Eating Disorders and Anxiety, Part Two
My first visit to Green Mountain at Fox Run (there have been 8 since) opened my eyes to a whole new perspective—an approach to weight loss and overall well-being that I had never previously considered. Are you ready for the big reveal? Here it is:
I know. It sounds ridiculous. How can you lose weight if you don’t diet? Actually, dieting sabotages weight loss. All diets are based on some form of caloric or food group restriction (Keto restricts carbs, Jenny Craig restricts calories, Fasting restricts everything, etc.) which announces to the brain YOU CAN’T HAVE THIS. Such a statement sets off a chain of processes guaranteed to wreak havoc on any diet. Psychologically speaking, whatever THIS is becomes the only thing we want. Which explains why cravings and food obsessions soon take over. And what does the body want when it is starving? Carbohydrates, which provide immediate energy. So, the longer we restrict, the more intense the cravings for exactly the foods we are trying to avoid.
The urge to eat is a biological imperative. Our bodies don’t know the difference between true famine and obsessive dieting. Both threaten survival! So, if the body perceives that it is starving, it will first slow down metabolic processes (which slows down/halts weight loss) in order to preserve energy in the face of fuel scarcity. Also, and this is important for Anxiety Sisters who are chronic dieters, the body releases stress hormones in response to perceived starvation which increases anxiety levels. Skipping even one meal can set off this response in some women!
When we give in to physiologically-driven urges to eat, two things tend to happen: (1) we overeat in order to store energy for future “famines” and (2) we feel like failures. Cue more anxiety and possibly some depression.
Another piece of bad news: the more often we diet or restrict our fuel intake, the better we train our adaptive bodies to hold onto weight in order to generate an energy surplus. Discipline or “willpower” are no match for the human body! Is it really surprising, then, that nearly 95% of dieters weigh more than when they started a diet five years after the diet ends? Would you take a medication that didn’t work 95% of the time?
But wait—there’s more: if our physiological forces weren’t enough of an obstacle, the United States boasts a sixty-billion-dollar weight loss industry, which profits every time we “fall off” a diet. Again, we are no match for those who prey on the overweight woman, shamed and stigmatized by our culture, wanting so desperately to be accepted. Societal scripts can be so insidious.
It takes a while to buy into the Green Mountain philosophy because, first, you must be de-programmed from the idea, so deeply ingrained in our culture, that thinner is always better and that fat is a sign of laziness, weakness and poor health. I was a chronic dieter for 30 years because of the barrage of messages I received (from the media, my family, my community, my doctors, my schools) since I was born that the worst thing I could ever be was fat. Mags had the same experience as did so many of my girlfriends. In fact, I once read the results of a US study revealing that a significant number of women surveyed would give up ten years of their lives in order to be thin. Really??? A decade????!!!!
So if you shouldn’t diet, how do you lose weight? Stay tuned for part three…