Eating disorders are on the rise. Not just in young girls but in every single area of life. Most of us have been socialized into the cults of diet culture over the course of our lives without even knowing it. But now, in the age of modern media a lot of these diets are finally under fire for the harm that they cause. In spite of that new ones pop up all of the time with certified, uneducated and often white, upper class women, acting as cult leaders to harress people into changing their bodies and living “Healthy”.
In an age of ortherexia, lack of medical care in the US and frankly, us all being locked up at home, in yoga pants worrying about gaining weight, Diets are taking off in high numbers, most of them extreme and without scientific backing. I fully promote living healthy but over the past 10+ years that has been commended so heavily by the diet industry that people even made a new Eating Disorder term for it “Ortherexia”. This term means restrictive eating based on “Health” that can result in disordered eating and exercise patterns…and frankly it is something I wish was used more widely when I was in college because this was certainly how my eating disorder manifested.
So yes, some people might be thinking they want to drop a few pounds after quarantine/ winter/ holiday weight, but how do you know if a diet is actually good for you or if you are getting scammed into patterns that could later hurt you? Here are a few patterns of unhealthy diets that can help you recognize if your diet is really an eating disorder in disguise.
Labeling it a life style
I hear this a lot and yes I do use the word life style myself. But really what a life style means is that you are going to be doing it forever. Truly beware of this in diet culture but also be aware of what a healthy life style actually is. Living a healthy lifestyle means being able to enjoy your life. Not tailoring your life style around your eating or your food. Short term yes, you can look at a menu before you should go to a restaurant but in real life that doesn’t always happen. When it does it can alienate you from friends, family and relationships that are meant to be enjoyable. Living a healthy life style can seem great…and it is if it promotes a balance. But eating like your a professional athlete about to compete all the time is not balance.
Promoting a product
If a person is promoting their own product stay the hell away. Thats probably my first rule. If they have a product that they profit from, obviously they are going to be pushing that. There is honestly nothing wrong with that. Its when Bars, protien powders and other artifical shit take the front seat over actual food that there is a problem.
Rapid Weight Lose
10 in 10 days sounds amazing right? Until you think about what that is actually doing to your body. Rapid weight lose is actually pretty natural at the start of a diet but chances are that it wont last and if you are on a diet for longer you are going to have to continue to operator at a higher and higher deceit to keep that up…and once you stop? The weight comes back on. Rapid weight lose if hard on your body and a constant dramatic weight lose can have serous effects on your major organs.
You should not be weighting yourself every day. That comes up in the next point about hormones but good grief can you think of anything more horrible then weighing yourself every single DAY! That’s nuts talk. This is what people used to do in Russia for gymanists that was investigated. Can you think of a worse way to start your day then by putting a numeric value on yourself?
Having the Same Plan for Men and Women
Men and women should get paid the same but when it comes to losing weight, recovery and athletics there are a few things that are fundamentally different. The most obvious of these is that men hormones fluctuate over the course of their lives while women, as we all know, flux every 14 days (The two stages of your menstrual cycle). This changes water retention (hello bloating) recovery times and weight. The second is that while men continue to burn stored fat up to 21 hours after an aerobic activity, women only burn it for three hours after. Women also take longer to recover during the second stage of their cycle. For more detailed information I suggest you read ROAR by Dr. Stacy. If a diet doesn’t take into account different stages of your hormonal cycle and thinks that you should be in a constant state of lose or even the same way of eating through the month with no regard to hormone levels, they are loopy.
This sounds obvious but its not. I started talking diet pills with my best friend when I was 13. Thats insane. Of course teenagers think that they’re adults, anyone who has a teenager knows that. My mom had me going to Jenny Craig when I was 17. Also still insane. Diet culture takes our girls early and tells them that their still developing bodies need to be modified. News flash, they dont. But also you are not really modifying their bodies. You’re modifying their minds and they will carry those habits with them for the rest of their lives. This is why so many people (Women especially) are on a diet until the day they die. That is a horrible way to live. Anyone not a doctor that says that they will work with someone under 20 should be held accountable. Where is the concern for our children here?
Using their own life as a success story
There are so many things that I have a problem with in this article and obviously marketing to young girls is a huge one, but this one is a weird close second. When you make yourself a brand and link yourself to a diet like so many of these diet personalities do you are creating a mythical dogma around yourself in the same way that Manson and Jim Jones did in their cults. I was tired, I was sluggish, and then a went up the mountain top and now I comes down to you with these diet commandments from GOD! They are Moses and you…you need to follow them to find “The way”. Most people say they would know if they were in a cult…but diets can turn into a cult so so easily. Food deprivation is actually a major psychological technique used in torture and behavior modification. The difference is that here you are being told that you want to do it to yourself.
Linking life success to thinness
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be skinny to be successful. And being skinny will not get you all of those things you want out of life. In fact I would go so far as to say that when you deeply buy into diets and diet culture, your mind is consumed by it. This is not a new message and has been talked about for years as people come to understand just how much time and money they have been poured into this capitalistic model. But it is really just a way to distract women from spending that mental energy on things that are healthy and rewarding.
No exercise or over exercise
At my skinniest I was running 40 miles a week, and eating very very little in one sitting. 40 miles isn’t a ton in the professional world but it is a lot for the average person and it wasn’t until I spoke with my aunt who is a psychologist that this is a for of bulimia. You should always take a rest day. And by rest I mean stretching while you watch netflix not doing shit. You should not be doing intensive yoga or going on a 10 mile hike as rest (Hello me in depression). Any diet plan that tells you to work out every single day has lost their damn mind. Likewise diets that say that you shouldn’t have to be active at all are a complete and total scam. You should be doing moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes 3 times a week. This can be something as simple as walking in the morning with your cup of coffee. Its good for you in general and saying you can just sit around, drink a smoothie and still be healthy is…not.
Not a nutritionist/ Confusing nutritionists and nutrition coaches
When someone is a Nutritionist they KNOW. Not the confidence knowing. They have a DEGREE. Not a certificate, not a completion. They have their bachelors and have studied it. Nutrition coaches, at least in the program I did, are repeatedly told to identify themselves as coaches, not nutritionists. It’s like saying your a doctor when you play operation. You know you’re not. If they are ‘confused’ then they are probably not either of these things. A nutrition coach can not make you a meal plan. They can recommend foods to add to your diet. They can recommend meals and what to add but they will not make you a step by step plan. They will also ask you if you have any health conditions and if you do they will tell you to go to your doctor. Its as simple as that. There is no confusion. Their is lying and telling the truth. Period.
MLM’s (Multi Level Marketing)
I bring this up with the drama that has come up from the Starvation Diet (Thats what it is prove me wrong) by Teddi Mellencamp (Yes that Mellencamp). MLM’s are a scam. I dont care if its Scenes Candles, Mary Kay or Pampered Chef. These are scams that take non trained people, pull them in, take their money who them take other peoples money, who take other peoples money and funnel it up to the top. Pyramid scheme. Whats truly disturbing here is that you aren’t screwing with someones kitchen. You are doing it to their physical and mental health.
As a final thought, I do want to say as someone that has suffered from an eating disorder for as long as I can remember, that you are not alone. This is a mental disease that makes us feel like we are crazy and alone. It feeds off us being too scared to talk about it; off of us thinking that since we don’t weight 90 pounds or that if we aren’t throwing up, we aren’t worthy of help. But thats the disorder lying to you so that you dont get the help that you deserve.
If you feel like you have an eating disorder or are suffering from destructive thoughts, please talk to someone. You are never “Not sick enough” to start getting help. Doctors are more then will to talk about disorders like this now. It is never too early or too late to get help and “Change your life” as so many diets will tell you that they are doing.
For more information on disordered eating please visits NEDA for professional insight and check out my other blog posts on eating disorders and body dysphoria.