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Stress Fracture

Part 1 of Chapter 3 of Runaway Eating: what causes Runaway Eating, and who’s at risk?

Earlier on, we talked about stress and how we women can easily turn turn to food for comfort as a result. Why do only some actually become runaway eaters?

luisa_cerano_ladies_fashionThere are some risk factors that are especially responsible. These are as wide-ranging as the media’s emphasis on thinness as beauty, or as personal as family history, or depression. The driving forces do remain the same. While having risk factors don’t ensure that you will get the condition, it does set the stage, so to speak. It might not actually start a fire, but the tinder is built up.

First, we’ll look at the beauty factor. For years and years, women has been valued for her beauty. From Helen of Troy to Paris Hilton, those with beauty seem to have everything. They have wealth, love, adulation, jobs, and career advancement. Many of us spend lots of time and money on cosmetics, manicures, and pedicures. We flip through catalogues and women’s magazines looking for the latest styles.

The sad part is that to society, beauty equals thin/skinny/slim/slender. Most people cannot achieve the desired  weight. They were not made for it. How can a big-boned woman like Oprah ever become a waif like Nicole Richie? It brings a terrible price, this pursuit.

The writers have compiled a short timeline for this.

Camille Clifford: the ideal Gibson Girl

Camille Clifford: the ideal Gibson Girl

The early 1900s. Thin becomes in. This is perhaps when it all started. Before this time, plump, full curves were the ideal. They indicated that the well-endowed woman was well-fed and didn’t have to work.

The early 20th century ended this trend of round people. Slim, trim, and slender was desired, perhaps to differentiate from the stocky immigrants that were pouring into the States. It was a symbol of good breeding and discipline. Heaviness, the women thought, meant laziness, greediness, and lack of self-control.

Charles Dana Gibson revolutionized our perceptions with the Gibson Girl. This woman appeared tall, very slim, fit, and athletic with a small waist. Her face was gorgeous. Naturally no one looked like this, or very few people. After all, she was merely a figment of the artist’s imagination, based on what he felt the ideal woman should look like. However, women felt bad about themselves or not achieving this goal.

Just then, a physical fitness craze hit the country. Clothes started to reveal more, making women feel self-conscious about their appearance.

A typical flapper, but a modern picture from a costume shop

The flapper.

1920s: This was the age of the flappers. These girls wanted to be free to dance, play sports, and lead more active lives than their mothers and grandmothers. No more corsets, sleeves, or skirts. Well, not really. But whatever was there barely scraped the top of their calves. Women’s anxieties skyrocketed, especially since the perfect flapper’s body was small, slim, and flat chested. Fad diets were in. Self-induced vomiting was in. Laxative abuse was in.

Advertisers took the chance to take advantage of women’s insecurities about themselves to talk about weight-loss equipment, fad diets, and much much more. The message here was: “Slim down and you’ll be beautiful and happy.”

1940s to 1970s. Thin becomes a fashion statement. We know from other reading that designers prefer skinny models. Why? Because skinny works like a hanger. Clothes hang on the lady with fewer wrinkles, while people with a little shape have more wrinkles because of their curves.

twiggy-1

Twiggy

Along the way, the hanger lady became an object of beauty. But no one looked like a hanger. Big problem. Instead of seeing that this ideal was not only unattainable but also quite ridiculous, women conformed it. They lusted after it, starved to fit into it. The result was despair.

Twiggy, a 95 lb, 5 feet 6 teen model, exploded onto the fashion scene during the late 1960s. Her sticklike figure made everyone feel heavy, even slim women. Fashions left little to the imagination. People believed, “You can never be too thin or too rich.” Eating disorders, as a result, suddenly abounded.

Fonda

Fonda

1980s. A fitness craze hit the nation. Jane Fonda turned out her famous exercise videos, urging women to “feel the burn.” The thin woman was apparently not only supposed to be hanger girl, but also have well-defined muscles, flat stomach, and a small, tight butt. Jane Fonda had all these things. Only later did people find out that she was bulimic. However, this look was impossible for most women. Those that succeeded did so only by spending hours at the gym, or starving, or purging.

1990s. Welcome to the era of the middle-aged woman who never gets old. Think about the 40-50 year olds (like Goldie Hawn or Demi Moore) who look like 20 year olds. These woman have an unusual combination of genes, along with personal trainers and plastic surgery. They have set a higher standard: looking your age is bad. You should be doing all you can to look young.

tn2_demi_moore_3

Demi Moore

I can’t deny that. It seems that every single magazine I open is filled with spreads and spreads of anti-aging commercials. It’s not just the commercials, either. Most women’s magazines include a beauty section which will inevitably include some creams and serums which will make you look younger. The product testing department also has a few products. Why? Because right now there’s a demand for such products. We want to look young. We want to look young now. We also want to continue to look young at age 50-60, just like Demi Moore. I don’t think Moore or Hawn are responsible for the problem, but the fact that the media commends them and emphasizes the fact that they still look young even at such an age makes most women feel inadequate for not being like that.

Goldie Hawn

Goldie Hawn

Dessert Dishes

Part 2 of Chapter 2 of Runaway Eating: What is Runaway Eating?

The restricting runaway eater is like a person with anorexia nervosa, but milder. Still, such a person tends to worry about getting fat. She might override her hunger signals and cut back her food intake to dangerously low levels.

215183766_aeb65e4daeWhile some restricting eaters stop feeling hungry, most have the strong desire to eat and think about food all the time. The other interesting thing to them is being thin and in control. They may check the mirror and buy clothes that are too small, hoping to someday fit into them.

The difference between a restricting runaway eater and a woman with anorexia is weight. An anorexic has dangerously low weight. The restricting runaway eater may have weight a little lower than average, or normal weight. It’s only a matter of time before her weight drops altogether. Also, she may not restrict as much or as consistently, going through periods where her food intake is normal. However, the food obsession and fear of gaining weight is a constant and close companion.

It’s important to recognize the difference between the restricting runaway eater and the person who is just thin. The naturally thin, like me, don’t always think about food except at mealtimes. She eats until her body tells her to stop, then goes about her business. The restricting runaway eater is obsessed with her weight. How she feels about herself is dependent on whether she can control her food intake. It’s all about her ability to stay thin, become thin, and lose weight. It means self control and achievement to her. She also has a distorted sense of her body size.

2591450932_231d674b69What can restricting do to someone’s body? Vital functions will slow down to conserve energy. Metabolism slows down. Blood pressure drops. You might feel light-headed, dizzy, or cold. Or all three. If body fat drops low enough, your period might stop. You won’t be able to have a baby, because your body realizes that your food supply is too low to support another life. If you are already pregnant, there’s an increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth, and birth defects. You can also get osteoporosis.

As if those weren’t bad enough already, there are some extreme effects as well, as if this wasn’t bad enough. Effects such as anemia, kidney failure, heart failure, and death to name a few.

What can it do to your mind and emotions? You may become depressed, withdrawn, or irritable. At night, you might also suffer from insomnia, and when you do sleep, you might dream about food. Your eating habits, obviously, will change. You might eat by chewing each bite a certain number of times, or cutting your food into small pieces. You might even hide your food.

2907586559_5d23b494f8On the other hand, you may also suffer from anxiety, OCD tendencies, perfectionism, and hopelessness. Each feeds the other. Your feelings feed the disordered eating, while the eating feeds the feelings. It’s a deeply destructive cycle.

Restrictive eating also takes a toll on relationships. One with this disorder would avoid events with food — basically all of them. I had a friend who didn’t want to go to another friend’s wedding because food was going to be there and she didn’t want to “screw up.” She may also lie about her eating habits. Prospective partners can be turned off, being tired of being asked, “Do I look fat?”

Next up: The Bingeing Runaway Eater