National Eating Disorders Awareness week is February 26th - March 4th this year, and the theme is “Let’s Get Real;” this theme is aimed at building awareness of how persistent disordered eating is, and break the stigma related to it (nationaleatingdisorders.org, 2018). I am a licensed clinical psychologist with years of experience working with eating disorders and those with disordered eating. The stigma and stereotypes associated with eating disorders is one of the factors for why there are so many that attempt to hide their struggles, and are afraid to seek help. It’s notable that those with eating disorders or disordered eating behavior are often looked at negatively – “they have a problem” – yet, those who diet are often viewed as “being healthy.” In some ways, the behaviors are all the same.
The diet and weight loss industry totaled $66.3 billion dollars in 2016 (webwire.com, 2017) – yes, billion! Diet programs and their marketing plans are designed to emphasize how well they “work,” so that when they fail – which, they do 90-95% of the time – we tend to blame ourselves (Tribole & Resch, 2012). This promotes an endless cycle of weight loss, then weight gain, then another diet attempt, which ultimately, puts more money into the diet and weight loss industry. This also leads to poor self-confidence, more dissatisfaction in the way one looks, and more anxiety about food. Albeit to a lesser degree, these are all the feelings one experiences when living with an eating disorder. An eating and lifestyle approach I emphasize for my patients to learn and ideally to adopt, is an intuitive eating approach. Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, both registered dieticians, discuss this approach in their book, Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works, which describes the process of learning to listen to our bodies again, to recognize what kinds of foods our body needs, and to acknowledge when we are hungry and when we are full (Tribole & Resch). Becoming an intuitive eater takes time and practice, but ultimately, this approach can lead to less anxiety about food, more enjoyment with eating, greater satisfaction with one’s body, and more self-confidence.
My goal with this post is to emphasize how common anxiety about food and body image is, and to illustrate how the diet and weight loss industry promotes this within our society, with the hope that there may be more understanding and empathizing with those that struggle with eating disorders and disordered eating. I would encourage those that feel they may need help, or those that feel they just want to talk to someone about any struggles they are having with eating, dieting, and/or body image, to reach out to a mental health professional.
Article Written by: Dr. Megan Irving, PhD
Nationaleatingdisorders.org (2018). National eating disorders awareness week.
Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/nedawareness
Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2012). Intuitive eating: A revolutionary program that works.
New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.
Webwire.com (2017). US weight loss market worth 66 billion. Retrieved from