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eating disorders | how close is the line with dieters?

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As you know, eating disorders is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I have said before that the bodybuilding world is very close to or is in some way intertwined with eating disorders. And, I have often wondered where the line is with many of us who seem obsessed with our bodies, even if it doesn’t reach the definition of an eating disorder. The definition of anorexia nervosa actually includes the weight of the individual yet it is a psychological disorder. I am glad that the many definitions and categories of eating disorders are growing!  I think EDs come in many shapes and sizes of individuals and many different forms of suffering.

I read many healthy living blogs and sometimes I will read a post and will think to myself and wonder if that person has crossed the line a little and is in a scary “head-space.”  I’ve been there. I think it’s really easy to go there during a diet…..thinking of dieting, food and body image more than anything else in the day and not being able to separate body image from self image.

Yesterday was a fantastic episode of Oprah with Portia de Rossi and I think her book sounds great!  She did a great job of explaining some of her feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.  Here is part of a transcript from the last couple of minutes of the show….PLEASE READ BELOW and tell me what you think….

[Oprah] You say you wrote it for everybody who’s ever been on a diet.

[Portia] Living with anorexia and bulimia is hell, but chronic dieting is also hell. Living your entire life, never feeling good enough about your body, always feeling like if you weighed a little less somehow you’d be happier…your life would be better…is a horrible way to live.  And, it’s a very short step from a full blown eating disorder, but really the only way I recovered from my eating disorder and from chronic dieting was to never ever restrict any kind of food, not even portion size.  And really it’s the only way that food loses it’s power over you.  If you can have something every day as much as you want, you tend not to want it as much anymore.  And after a period of time you actually eat what your body needs, you eat what makes you happy, and you don’t think about food ever again.

[Oprah] And that is how you healed yourself.

[Portia] And that is how I healed myself.

What she said really struck me. During contest prep I really started hating the diet and hating the obsession over my body. I wanted it to stop. I wanted to be normal again. And it took some time to get there. My body was CRAVING all kinds of foods and had been starved and when you’re starving you can’t control your diet! Food does control you. You. are. starving. You can’t have self control over food when you’re starving. It’s a losing battle.  You’re starving. You “cheat” on your diet. You feel like such a failure.  You start restricting again or just get back on your diet or whatever. Then, you hit a point where you are starving again and your body is craving something and you “break” and you “cheat” again….NOT because you are weak but because you are human and your body has needs that you are not fulfilling.

In these last few months after this competition, I have stabilized my hunger. I have stopped thinking about food all the time…what I can and cannot have. I eat normal portions. I make healthy choices for my health and my future children. I enjoy my food though. We eat whole and real foods but I add sour cream and butter and we have dessert. I do not beat myself up for my food choices. Sometimes I’ll feel full and say or think….probably ate too much…won’t do that again w/ that or there.  So what? Move on? You can adjust your diet around it or you can work out more or you can obsess all day about it or you can just let it go and move on.

I’m now rambling and could ramble all day about this subject, but I had to share that GREAT quote from Portia de Rossi yesterday and some thoughts about this….now share yours?

Any thoughts on what I shared about myself or on that quote from Portia?

Is she downplaying how easy it is to “recover” or “heal” from an ED?  Is her solution too simple?

OR is she exaggerating that dieters all have EDs? What do you think?

sources:  Unbearable Lightness book |  Oprah show with Portia de Rossi |

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Emily - I’ve had a little experience with this recently as I had an anorexic student. I think the fine line is not the obsession but the disconnect between ones image of themselves as fat when they are in fact dangerously thin. I think body builders (and you would obviously know far better than me) may have a goal in mind which causes them to look at themselves and think they need to lose more or change their bodies more for the sake of the competition but I would not think a body builder would look in the mirror and consider themselves to be fat and that is what my student did. He couldn’t see himself for what he was which was dangerously thin. Its all very interesting though. Oh and also the fact that you could start eating normally after a relatively short period of time is also a major difference. It’s extremely hard for anorexics to just eat normally. It’s truly one of the most difficult psychological problems to treat. Great post!

Stacey - You know I agree with everything in this post and I saw this episode of Oprah and it was awesome. I totally agree when you don’t restrict anything, you stop thinking about it and start choosing healthier stuff automatically. I will never ever restrict or diet again…comp dieting seriously messed me up.

TheHealthyApron - I missed this episode but I did hear about some of her interview on the radio and it’s scary how many women go through this kind of thing daily…and most do not believe they have an eating disorder! I may have been the only one to AGREE with the MArie Clair article about bloggers with ED’s. I believe MANY are on the path to an ED or are already there. By taking pics of everything you eat and religiously blogging about your exercise (THAT is an ED).
Portia’s advice is so simple and SO true. I suffered from an ED in college and after reading Intuitive Eating, I started to change my way of thinking about food. I still struggle but it is NOTHING like what I went through in the past. It IS a simple concept but it is Extremely difficult to get to that point. It just takes practice and forgiveness within yourself.

Courtney F - Great post!! There is a very fine line between diet and eating disorders. Speaking from experience, it is kind of like the diet turns in to an eating disorder before you are aware and then one day you look in the mirror and think “how did I get here?” I think everyone has different ways to cope with normal eating, but what my normal is not necessarily normal by other people. Having a great support system is key to recovering, but I think people who have had the unfortunate experience with eating disorders will always struggle to a point to stay away from that fine line!

shawna [of styleberryBLOG] - very interesting. i like the ‘budget’ concept. i’ve got x amt of calories for the day or week. make it work! ;) i don’t agree with the have whatever you want attitude. i like to focus on how what i eat makes me feel. eating is a decision…feel good or feel bad? teach my daughter it’s good? or not expose her to it at all? as she sat there signing ‘more’ towards her bowl of broccoli tonight…i smiled!

Julie - I really liked the interview with Portia. I think a lot of women (probably more than we might initially think based on her extremes) could really relate to what she had to say. Even if it’s not taken as far as her, it can still be an eating disorder. I think that even if someone “starts” a new diet every day but never really follows through, but starts again tomorrow…constantly thinking about dieting…even that is disordered. If you look at it that way…it encompasses A LOT of women.

tori - I liked Lindsey’s comment on my FB page on this – any unhealthy relationship with food is an eating disorder. Plain and simple. Regardless of how much you weigh or how often you’re “doing” something about it.

@ Emily – anytime someone obsesses over their body to an extreme, they are more susceptible to extremes to make it happen. I know most bodybuilders (women that I’ve talked to) still feel fat the moment they step on stage…even with scary low body fat! It’s a really crazy mental game.

@Stacey – love the perspective! I have a hard time w/ this tho b/c the business that I’m trying to start is teaching people what to eat, in what portions, in what combinations, in order to get and maintain a healthy weight. But, I don’t want it to get obsessive, you know?

@TheHealthyApron – You’ve got balls girl, and good on ya!!! I feel that way too. I read some of these blog entries and it makes me sad…the amount of time, energy and obsession about nutrition and exercise does not seem healthy or balanced. I personally won’t ever have a blog like that. And, I don’t understand reading them. To each his own, I guess. Intuitive Eating sounds great!

@Courtney F – That’s exactly what Portia said and I think it’s a great point.

@Shawna – I personally have to think about what I eat – to make healthy choices and I have to limit my portions b/c I have a tendency to over indulge. And, I’m afraid my children will have a predisposition to obesity so they will have to learn these rules early so that they can control their weight later in life when they don’t live at home and they need to fall back on what they learned. I like the “budget” concept – so if I splurge one day, I can tighten up the next meal or day

@Julie – I think you make a great point!!! I’ve been saying that for years! I can’t stand to hear people make like of disordered eating and behaviors simply b/c it doesn’t fit into what people think is an ED….it’s not all what you see on after school specials or lifetime movies.

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