November 30, 2008

Cleanse-orexia, Marathon Dieting, Purge Eating? Do you have a Mild Eating Disorder??

Many of us, without even knowing it, suffer from some form of a mild eating disorder. Sure, there are the obvious ones that we know about; Binge/Purge, also known as Bulimia and then there is the devastating disease of Anorexia. But, there are many other forms of eating disorders, that you may have symptoms of, and are unaware that you may need help, or that you are harming yourself.

If you have a love/hate relationship with food, find yourself constantly going from one diet and/or cleanse to the next in hopes of finally losing and keeping off that last 10 pounds, or even “closet” binge eating, it’s possible that you may have an unhealthy emotional connection to food. Maybe it’s time to take a deeper look at yourself and the way you relate to food and eating.

Most of my life, I have had a love/hate relationship with food. It all began when I was in my early teens and I thought that no matter what I put in my mouth, I would become fat. A lot of times, I just wouldn’t eat, or would eat any “diet” type food that was on the market, thinking it was good for me, or would help to keep me thin. I even tried bulimia for a week, and knew intuitively at a young age that it was not healthy for me to overeat and then want to purge. I would exercise incessantly and had a distorted body image.

Even though I was always thin and athletic, my insecurities about becoming fat ruled my life. I thought I needed to have the perfect, fat free body that I saw lining the pages of every magazine. But, we all know that is not realistic. In a society where all we see are skinny models clad in tight clothes, how can we come to love and accept our bodies as they are? Only 1 percent of the population is a thin as the models we see being featured in everything from shoe, to perfume ads. Yet, I am grateful for these models in a way, because it started me on my road to vegetarianism and healthy eating. And, I realize in hindsight that I wasn’t always doing what was best for me, or my body, and it became a bit obsessive and unhealthy.

Most of us know that genetics play a huge role in our body shape and type. Many of us will never have or are genetically capable of having the skinny, bony body of a pre-pubescent model that is made to look like she is 25 years old. But with a healthy eating lifestyle and daily exercise, we can combat our genetics, and our bodies can change and become stronger, leaner and healthier, in turn, serving us until late in our life without illness and disease. This is the only body we have and why wouldn’t we treat it like the miracle it is? We abuse our bodies, and then wonder why we are tired, sick, rundown and low on energy.

If you find you have any of these following thoughts or symptoms, then it may be time for you to look deeper at your relationship with food and your body. Maybe even join a support group or seek out a therapist or friend who you can talk to.

• Incessant Dieting – going from one diet to the next instead of adopting a healthy, wholefood eating lifestyle. Dieting throws a wrench in our metabolism and our hormones become unbalanced, not knowing how to regulate themselves over time.
• Fear of Food – afraid that anything you put in your mouth will make you fat or is bad for you, even when you eat very healthfully. This could be a mild form of anorexia.
• Guilt Eating – feeling guilt about what you put in your mouth; that you don’t deserve to have a treat every once in a while
• Incessant Exercise – overeating and then exercising for hours on end with the hopes of burning off the food you ate.
• Mindless eating/snacking – eating mindlessly in front of the TV or your computer, even when you’re not hungry
• Overeating – not knowing when to stop, not listening to your body’s natural signals of fullness
• Closet eating – this is usually associated with a lot of guilt. People overeat eat late at night or when others aren’t around and then don’t understand why they can’t lose weight even when they are exercising.
• Incessant Fasting/Cleansing or “Cleanse-orexia” – going from one cleanse or fast to the next. This interrupts your body’s metabolism and can be a downfall in your efforts to lose weight and keep it off. It’s good to cleanse 2x per year, under the care of a nutritionist or physician, but no more.
• Skinny/Fat mentality – thinking you are fat when you aren’t! This is related to our societal model and a warped body image.
• Obsessive Calorie Counting – counting calories for everything you put in your mouth instead of making healthy food choices
• Daytime Starvation – starving yourself all day long by not eating or only drinking liquids, and then overeating at night.
• Emotional Eating – using food as a comfort when you are emotionally distressed

If you have any of the “symptoms” I have listed above, it may be time to start taking charge of your health. The longer you struggle with food & exercise, the worse off you will be in the long run. Make a commitment to yourself and your life by starting slow and taking baby steps. Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed. Seek out support groups in your area, or someone you can talk to that specializes in eating disorders. Talk to your closest friend or a spouse. Don’t let your pride stand in the way, this is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your life.

Here are some other suggestions that may be helpful to you, if you feel that you are ready to make these changes on your own without the support of others:
• Adopt the 80/20 rule: eat healthfully 80% of the time and allow yourself a 20% window to enjoy your favorite ice cream or cookie. Eating healthy is not about deprivation.
• Cut out one unhealthy food from your diet per week and add one healthy one in
• Read books on the subject
• Journal about your emotions when you eat
• Exercise at least 20 minutes a day
• Eat mindfully by slowing down when you chew and putting your fork down between each bite. Take deep breaths while chewing
• Upgrade your food choices by replacing white flour with whole grains, white sugar with natural, low-glycemic sugars such as Brown Rice Syrup or Agave Nectar
• Eat only at a table and not in front of the TV, computer or while reading a book
• Drink less liquids when eating

Remember, being and staying healthy takes dedication and commitment. Don’t let the comments of others deter you from taking charge of your health. Make the time to take these steps for yourself and you will be on the road to a healthier & happier life. You are worth it!!!

For more resources and information, please visit my web site or email me at

Melissa Costello

Author, Speaker, Culinary Plant-Based Nutrition & Health Empowerment Coach | Cleanse Expert

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