Kinds of Runaway Eating

Part 1 of chapter 2 of Runaway Eating: What is Runaway Eating?

Someone's homemade peach ice cream, off flickr

Someone's homemade peach ice cream, off flickr

The writers give a few examples of Runaway Eating: the kind of eating that is harmful, yet not severe enough to pass for an eating disorder. One would be a woman who severely restricts her eating because she’s afraid to gain weight. She’s not light enough to be anorexic. Or another woman who binges occasionally but not enough to qualify as the binge eating disorder. Or a woman who purges only once a week as opposed to the minimum of three times a week for six months. All of these examples don’t fit the bill, but all of them are out of control and harmful.

People do tend to think that one might wake up one day with an eating disorder. But eating disorders are a gradual decline. The process might start out mild, but worsen over time. When things are unbearable, only then do women seek help for their condition. Those women in the example believe that something’s wrong with their characters. This is the result of many factors. Their eating-related behaviors have run away with them, while they eat to run away from other problems.

Frozen yogurt (strawberry) homemade by the same person

Frozen yogurt (strawberry) homemade by the same person

This isn’t about eating too much. It’s about the misuse of food to deal with problems. This can also include misusing laxatives, or exercising too much. If you turn to food to deal with problems and feel that your behavior is out of control, then you probably suffer from Runaway Eating.

It is also when eating-related behaviors become the primary way to deal with unhappy feelings.

Rather than dealing with these troubling feelings out in the open, she keeps it inside. Trying to hide it, she believes that if she ignores the problem, maybe it will go away. However, this only makes matters worse. After a while, this kind of behavior becomes the standard, until she doesn’t even realize that she’s doing it.

The symptoms and results of runaway eating may not be as extreme as a clinically defined eating disorder. The same attitudes are true. One woman may not starve herself to dangerously low levels like the next, but both are deeply afraid of gaining weight.

205081048_38599d9d00How many have runaway eating? It’s hard to know for sure. Some people don’t consider themselves to have disordered eating, because they don’t “starve” or “throw up.” It’s estimated that up to 25% of females may live with this condition.

Sometimes runaway eating will become a clinically defined eating disorder. Sometimes it will stay low, or even disappear. But still, it’s pretty harmful.

What forms can runaway eating take?

  • Restricting Runaway Eater
  • Bingeing Runaway Eater
  • Bingeing/Compensating Runaway Eater

Remember that some women may bounce from category to category, or have all three conditions at once. The driving forces are similar.

Next up: Looking at these categories in depth.

Losing Battle

Part 3 of Chapter 1 in the book Runaway Eating: Not for Teenagers Only

Stress wreaks havoc on everything. It can cause major diseases and difficulties, both physically and psychologically.

3120725143_43a6d1677cStress sets off a fire alarm. It prepares your body to fight to the death, or run a mile. Now that’s useful if you’re being chased by lions and tigers and  bears, but if you’re just yelling at your kids to get ready for school, that’s overkill. If you’re under stress all the time, this is really bad for your body.

Stress can also be destructive psychologically. You may feel depressed, anxious, or powerless; awful feelings. Naturally you want to feel better and escape those feelings, so you might turn to alcohol, or work. We might get addicted to our anti-depressants.

Or… we might turn to food.

Food is highly attractive. It symbolizes pleasure, comfort, amusement, and distraction. It can be found everywhere and anywhere in this culture. We get involved in it, for it is easily available, socially acceptable, and hard to resist. Too many of us use to relieve stress, if only for a few moments.

534797974_62473413ddAnd so, we end up misusing food. We eat too much or too less. We might eat too much junk food. Meanwhile, we’re just compensating for an imbalance in our lives (or black hole, as another writer described).

Sometimes someone who is on drugs is easy to stop. However, someone who misuses food is not so obvious. Everyone’s on a diet, so no one will look at you twice  if you’re skipping lunch. In fact, you may even be praised for your choice. Though it may seem like a normal habit, everything can go wrong. Misusing food is habit forming and addictive, like alcohol or drugs.

The writers say that this may at least cause a negative impact on your self image, your relationships with others, and your quality of life. In more severe cases, the calcium will be sucked from your bones. You may face heart problems, anemia, changes in brain structure, or even death.

Years ago, our relationship with food was different. We used food to care for others, expressing our love by cooking meals. The women of older days would bring baked goods to families who were poor, or to their neighbors who were sick. People ate their meals together. This was their time to spend time together. Food wasn’t an issue, except when someone was starving because of a lack of it.

324463349_9f12f4c11bNow, food is our enemy. It tempts us, making us feel fat and awful. Through diets, we learn to avoid food. Cooking isn’t as much fun anymore. Rarely will we prepare food for a sick neighbor. We want to find ways to cook smaller portions in the least time possible. The women of today are thankful for portion-control TV dinners, like the one on the right. We also believe that if we eat too much food, we can ruin our lives and make people stop loving us.

We have produced a disconnect between food and our bodies. Food is something that is to be hated. It is no longer something that nourishes us while giving us the energy to get through the day. Mealtimes are no longer fun. We have forgotten the simple law of listening to our bodies. We don’t eat when we’re hungry, and when we’re not hungry, we eat. We have forgotten that food doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Yet, our appetites are never satisfied. Organic foods, processed foods, junk, sugar, and more doesn’t fill us. The stress of our lives makes us feel empty. The answer to the emptiness is to fill ourselves with cinnamon buns and chips. It doesn’t work.

3478379369_eeb6ef8f00Or, we think we can exercise and diet like crazy. But we never win.

We have to learn how to make friends with food, and learn to decipher what our bodies and hearts are saying.

We also need something, Someone, to fill the empty hole inside of us, instead of turning to the fridge in a vain attempt to fill the hole with cookies and cheesecake.

All Stressed Out

Part 2 of Chapter 1 of Runaway Eating: Not for Teenagers Only

The writers state that between the ages of 35 and 60 are the most stressful periods of life. The authors go on to list major midlife stress-inducers.

20968721_d966709438Raising children. This involves a lot of responsibility. Many women of this age may have small children, or college-aged kids. The little kids need to be watched all the time. (Oh! Oh! Stop eating that crayon!) The older kids have to be driven around to soccer practice, karate practice, ballet practice, band practice… and then there’s cleaning, baths, homework, meals, and the irregular poop in the bathtub instead of the toilet. Teenagers may be rebellious and push all your buttons. (Was that grunt disrespectful?) Teenagers are complex.

pacifierRaising children is very rewarding, but extremely stressful at the same time.

Career challenges. Getting a job is tougher, especially in this recession. I know a 40 something woman who is just now getting into the job  market. Turns out that she has to go back to school because firms are not interested in the Bachelor’s she got 20 years ago. It’s also increasingly hard for everyone to find jobs, not only older people. A young friend from Hong Kong had to move back there after graduate school. A year passed in the States and she still could not find a job. When she went back, she quickly found a job in Shanghai.

Companies would rather increase the workloads of existing employees rather than hire new people. Older people have to compete with younger workers. Plus issues the typical midlife woman faces consist of ageism, long hours, lookism, etc.

300_89441

She may also have to meet both her job and family needs.

Empty Nest Syndrome. The kids will someday move to college, get married, or get a career. This is stressful, because the parents have to adjust. They don’t have to pick up their kids or driving them around or clean up after them. The kids aren’t going to run to their mother every time they need help, anymore. That takes a lot of adjustment, though it is nice. Some mothers feel depressed because they don’t know what to do with themselves after this responsibility is gone.

Extended parenthood. One of my friend’s grandmother raised her after her parents ran off. She raised my friend for a long time. Sometimes this happens. Sometimes the kids with their kids move back in wit you because of circumstances. Or some kids just don’t want to leave. A good friend of mine lived with his mother for a while. Even though he’s almost 30, he still sleeps over at her house a lot. He has his own condo, but he says that if he moved out completely, his mom would have a hard time adjusting. How does she handle him sleeping over? I wonder.

Caring for aging parents or other relatives. Adult daughters are more likely than their boy siblings to take on the responsibility of caring for an aged parent. This takes a toll, for not only do they have to take care of their children, and their job, but also the extra burden of a parent. She might have to pay their bills as well as her family’s, arrange hospitalization, or nursing homes. She may have to shop for them, clean them, and so on. When they pass away, she may not be sure of how to feel. Relief that a burden is lifted? Or sad that a loved one passed away?

222845367_66fd14bc04Financial burdens. Paying bills is, well, expensive. Taxes, insurance, groceries, cars, lessons, furniture, clothes, college, and weddings. The cost of living is higher in these modern times. Take weddings. The guy buys the girl a ring. It probably costs upwards of a thousand bucks. Then there’s hundreds for the cake, thousands for the dresses, and the limo that needs to be rented. All of this stuff isn’t paid by the bride herself, but by her family. Don’t even talk about the wedding reception, which is probably one of the most expensive parts of a wedding. My own parents had an in expensive reception at their church. Their friends pitched in to buy food and prepare for the event. My parents didn’t even rent a limo. Nowadays, couples go for the whole deal. They get a limo, a huge cake like the one on the right, expensive food, and a reception in a fancy hall with lovely decorations.

2599940825_19f5e4e84bRelationship troubles. They don’t call it a midlife crisis for nothing. You hear in the news of adult males suddenly running off with the young secretary. Because of all the demands on time, couples tend to leave their relationship at the bottom of the list of priorities. Both spouses are busy and overworked. Some people get divorced during this time because the marriage can no longer stand the strain. Marriage isn’t as fun as when they both started on their honeymoon. They might feel trapped, and the absence of butterflies is noticed. Maybe they’ll stay together just for the kids, but when the kids go to college, the parents feel that they don’t have to stay together anymore.

Divorce and singlehood. After the marriage ends, a divorce follows. There’s two high risk periods for divorce. They are the first 7 years of marriage, or midlife when the kids are teenagers. In the last 30 years, divorce has soared.

divorcecake_t220Divorce can be described as a sort of death — the death of a way of life. It inevitably brings stress. She has to deal with the loss of a loved one, emotionally wounded children, custody battles, loss of money, and many other adjustments. Often times, the woman ends up raising her children alone or sharing custody with the father.

I remember a young mother who struggled so hard to keep it all together. Her young children were emotionally wounded, and she had to go to court multiple times for custody battles. Her money was slipping away steadily because she took pills for depression, was unemployed, had to hire a lawyer, and had to visit a counselor several times a week. She stayed at our home when she sold hers. Plus, she was preparing to move to California. Divorce is a stressful time.

Then there’s singlehood, and getting back into the dating scene. It’s frightening to compete against younger, more beautiful women for men that are the same age as you. Some women fall into disordered eating in an attempt to regain their figure back.

Menopause. This is a tough period for most women. Hormone levels fluctuate, causing insomnia, fatigue, hot flashes, and so on. Many women worry about losing their sexuality and sexual attractiveness. Doctors can help with many of these issues. Just don’t go to Oprah for your health information.

Madonna: a woman in the show business. She has received multiple plastic surgeries to keep her looks young and fresh. They don't seem to be working.

Madonna: a woman in the show business. She has received multiple plastic surgeries to keep her looks young and fresh. They don't seem to be working.

Aging. Your strength will decline, your muscles will weaken, and it’s easier to gain weight. Add to that sagging skin, wrinkles, thin hair, and age spots. This is tough, especially in our society that worships  beauty and youth. The change are unsettling at least. But for those who place great store by their appearance, these changes are devastating.

Maybe it’s understandable if actresses and models, whose lifeblood depends on their looks, are thrown into a panic. But even the lady next door who isn’t in the show business may mourn.

Next up: What stress is really doing to us.

Media Sightings: Fake Boobs

I was browsing Glamour‘s twitter feed when I saw this blog post on their website.

Apparently, the blogger recently got an email from a Long Island cosmetic surgeon, who told them that breast implants, and get this, are the most popular high school graduation gift for girls today.

Surprising? Or not surprising?

Apparently, these young women don’t want a new car. They don’t want to have a trip to Europe. They want bigger boobs. So their parents give it to them. As a graduation present.

What happened to the days when parents would give their daughters things like new cars, jewelry, or trips to Europe? I know my parents would have given me stuffed animals if I cared about stuffed animals. Instead they’re giving me driving lessons, which I’m pretty thankful for.

But why give their daughters bigger boobs? Is it because plastic surgery is the in thing right now among both young and old?

The cosmetic surgeon wrote in his press release that right now the big thing is breast augmentations. He writes,

This is something young ladies have put a lot of thought into and discussed with their parents and then, after careful consideration, parents agree to pay for the surgery as a graduation present.

Graduation_Cap_and_DiplomaI’d like to know how the parents really felt about giving their daughters bigger boobs as a graduation present. Did they feel a little sad that their daughters were giving stuff like this priority? Did they feel happy that their daughters were up to date on new fashion trends? Did they feel sad that their daughters felt that getting bigger boobs was important?

More importantly, did they feel that giving their daughters bigger boobs would boost their girls’ self-esteem?

You know how I feel about this. I think it’s rather sick. It also reflects the modern viewpoint of today, that getting a breast surgery is something that is both common, normal, and even GOOD.

Many of the comments agreed with me. One woman said, “I think that’s awful. It shows that the parents and the girl care more about the way she looks and less about her academic future. Give her money for college . . . unless she’s a stripper, big boobs will not secure her a career!”

One woman said that the girls aren’t done developing, so this is a bad idea. I agree with her, seeing that teenagers still have a ways to grow.

Another woman echoed this thought, saying that she was really self-conscious of her breasts during high school. However, she graduated high school with A cups, became a B in college, and became a C in graduate school! She said that getting implants would have been disastrous on her still growing body.

Another commenter stated that she felt that getting this as a “gift” was rather irresponsible unless it was an extreme need.

However, this comment did give me pause:

Picture 1

Hm.

Are we in a state when we feel that getting bigger boobs or improving on some body part will give us a boost in self-esteem? If you’re really ashamed about everything, getting bigger boobs aren’t going to fix anything. You have to fix the underlying problem before you go ahead and get something else “fixed.” It’s rather permanent, and you have to pay for upkeep for the boobs every 10 years. If you don’t fix the self-esteem issues, you’ll just end up paying for a lot of unnecessary surgeries.

The fact that this young woman says that she’s ashamed of “EVERYTHING” makes me rather disturbed. And the fact that she believes that fixing her boobs would fix her problems… and that she has many things that she hates about herself.

I hope she’ll be ok in life. I hope…

The comments are still pouring in. “The parents must not have much faith in their child’s appearance or personality, if they feel this desire should become a necessity.”

In the end, it’s up to you, as parents or as girls graduating soon. Whether you get big boobs or not, I wish you luck. However, a lot of the comments I’m seeing still shows that the readers of Glamour at least have good sense and know what’s important and what’s not.

Playing with Wordle 1

Made at wordle.net, the words are taken from a blog post of mine. I adjusted all the colors and fonts to get the feeling I wanted.

The funny things were that the biggest words were Oprah, bodies, life, and world. Interesting.

By clicking the image, you can get full size.

Enjoy!

wordle1

Runaway Eating

Started a new book . . .

vanilla-cake-ABFOOD0706-dePart 1 of chapter 1 of Runaway Eating: Not for Teenagers Only

Eating disorders is a disease widely known as a teenager problem. Maybe it’s a surprise to find out that eating disorders are not just for teenagers. Midlife women suffer from it. Right now, a disturbing trend involves these older women seeking treatment for eating disorders.

RunawayEat AmzLThe book Runaway Eating by Cynthia M. Bulik, Ph.D., and Nadine Taylor, M.S., R. D. takes a good look at this trend. They also include an 8 point plan to help conquer this kind of thinking. (I will not go through the 8 point plan because there’s a lot of books to read.) This book, is, however, designed to help the reader make informed decisions about health, and is not a medical manual by any means. And if you are suffering from an eating disorder, it’s best to seek a doctors help rather than to turn to a book alone.

The authors define Runaway Eating in the introduction as “consistent use of food or food-related behavior (such as purging or excessive exercise) to deal with unpleasant feelings, and feeling that these behaviors are out of control.” The writers think of this problem as a sort of pre-eating disorder because while the behavior doesn’t match the symptoms of a clinically-defined eating disorder like bulimia nervosa, this disordered eating is marked by a very unhealthy relationship with food.

Often, this behavior is the result of using food to run away from problems.

3533308065_ddc7e89da2Runaway eating runs rampant through society. However, using food as a solution for your problems is no solution at all, as women find out.

Nadine Taylor, a registered dietitian and coauthor of this book, suffered from a mild form of an eating disorder. She was bulimic, yet conquered it.

Runaway eaters are people who otherwise appear to be normal and in control of their lives, yet who have unhealthy relationships with food or their bodies that could interfere with personal relationships, threaten their quality of life, and set them up for future health problems.

By using food to run away from our problems, we find that our eating habits run away with us.

Go on any Xanga blogring or Facebook group devoted to people with eating disorders. You’ll see that they’re populated with young women and teenage girls as young as eleven. You don’t see a whole lot of people older than 30. We’ve heard of the Princess Diana’s bulimic tendencies, and all the young actresses who starve themselves.

However, the people over 30 with this problem are growing. They consist of women in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and even older! There’s a dramatic increase in women seeking out treatment. It could be because of the growing availability of such programs, and the decrease in the shame of having an eating disorder. Hard statistics are hard to get, because most women don’t seek help until their troubles become unbearable.

diet pills

diet pills

A full-blown eating disorder develops gradually. It doesn’t suddenly appear. Eating disorders range from mild to severe. Most women have a mild form of disordered eating.

Many with eating problems had eating disorders that they never shed when they were young. According to a review, half of those with anorexia and at least one third of those with bulimia carry their problems into early and middle adulthood. However, many women are developing an eating disorder for the first time in their lives. Why?

Maybe it’s because today’s typical midlife woman is more concerned about her appearance. She works outside to home, and worries about being passed over by younger people for jobs, power, attention, and raises. She dislikes being seen as an old grandmother, and may have a fear of aging. Due to changes caused by menopause, her waistline may increase. She’s more likely to seek help for depression.

The most important factor, though, is the stressful life that she leads.

Next up: the many stressful situations a midlife woman faces.

Corseted beauties

Part 2 of Chapter 1 of Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters

This section is a short history of eating disordrs.

You may ask if eating disorders are nothing new. Have they been along for a while? Really?

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc

The famous French heroine Joan of Arc had anorexic tendencies. She starved herself to make a point, not because she was obsessed about her weight. Greek feasts involved bingeing and purging. This, however, was debauchery rather than bulimia.

However, during the 1870s, doctors in France and England were faced with a group of girls who rejected food altogether. The doctors were stumped over what to call this condition. Eventually, France won with the name “anorexia nervosa” which is used to this day.

The pictures that the doctors drew of these patients are eerie.

A proper Victorian lady

A proper Victorian lady

That was during the Victorian era. Perhaps it’s not surprising that that period marked the birth of modern eating disorders. Control and thinness were characteristics of wealth and beauty. Ladies had to be restrained (no screaming and running around. No indulgence! Eat daintily, don’t stuff yourself) and thin, with tiny corseted waists. Meat was considered carnal. The perfect lady had to be prim and proper. The picture on the right is an excellent example of one. Note the tiny waist.

pinksateen3These tiny waists were produced not merely by restraint in all things food, but with a corset, not unlike this antique corset.

The word “image” first appeared in American girls’ diaries in the 1920s. In this period, movies became an obsession. Actresses changed their identities and looks faster than people could keep up.

All the same, anorexia was not familiar until much later. Even in 1965, the term wasn’t used often. Eating disorders weren’t talked about. They weren’t normal. Strange. Rare. They were not seen as a disease but rather an exotic condition that only some different people got.

Karen Carpenter

Karen Carpenter

One of the first public memories related to this disorder  is of the singer Karen Carpenter. By the fall of 1975, she only weighed 80 pounds. She collapsed on a Las Vegas stage and was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. Carpenter died in 1983. It turned out that she had heart failure due to complications of the illness. Her heart was weak from the years of restriction, and a sudden weight gain of 30 pounds strained it further. The coroner gave the cause of death as “heartbeat irregularities brought on by chemical imbalances associated with anorexia nervosa.”

The 1980s was the era of fitness and food obsession, Martin continues. It was during this period that eating disorders became more common. The famous actress and fitness trainer Jane Fonda produced many fitness videos during this time. It was unknown that her fit body was the result of obsessive exercise… and… bulimia.

Back to the present. Eating disorders are nothing new, that’s true. But now they take an extreme form which is unique to this present age. It’s not just restricted to rich white women, but to anyone. Black women and Latina women have eating disorders. So do working class mothers.

Oprah

Oprah

At the same time, excessive exercising, plastic surgery addiction, and laxative abuse are common things. They’re no longer something that’s normal or not rare. Celebrities like Tara Reid are covered by the media. Diet and fitness, not wellness or authentic health, are upheld. Even Oprah is freaking out about her body. We’re conditioned to believe that the barrier between us and perfection is us.

This is a very modern and dire epidemic. While this world professes to give more rights and powers to those who have been formerly oppressed and persecuted, this world is sicker and more broken. Oprah started a school to help African girls learn empowerment and skills for the working world. At the same time, she stresses out about her appearance and binge-eating episodes. Her person trainer, Bob Greene, once remarked that Oprah had never learned what it means to be happy.

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria

We see our mothers, aunts, and sisters hate themselves and their bodies. We learned from them.

The cycle continues.

The 7 million diagnosed with eating disorders is merely the tip of the iceberg. This book is about that borderline behavior. The behavior that’s hard to diagnose, yet involves self-hatred and depression. It’s not normal. You were never meant to live this life full of self-hatred, sadness, obsession, and depression. This cycle is taking away from the quality of life that you could have. It’s taking away our freedom.

We’re not our bodies.

Marti talks about a friend who was asked how she was. “I’m fine, just feeling fat.”

“But how are you?” the therapist persisted.

“What do you mean? I already told you.”

mountain-top-meets-cloudsFinally, he explained. Our bodies are not us. Bodies are only one aspect of who we are. We make the mistake of identifying ourselves with our bodies. That’s why we tell ourselves that life will be good once we lose the weight. The fact that we are not our bodies means that life will not improve.

To a lot of us, it doesn’t matter if we have a great spouse, a successful career, lovely friends, and a beautiful home. If we’re 5 pounds above the desired weight, we’re unhappy.

We’re cheating ourselves out of a full life. What’s the use of getting three degrees if you’re going to spend a chunk of your time obsessively thinking about the shape of your thighs? That’s too much time. We only have 24 hours a day. We could be bettering the world. We could be doing so much more.