Pathology of Culture

A few more thoughts on EDs. Because, obviously, the previous rantings and ravings weren't enough.

Recent reports put binge eating disorder as far more common than anorexia and bulimia. The irony is that more people are dieting than ever. I'm not saying that binge eating causes dieting. But if dieting is supposed to be the solution, then it's certainly not working. Author Geneen Roth says, not entirely in jest, that each diet is followed by an equal and opposite binge.

So why has binge eating become so prevalent in our culture, where it wasn't, say 50 years ago? Part of the reason is the ready, round-the-clock availability of food. Food that is supposedly verboten, according to the likes of Jenny Craig and co. Have you ever told a kid they weren't supposed to have something?

Uh-huh. They want it, and they squall and scream until they get it. It becomes an object of desire. My mom rarely, if ever, had "sugary" kids' cereals in our house. I grew up loving Kix and Crispix. Hmmm...cereals ending in "x" there a pattern here? However, when I got to college and the vast array of cereals in front of me, what did I eat? Lucky Charms. And Alphabits. Occasionally AppleJacks if the above were stale. It was only until the second semester that I returned to my old favorite, Raisin Bran.

Binge eating was probably not a huge problem (no pun intended) for Cro-Magnon peoples. I can't imagine a conversation between a cave person couple going something as follows:

Caveman: Hey hon, I just caught a sabre-toothed tiger! Let's chow!
Cavewoman: Oh no, dear, I really shouldn't. I had a few too many berries yesterday. Besides, my leopard skin is getting a little tight across my rear and I want to wear it to my sister's wedding.

No. He'd probably grab her by the hair, drag her out to the said tiger, and they'd feast. With lots of grunts and even more belching and farting.

Sounds remarkably like a SuperBowl Party, come to think of it.

It is my personal belief that bulimia is probably more closely related to binge eating disorder than anorexia. Of course, this is me going out on a limb, but while both bulimia and BED involve binge eating, anorexia typically does not. I would like to see the genetic similarities between the binge/purge subtype of anorexia and bulimia. Both eating disorders cluster in families, which means they are, in some way, shape or form, related on a molecular level.

We are, as a culture, beginning to recognize the seriousness of eating disorders. People understand that a young woman who weighs 60 pounds is obviously sick. However, what people don't get is the seriousness of even less "obvious" eating disorders, especially anorexia. A recent survey by the National Eating Disorders Association says that 96% of Americans think that eating disorders are illnesses, not choices. But I'll bet you any amount of money that almost every sufferer of anorexia has been told by someone that they wanted to be "just a little bit anorexic."

Duh. Why don't you want "just a little tumor" so you can have "just a little chemo". Or get "just a little pregnant." There is definitely a continuum of eating disorders, so I'm not saying you either are or aren't anorexic. But you can be malnourished, regardless of weight.

My personal favorite, however, is the fact that when you read news articles about anorexia, the computer-generated ads either display eating disorder treatment centers or diet products. The latter likely generating business for the former which makes me wonder about some big conspiracy theory.

Must go investigate that one.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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