Sunday, November 09, 2008

One result of the hype around "the obesity epidemic"

Thanks to fellow blogger Carrie Arnold over at Ed-Bites for picking up on this study out of Australia, which points out an alarming rise in both obesity and disordered eating--together, in the same people.

As Carrie and some of the commenters on her blog point out, many doctors would applaud weight loss in someone considered obese, no matter how s/he achieves it. As the study's authors write:

In recent years, the obesity ‘‘epidemic’’ has received much attention in the media and from politicians, public health promotion, clinical health professionals, and others treating obesity. Perhaps these confronting, and at times alarmist, messages, have been conducive to increased levels of body dissatisfaction among obese individuals, and to a perception that weight loss at any cost is the best outcome. This might also account for the observed increase in the prevalence of binge eating and extreme weight control behaviors, as body image dissatisfaction is a risk factor for disordered eating.

Weight loss at any price—that sums it up nicely. And when diets fail (as they nearly always do), some people turn, out of desperation, to restricting, purging, and other unhealthy behaviors. Teenagers are especially vulnerable, I think, because they get a heavy dose of judgment from both peers and doctors.

So if you're a pediatrician, I hope you'll take a closer look at this study and think about its implications. If you know a pediatrician, I hope you'll forward the study on. I think our best hope for change around this issue is not creating these attitudes in the first place.

Eat well. Exercise because it feels good. And love your body for its power, its strength, its beauty, and its sturdiness.


Anonymous said...

When, as a fat teenager, I went from 250 to 175 pounds, I got more praise than for anything I had ever previously done--or, for that matter, I've ever had since (even the girls who had made "earthquake" noises as I walked by told me they "admired" me). It was an amazing rush, and such a relief from all the crap I had suffered from peers, doctors, teachers, the psychologist I was sent to to figure out why I was so fat.

No one asked why they never saw me eating. No one wondered if it was OK for me to be exercising 4 to 6 hours a day. No one cared that I ate 300 calories a day, stopped menstruating and was so exhausted I slept through (and failed) my classes. I was thinner! Hurray! I so "pretty"! Because I was still "overweight," I was never diagnosed or treated for an eating disorder. It was just "Rah, rah, rah!"

I am still angrier at the "thin at any cost" message than I can even express.

marcella said...

at least some sensible clinicians are trying to bite back