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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.

nicole-richie-228

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.

Power Play

“Our bodies are the places where our drive for perfection gets played out.” With this statement, Martin sums up the struggle that many young women face, as they’re flooded with information about effective workouts, the best ways to lose weight, and the best diets.

314510824_a9feb9407cWe like to look at pretty faces. Friends are chosen based simply on whether a potential friend is attractive or not. We want to do business with pretty faces. And we want to marry an attractive person. Gordon L. Patzer pointed this out in his book Looks, and all this stuff is supported by research, sad to say. Teachers like pretty students because they feel that the more attractive students show the most potential. Pretty babies get more love and attention first from nurses at the hospital at birth, and then at home with their mothers. Pretty people seem to have an easier time in life. Employees hire pretty people to make their firms successful. Freelancer Jenna Glatzer writes in her book You Can Make a Real Living as a Freelancer that Cosmopolitan once cut an article: a profile about a modern day wonder woman. Why? Because the “wonder woman” turned out to be overweight.

So we keep chasing after perfection Where does it lead us? Nowhere, except to pain.

Tyra Banks

Tyra Banks

Martin writes that we see beauty as the first impression of total success. She goes on to explain that we see one aspect of a person — nice hair, for example — and assume that she is wealthy and powerful. How many times have we told ourselves that if we are thin (thin = beauty), our lives will be perfect? Beauty will solve all our problems. It will get us the desired man, the desired job, and the desired home. Or perhaps all three.

Martin uses Tyra Banks as an example of a beautiful woman who build her own empire.

I find this coincidence because I stumbled on the Tyra Banks show the other day. She was running something about Botox for a medical condition in a woman’s genitals. SUpposedly it’s supposed to improve some condition so women can have sex again. Then Tyra asked a doctor in the audience, “What do you think about using Botox for this condition?”

The doctor said, “Well, it’s not FDA – approved…”

Ok, remember this post?

3035405786_aa0a472929Moving along…

We see weight as something that we can control. We thus believe that if we exercised a little more control, counting calories, strict diets, strenuous exercise, nice clothes; we would be happy. We just have to “stay strong” and “starve on.” You’re not happy? You’re not “strong” enough. You have to be stronger.

The writer gives a description of a typical “perfect girl” in a typical American town. It’s a good description, and pretty accurate. Yes, we are living contradictions. Yes, we are relentless, while judgmental towards ourselves and forgiving of other people.

We are the daughters of feminists who said, “You can be everything” and we heard, “You have to be everything.”

We grow hungrier and hungrier with no clue what we are hungry for. The holes inside of us grow bigger and bigger.

We are our own worst enemies. It’s that “starving daughter” who must be killed off.

2236055781_25b5fdba44Martin goes on to say that a “starving daughter” is at the center of every “perfect girl.” The face we show to the world is an outward mask that says to our friends that everything is going well. Inside, we’re starving for a lot of things. We’re empty and in need, and they don’t know.

She wants attention. The perfect girl says, “No, you shouldn’t want that.” She is the one that brings us down. She gets scared, nostalgic, sad. The perfect girl wants no part of that.

No one likes this part of them. They view it as a side that is too weak. Meanwhile, they don’t talk about their problems. They fill the black holes in their spirits with the forbidden fruit. Yet they continue to feel empty. We struggle with this. I know girls in my church who do, but are too confused and frightened to speak about it, let alone come face to face with a darker side of themselves. They don’t want to let go of their facade.

185980331_3e8ade3c79And our bodies take the ensuing abuse.

Some people are subtle about the abuse. They pretend to be above such trite things as calorie counting and purging. Such stuff is embarrassing.

Others talk about how horrible their body size is and how fat they are and how much they hate themselves for being so weak. And then they forget about their issues for a while. Their disordered eating is seasonal.

Then there are the diagnosed eating disorders. Go here for a list and description of the three diagnosable disorders as noted by health professionals. I also noted in the same post that several people do have a mix of both bulimia and anorexia and binge eating.

There is EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) which we haven’t talked about yet. These are the people who have an eating disorder but don’t have the required symptoms. They may purge once a week as opposed to three. Some starve but don’t lose their periods or drop in weight. Some have a partial syndrome. They obsess, and have a nagging preoccupation with their weight that they think is normal. They feel that they obsess too much but don’t work out enough.

We don’t consider that maybe we don’t have to live with the obsession.

The media is no help. They show skin-and-bones models and gasp about shrinking celebrities, making us feel that if we’re not dropping out of school, throwing up all the time, or become skeletal, then we’re fine. Our condition is fine. Never mind that we’re miserable.

3061919849_fbbf4783b7Some doctors encourage the attitude. They’re so tired of the obesity epidemic that they’d do anything to get their patients from that extreme. They forget that there is another extreme at the other end. These doctors want rigorous exercise with restraint in diet, no matter who the patient is. Martin interviewed a girl with an eating disorder. This girl saw a doctor in college. She hoped that he’d notice her weight going down and maybe help her. However, he told her to “keep up the good work!”

The author states that an eating disorder merely is a more extreme version of what girls and women face on a daily basis. There’s always some degree of obsessiveness about food and our bodies in everyone. (I don’t think all, but most. Most are still too many.)

We find comfort in being almost as screwed up as everyone else.