I want to scream every time I see this advertisement: “Get your body ready for bathing suit season”. This is a typical fitness & diet advertisement that plays over and over during the Summer months. Guess what? Your body is all ready for bathing suit season-no changes needed. Don’t believe me? Keep reading!
What is body image?
Body image is a mental image of what we think we look like. Body image is not necessarily how we look, but how we think we look. It is dynamic. That is, body image is dependent on the situation or your mood. For example, you may have a more positive body image if you are out enjoying yourself on a nice hike. In contrast, you may have a poorer body image if you are anxious in a new social situation. Your mood affects how you think about yourself.
Unfortunately, eating disorders in midlife are on the rise. Many eating disorders in adult women may go undiagnosed because of the mistaken belief that older women don’t develop eating disorders. It is true that adolescent girls are at a higher risk, but women of all ages are at risk for developing and maintaining an eating disorder.
Adult women usually present with eating disorders in the three following ways:
- An eating disorder was developed earlier in their life. That is, as an adolescent or young adult the individual developed her eating disorder, but never fully recovered. Adequate treatment, motivation to change, social & family support, etc. are all necessary for a full recovery.
- The second scenario is similar to the first, an eating disorder developed in adolescence or early adulthood and the individual fully recovered through treatment. But, then in midlife, a relapse took place either in response to environmental, social, psychological and/or physical stressors and the eating disorder returned.
- In this last scenario, which is the least common, is that the onset of the eating disorder first occurred in midlife. That is to say, the individual had no pre-existing eating disorder. The most common type of eating disorder that starts in mid-life is binge eating disorder (click here to learn more about binge eating disorder).
Accurate information & challenging misconceptions is an important first step in getting treatment for binge eating disorder. The phrase “binge eating” gets used a lot in the media & pop culture. I have gathered some common myths about binge eating disorder (BED) that I have seen over my 15 years of working with clients with eating disorders.
Myth: Overeating regularly at meal or snack time is considered binge eating.
We forget that food is necessary to survive. Food is not optional. Dieting makes us think we can go without carbohydrates, fats or other food groups. But, we just can’t. Food and eating are not about willpower, it is about biology.
Dieting leads to food preoccupation
The most basic function of our brain is to keep us alive. When our basic needs are not being met, our bodies experience stress. Our brain sends us alerts to get us what we need. Most diets aren’t sufficient in energy (calories) or macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein & fat). Therefore, our brains alert us that we need to eat.