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Environment.

Part 2 of Chapter 3 of Runaway Eating

Keira Knightley in the dress that sparked the rumors

Keira Knightley in the dress that sparked the rumors

Eating problems tend to run in families. If your parents or siblings have issues, you’re more likely to have them. Genetic factors, environmental stressors, or a dysfunctional family environment all play a key.

Let’s talk about genes first. Back when the tabloids wrote about Keira Knightley being anorexic, she denied it, to People magazine.

Whatever people say about my weight they are all wrong. Hollywood is about the way you look, and I don’t think that’s the healthy thing for anyone. But, if you’re strong and comfortable with yourself, then you’re going to be fine.

The star had shown up to a film premier with a low-cut, backless bronze Gucci dress. (When they say low-cut, it’s low-cut. It goes down to her belly button.) Her rail thin figure sparked many concerns and gossip.

While saying that there was nothing to worry about, Knightley did add that her family had a history of anorexia. Her grandmother and great-grandmother had suffered from the condition, and she also had a lot of friends who had the condition.

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Nicole Richie, another rail thin celebrity suspected at some point to have an eating disorder

Her mother, as reported to Times, later shot down the rumor by telling the press that her daughter is like her father.

She has always been thin. She’s her daddy’s daughter, with his long body… [he] was much, much thinner than Keira. When he was Keira’s age, he had to drink milk with honey and eggs, and go training and training and training, just to be a normal weight.

She eats like a horse. I always want to apologise because she can eat anything that she wants and she does not put on weight.

Thus making the rest of us jealous.

The tendency to have an eating disorder or at least suffer from runaway eating can be passed genetically. Families of women with diagnosed eating disorders tend to have high rates of eating disorders. It follows that runaway eating may be passed genetically.

3238651946_97ebbca1b2However, it’s hard to know whether runaway eating is in part a product of genetics while also being in part a product of the environment. Some research indicates that 5-80% of a risk lies in the genes. Environmental factors are 20-50%. The relationship is quite complex.

For example, you might have the genes, but the tendency will only arise when certain environmental factors come into play. It can be something as benign as a wedding, or as serious as coping with a divorce. one stressor is unhealthy dieting. Someone who gets the idea that dieting can help her have a better life can start a diet and then eventually develop an eating disorder.

Disordered eating may also be related to family of origin. Maybe your family placed great importance on control or you had OCD tendencies. Or told you that certain emotions were forbidden, like anger.

2066666462_213cf38dceOr maybe your parents poked into your life, trying to make you live your life how they want you to live your life. Or maybe your parents placed great importance on physical attractiveness, often dieting and exercising while pushing you to do the same.

The authors speculate that if you are a bingeing runaway, your parents could have been distant. They may have expected a lot from you.

There really is no clear-cut division, however. Remember that.

You also have individual risk factors, depending on your personal characteristics.

Someone with a history of being overweight may be familiar with diets and dieting. Though it’s difficult to lose the weight, losing weight is extremely important to you.

Similarly, someone with a history of bulimia or anorexia has a higher chance that the eating disorder will recur. Complete recovery is uncommon though possible, and many women continue to be preoccupied with food.

133132121_b2d1e9da36Or someone with low-esteem might not like herself. She feels bad about herself and her body. She might believe that thinness will make her more lovable, more worthwhile. I know a beautiful woman and mother of two beautiful daughters who believes that she has to stay skinny so that her husband will still love her. Her husband is very loving, and the chances that he will actually leave her are nil. But there it is.

Some people believe that their self-worth is tied to good looks and thinness. This is common among those in the show biz. Their careers depend on them staying slim and beautiful. Rarely, if ever, will you see a fat model/talk show host/TV announcer unless she’s Oprah. (But then she’s trying to lose the weight because she hates not being able to fit into clothes, etc etc.) No doubt, these women are particularly vulnerable because their livelihoods depend on their attractiveness.

That’s also one reason why no one would really be surprised if Nicole Richie or Keira Knightley actually turned out to be anorexic.

398361237_6a71e21d31During menopause, the risk of obesity rises owing to the changes that occur at this point. Women put on inches around their waists. plus the process is stressful, what with the hot flashes and all. No wonder they turn to food for comfort.

Another thing: those with disordered eating or a clinically diagnosed eating disorder tend to be depressed. One fifth of all people (or women?) experience clinical depression at one point. It comes with sadness, low mood, lack of pleasure in usual activities, and thoughts of suicide to name a few.

80-90% of eating disorders are triggered by anxiety or tension. Some try to relieve stress by not eating, or eating large amounts of food. Bulimics eat, then feel anxious until purge. Many live in a perpetual state of anxiety, afraid of food, gaining weight, and a lot of other things.

824627629_ed9fbd2f03Then there are the perfectionists. They are those who, no matter how much they have achieved, never feel happy with themselves or others. There is the normal drive for success, then there is the extreme that is unhealthy. Goals are unrealistic. There was the young lady yearning for perfection. I saw a list of goals. She wanted to reach 54 pounds. Very very unrealistic. She won’t reach it ever, because she’ll die or slip into a coma before she reaches it. To this type of person, mistakes equal disaster.

Some people also have poor problem-solving skills. Some have difficulty facing their problems. They can’t make connections between the problem and the actual solution. They avoid confrontation. Instead of dealing with the problem head on, they abuse food as a response.

There are other personality factors, like the tendency to starve oneself of affection or being very disciplined and self-controlled. Or the tendency to live life with your emotions on a roller coaster ride. These factors differ from person to person. This brings us to a catalyst: dieting.

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.

Reaching the Unattainable

Chapter 8, Part I

Now we come to one of the biggest chapters in the book Looks. This chapter is about how the media messages shape our thoughts and feelings about physical attractiveness.

We’re exposed to so much media nowadays. Magazine titles,  books, websites, and TV are all saturated with pictures of the physically attractive. Everyone’s beautiful in the world of media, it seems.

Does this influence our expectations and self-respect? This phenomenon has been studied for years and years. 

ariel-fish-friendsResearchers found the most body-image related messages in videos like Cinderella and The Little Mermaid. However, all ages get information about the world from TV. IF there’s one rule governing media images, it’s that sex sells. 

Advertising knows this. They’re all aware that sexual images are important messages. Others are concerned that these images place inappropriate pressure on us to focus on our appearances. Teen People magazine found that 27% of girls felt pressured to have a perfect body. Whatever that means. Older women, who had formerly felt guilty about having a dirty house, were now afraid of being old or unattractive.

Other research suggests that such advertising can affect women’s body image, which in turn can lead to unhealthy behavior.

Superman: Bulging out from Everywhere

Superman: Bulging out from Everywhere

Advertising also promotes and idealizes the body builder image. This is leading to some very insecure men and boys. A study by Dr. Harrison Pope of McLean suggests that this pressure is felt early in childhood. There’s the increasing muscularity of action figures that boys play with. This can be compared to Barbie dolls promoting an unrealistically thin body image for young girls. You’ll noticed that Superman is muscled more than any person should be muscled. He’s more muscled than the guy who goes to the gym once every couple of days. He’s more muscled than, well, almost anyone. He’s unnecessarily muscled. Noticed that he’s bulging in places where no one knew they had muscles. 

He looks like he’s been drinking a cup of steroids after every meal.

Various media reports to the state that eating disorder cases involving boys are growing. However, boys are usually unwilling to acknowledge a condition that is associated with females. My friend Henry that I mentioned previously was anorexic.

Sex sells. Britney Spears

Sex sells. Britney Spears

However, most media stressing thinness are directed at women. Women see 400-600 commercials per day. 250,000 commercial messages as well… but only 9% are a direct statement about beauty. The messages are more implicit in nature rather than explicit. Half of the ads in teen girl magazines like Seventeen and 56% of TV commercials aimed at females used beauty as a product appeal. This may give girls and women reason to be self-conscious, and even equates physical appeal as measure of worth.

A photograph of the beautiful Evelyn Nesbit

A photograph of the beautiful Evelyn Nesbit

In the late 1890s, publishers started using pictures of beautiful women to sell magazines. It began with illustrations, Take Charles Dana Gibson’s 1905 portraits of the lovely Evelyn Nesbit. She was a 16 year old married to one of the richest men in the world. Sadly, she was destined for heartbreak and poverty. During this time, though, she was called the most beautiful woman in the world. 

nesbit-2.1208806562

Another picture of Nesbit

I read her wikipedia entry. She was involved in the murder of an ex lover by her first husband. Earlier on, she found work as an artists’ model. Later on, she became much in demand because she was seductively beautiful, with red hair and a slender but shapely figure. Her first lover, the one who got murdered, was Stanford White. He was an acclaimed architect and notorious womanizer, and at the time he was 47 to her 16. 

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A typical runway model

Color photography arrived in the 1930s. Ordinary could not be used for this. There were some issues with cramming a 3D image into a 2D space. Because it omits the impression of depth, it adds the illusion of increased width. Solution? Choose a thinner model. She’s look average. However, thinness became the standard, not only because of the photography issues. Clothes look better on thinner people. So models became thinner and thinner and thinner. The so-called supermodel is slimmer than 94% of women in her age group! 

Two-thirds of girls in one study said that magazine models influenced their idea of a perfect body shape.

Why do advertisers present such unrealistically thin women to advertise products?

Some believe that advertisers use thin models to create an unattainable goal. Trying to realize the impossible drives our consumption of that product. “The media markets desire,” says Dr. Paul Hamburg, a psychiatrist.

lettuceWhether or not that is true, it’s found that the diet industry generates 74 billion – 50 billion DOLLARS a year. Women compare their bodies to those around them. a 1984 poll by Glamour found that three-fourths of those surveyed thought they were too fat. This brings to mind my friend who always wants to lose weight, even though she is really skinny. I’m a 4 foot 8 girl, and naturally I’m very very skinny. (It goes with my frame.) She told me once that she wanted to be as skinny as I was. I was disturbed.

iStock_apple tape measureCindy Maynard, a registered dietitian and researcher, says that this dissatisfaction occurs so much that it’s almost considered normal. She goes on to say that the most vulnerable people are teenagers, since they are at the age when they’re developing their self-confidence and self-perception. At that age there’s a lot of pressure to fit in.

Sadly, one of the ways to fit in is to have the perfect body.