Dieting is Dangerous, Part II

I've seen a few items in the past day or two that made me realize just how foreign the idea of "dieting is dangerous" really is.

Now, I love the Brits. I seriously do. The concept of putting milk in your tea makes a good thing even better. However, the BBC is currently doing a documentary about how hard it is to be a size zero (UK size 4). Which, okay, fine- most young girls (hell, women of every age) probably don't realize exactly how unrealistic it is. There's an intellectual understanding that models are much thinner than we are, to the point that women outwardly scoff at the anorexic-looking models on catwalks and on the covers of magazines.

Yet we still try. Though many people lament their heights -- personally, an extra half an inch would make pants shopping much easier -- they don't lop off a foot or walk on stilts to change it. Why? Because height is determined by genetics. So is weight, but we'll get there in a bit.

What this BBC documentary did is take an ordinary woman and put her on a diet that would make a starvation diet look like a feast. She took substances to "clean out her bowels." Then, she exercised with a personal trainer. And so on.

Here's the kicker, though: after about 2 weeks of this, she ate a little more than she was 'supposed' to. Then, she felt guilty. Then, she purged. A week or two later? She binged and purged again.

Luckily someone stepped in and said, "No more. You're done."

On the other hand, why did we have to do this "experiment" in the first place? Why should I feel grateful that it stopped when it never should have started to begin with?

Lots of people in Hollywood struggle with drug addictions, yet there are no documentaries and realities shows spelling out how to become an addict. No young person was given a bong and a crack pipe along with supplies and told: have fun! We'll see you in a month. But rehab is on your own.

We know that drugs are addictive and dangerous. However unrealistic it might be to give birth and be out partying a week later, we don't take a new mother and send her packing. Drugs change your brain chemistry. That's why they're addicting.

But dieting changes brain chemistry, too. Though I don't consider an eating disorder an addiction per se, there are too many similarities to be ignored. Enough of the neurochemical changes are the same that I think drugs and dieting operate in the same fashion. Recent research has found the brain changes in a person with anorexia to be the same as when a person uses Ecstasy.

This woman's brain changed, too, when she was starved. Binge eating is an essentially universal response to deprivation. And the cycle of binge eating and purging is ruthlessly addictive. When this young woman interviewed other celebrities and TV hosts, she found that she was not alone. Starvation diets were the norm.

You don't need to become a crack addict to better understand cocaine addiction. And you don't need to starve yourself to understand the Size Zero phenomenon OR eating disorders. We're much more highly evolved than that, and besides: dieting is dangerous.

Please note: I deliberately did not include the names of the newspaper articles or the documentary because I thought they were exploitative, triggering, and vile. So you're on your own for that one.

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1 comment:

Sarah said...

You know your audience. I was reading this post, thinking, but what is the name of the documentary?

I guess I need to do some thinking on that.

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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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