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I propose that many of our disordered eating patterns and food obsessions are a battle between a perfectionist and utilitarian viewpoint of food and one’s genetics, environment, and unique biochemical needs. These patterns result from healthism and a quest for thinness versus a biological need for survival.
You may have missed the link between malnutrition with dieting, which I just included in my recent blog. It discusses the harms associated with weight stigmatization and fear of fat, starting with our children. In the referenced study, it was demonstrated that most diets lead to micronutrient deficiency; therefore, excess calories are needed in order to achieve appropriate nutrient balance. Hence, your body craves more food for its biological functions.
In other words, years of chronic dieting, restriction, and body-shaming can lead one to be depleted in nutrients. Unfortunately, the body’s response to eat more to obtain what it needs, which can lead to short-term weight gain, is so feared and viewed as a lack of willpower or a disease, many never fully recover emotionally and physically. Those who do are left scarred, shamed, and misunderstood for jumping off the societal expectations of food moralizing and dieting and actually allowing their body’s temporarily excessive and natural appetite increase to address their biochemical needs.
Here’s the “skinny” on this.
The most famous starvation diet is reported in Psychology Today. I have taken a big excerpt from it below, as it was exquisitely written:
Scientists have been studying obesity and weight loss for generations. One of the most famous calorie-restriction studies was done on conscientious objectors during World War II by Dr. Ancel Keys. 36 healthy young men who had been excused from armed service for ethical objections agreed to a year long diet of sorts. It would include 3 months of preparation, 6 months of semi-starvation (designed to make the men lose 25% of their body weight), and then 3 months of refeeding. The purpose of the study was to determine how people would react under such conditions, and also to learn how to safely and successfully refeed starving populations. The men were highly motivated for the study, as their purpose was to help their country and the men fighting overseas who might face starving conditions themselves.
The young men lived in a dorm at the University of Minnesota, and in addition to their restricted diet, they were required to walk 22 miles a week. All their food was prepared in a dormitory kitchen, and once the starvation began, each man’s calories were adjusted every Friday to meet a weight loss goal of 2.5 lbs (1.1 kg) per week. Their average daily calories during the semistarvation period was about 1600 calories a day (they ate approximately 3200 calories daily before the study). I find the number 1600 calories especially compelling, for a standard weight loss diet recommended for a woman is usually about 1200 calories daily. Their food consisted of what might have been available in war-torn Europe at the time – potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, dark bread, macaroni, small glasses of milk, chicken, toast with a small smear of jam, those kinds of things.
What was it like for them? Well, horrible. They described lethargy, irritability, anxiety that approached each time they were to learn how much they were allowed to eat the following week. They had to institute a buddy system so that none of the men were allowed to leave the dormitory alone, as one man went off diet and had to be excused from the study. They had dizziness, cold intolerance (requesting heavy blankets even in the middle of summer), muscle soreness, hair loss, reduced coordination, edema, and ringing in the ears. Some had to withdraw from their university classes because they did not have the capability to concentrate. Their sex drive disappeared. They became obsessed with food, eating with elaborate rituals (which eating disorder patients also do) and adding water to their plates to make the food last longer. Many collected cookbooks and recipes. One man, tempted by the odor from a bakery, bought a dozen doughnuts and gave them to children in the street just to watch them eat. Originally, the participants were allowed to chew gum, but when many of the men went to chewing about 40 sticks a day, it was decided that gum would affect the experiment and it was disallowed.
Only 32 of the original 36 completed the semistarvation period. One man who broke diet admitted to stealing scrapings from the garbage cans, stealing and eating raw rutabagas, and stopping at shops to eat sundaes. Two of the men suffered severe psychological stress – one became suicidal, and another cut off three of his fingers in an act of self-mutilation. Both men were taken to a psychiatric hospital.’
On a 1600 calorie diet (note: most diets today are much lower than this), the men had the following symptoms:
- Cold intolerance
- Muscle soreness
- Hair loss
- Reduced coordination
- Ringing in the ears
- Decreased capability to concentrate
- Low libido
- Food obsession (many collected cookbooks and recipes)
- Eating disorders
Isn’t it interesting that more food was restricted, the more the participants were obsessed with diet, recipes, and cooking?
Have you seen the “health and fitness” blogs lately as well as their postings on Instagram?
The “I Need to Focus on Weight Loss for Health” Argument for Remaining in
Disordered, Sick Eating Cycles
I read a wonderful article on this question.
The gist was this…
What if society and the media as a whole valued health for its own right?
What if everyone woke up one day and the media was full of people of all different shapes and sizes, colors, and ethnicities, and everyone was embraced?
Would you still be needing to lose weight “for health” if the media images of what was socially desirable were full of people your body size or bigger?
Our obsession with weight isn’t making people less sick.
It’s literally diverting attention form truly new and innovative solutions to our sick society. Since the “war” began, we’ve only been a generation that is struggling more with mood disturbances, chronic disease, and “obesity.” What resists persists.
“Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.” Bronnie Ware
If you don’t recognize the name, Bronnie Ware wrote a book entitled, the Top 5 Regrets of the Dying. They were:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Here’s a little more on number five:
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Notice that “being perfect in body size” wasn’t at the top of the list.
Using Essential Oils to Support Emotional Health
Essential oils are available to everyone and break the barriers of biases. They benefit the body, mind, and spirit, regardless of race, ethnicity, size, or gender. I have a whole database section on my website dedicated to emotional support with essential oils that you can reference.
Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.
This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)
Thanks for the images Pixabay!