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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.

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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 ┬ámarket. 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.

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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 ┬ábeauty 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.