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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

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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.

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.