disorder Treatment Centers

11 million victims, no easy solution

February 22, 2011

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness week. 

The goal of the National Eating Disorders Association is simple…to eventually prevent all eating disorders from occurring.  But it won’t be an easy battle.

Consider these statistics from the NEDA website:

  • It’s estimated 11 million people suffer from anorexia and bulimia.  10 million of those people are women.
  • The mortality rate among anorexic girls between 15-24 years old is 12 times higher than any other illness.
  • 40% of new cases of anorexia is in girls between 15-19 years old.
  • Only a third anorexics and 6% of bulimics receive mental care

As for why girls turn to such drastic measures as starving themselves, abusing laxatives or bingeing and purging, consider this: 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat.  It’s easy to blame the media and fashion industry for those numbers.  Afterall, models are 98% thinner than the average American woman.  But girls also get their cues from their mothers.  And if their moms are a frequent rider on the diet rollercoaster, odds are the daughters will grow up fearing and dreading weight gain. 

It’s time to break that cycle. 

Click here to learn more about NEDAwareness week and what you can do to help stamp out eating disorders.

The skinny bitch at fashion week

February 15, 2011

The skinny can that's making a splash at Fashion Week

Fashion Week is in full swing here in New York and the shows and new clothes aren’t the only things making headlines.  Pepsi took this week-long fashion extravaganza to unveil it’s new “skinny” Diet Pepsi can.  To say the thinking behind the design is flawed and offensive is to put it mildly.  The new can is taller and skinnier than it’s predecessor and will likely stand out amid all the short and squat soda cans out there.  No, what I take issue with is how the company has decided to market the new design.  Here are just a few words Pepsi uses to describe the new can: “sassier”, “stylish”, “confident”, “attractive” and “stylish”.

I get what they’re doing.  They’re trying to associate their product with all those fashionistas who flock to Fashion Week.  “Diet Pepsi: The latest must-have item!”  And yet it fails because in hyping a tall and skinny product as attractive and stylish, the company is implying  if you’re not tall and skinny (like those Fashion Week models) than you’re ugly with an out of date wardrobe. 

Sure it might be unfair to jump to the conclusion those skinny cans are a representation of what the company thinks confident and attractive women should look like, but consider this:  (1) They unveiled this product during Fashion Week and (2) most diet soda drinkers tend to be women. 

And I’m not the only one who’s insulted.  When this story broke last Thursday, the blogosphere blew up.  And then on Friday, the National Eating Disorders Association stepped into the fray calling Pepsi’s choice of branding words “thoughtless and irresponsible”.

I’ve never been a fan of Pepsi, but now I have even more of a reason to stick with my Diet Coke.

Thin is not in

October 9, 2009

Imagine a country where thin isn’t the ideal body shape.  A place where women aren’t considered attractive unless she has rolls of body fat, multiple chins and stretch marks and thinner women envy their heavier friends.  Sounds like it might be utopia, right?  But it’s not.

I recently read an article in Marie Claire magazine about the force feeding of girls in Mauritania, on Africa’s northwestern coast.  Obesity is so revered among the Moor Arab population there that girls as young as 10 are sent to “fat farms” and fed a diet of 16,000 calories a day.(!)  That’s more than Michael Phelps!  And if they don’t want to eat?  They’re physically punished. 

The goal of force feeding these girls is to make them attractive as wives.  And it has it’s root in fat being seen as a sign of wealth.  (The heavier you are, the more money you must have to buy food.)

For a while the practice of leblouh (as it’s called) went out of fashion, but it’s now back in vogue thanks to political upheaval and a ruling party that wants to bring the back the country’s old traditions.  It’s estimated 80 percent of girls are being force-fed. 

There are many non-profit groups trying to tackle the problem, but they’re facing resistance from the girls themselves.  That’s because even though these girls know they’re risking their health by being extremely overweight, they fear the rejection of men.  It’s the total opposite mindset of American women who worry they’ll never find a guy who’ll love her because she’s not a size 2.

Neither situation is healthy and the situation in Mauritania is just another example of the fretful relationship average women have with their bodies.  It’s a world-wide delimma that women need to band together and fight.  We are beautiful no matter men think, no matter what the fashion magazines and TVs tell us.  I believe it.  Now it’s just a matter of convincing the rest of the world to feel the same.

  To read the Marie Claire article click here.