Poor Body Image and Eating Disorders
Today we don’t know what “causes” eating disorders, but it is important to note:
What we do know is that there are many contributing factors to eating disorders and a typical set of personality traits. Though poor body image doesn’t “cause” eating disorders it is important to address the frequent relationship. For some people, having a poor body image causes distress and unhappiness but for others it can be the fertile ground for a life threatening eating disorder. We’re seeing differences in the brains now of those who experience this perfect storm. And the need to be perfect just may be a key…
What came first? The chicken or the egg?
While we know that often, low self-esteem can play a role, it doesn’t always. We know that, according to Cynthia Bulik, PhD, (Director, University of North Carolina Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders) ‘genes load the gun, environment pulls the trigger.’ And yet it is not often addressed that perhaps the desire for thinness drives dieting behaviors, which deprive the brain of nourishment. And this malnourished brain doesn’t perceive the body normally.
According to a recent interview with Dr. Bulik for a new documentary film called “BENEATH THE FLOORBOARDS” she shared with Robyn Hussa Farrell, Editor of The Real Deal blog and Founder of NORMAL, that individuals with a healthy sense of self find a balance between focusing on the confidence they feel from their abilities, their work, their hobbies, their personal relationships, their charity and outreach efforts and — a tiny portion — should be from their body image or body esteem. Here’s a clip from that footage:
I love this quote from Laura Collins’ blog in Healthy Place Mental Health Blogs from May 3, 2010: “We live in a society where body acceptance, and appreciation, is sadly rare. We have actually normalized dissatisfaction and judgmental attitude about our own bodies and of others’ bodies – even strangers and celebrities. People often attribute eating disorders to this toxic environment, but I disagree. I see this environment as fertile ground for eating disorders because it encourages people to eat and not eat in unhealthy ways that can trigger this brain problem.”
Until we have more answers it behooves us to do what we can to boost our own body image and that of our children.
Below are two resources I’ve found to boost self-esteem, body-image and self love:
1. Anne-Sophie Reinhardt’s new book on body image that came out of her body image and eating disorders struggles: The Ultimate Guide to A Healthy Body Image. Here is an excerpt from the blog interview I did with her on my blog:
What are people saying about how this book helped them?
Women and men (which surprised me at first) write to me all the time saying that this book helped them to overcome deep inner struggles and conflicts. The Ultimate Guide to a Healthy Body Image gives them ideas on how to bridge the gap between their self-perception and their often very vulnerable core. In the book, I take the reader through simple steps that provide instant relief in stress situations, as well as long-term solutions for a deeply distorted body image and self-perception. I get a lot of feedback saying that going through the book is fun, but also very healing. I don’t stay on the surface and instead encourage the reader to dig deep – and the readers appreciate that a lot.
2. Dr. Cynthia Bulik, UNC Author of, Woman in the Mirror: How to Stop Confusing What You Look Like With Who You Are. Cindy talks about Pressure to look young, thin, attractive. Pressure to not age, leads them down the path of unhealthy eating and diet behaviors. EDS have genetic and biologic component. Then we have emotional triggers: divorce, deaths, children leaving that can trigger eating disorders. You can hear her interview on CBS Morning show here.
Are you wondering where you fall on the spectrum of distorted body image and disordered eating vs. eating disordered? Here are some guidelines to clear up what IS an eating disorder from the Arizona State University Student page of their website:
Eating disorders are extreme expressions of food, weight, and appearance issues that:
- Arise from a combination of long-standing psychological, behavioral, interpersonal, socio-cultural, genetic, and biological factors.
- Involve using food, weight, and appearance preoccupation to cope with painful emotions and to feel more in control.
- Have a negative impact upon physical and psychological health, relationships, and over-all quality of life.
- Include anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and eating disorders not otherwise specified (exercise addiction, orthorexia nervosa, body dysmorphic disorder, muscle dysmorphia, dysfunctional eating, etc.)