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SALT LAKE CITY — If you've spent any amount of time during your life dieting, you probably intuitively understand why the statistics say that around 90 percent of dieters will be unsuccessful in maintaining weight loss.
The dieting cycle is brutal: You get sucked into the latest plan, program or philosophy promising results, you restrict some food or food group, you feel deprived, you give up, you feel immense guilt and shame for "failing," you go hog-wild on food for a while, you eventually gain more weight back than when you started, and finally, at some point, you recommit to try another restrictive diet plan.
So, if you've dieted before, chances are your relationship with food is rocky as a result. In honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week this week, here are some ways to take action if you struggle with your relationship with food.
1. Overhaul your social media accounts
Don't be afraid to unfollow people on your social media accounts who spew dieting culture and negative rhetoric about their own bodies or others; be picky about who you subject yourself to. One of the greatest things about social media is that we are in control of what we are exposed to — so don't be afraid to tap "unfollow" on people who are bringing you down.
- Each decade has seen a rise in incidence of anorexia in young women 15 to 19 years old since 1930.
- The incidence of bulimia in 10 to 39-year-old women tripled between 1988 and 1993.
- Research dollars spent on Alzheimer’s Disease averaged $88 per affected individual in 2011. For Schizophrenia the amount was $81; for Autism, $44.
- Eating disorders received the lowest amount where the average amount of research dollars per affected individual was just $0.93.
- Over 1/2 of teenage girls and nearly 1/3 of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting and taking laxatives.
- 35 to 57% of adolescent girls engage in crash dieting, fasting, self-induced vomiting, diet pills or laxatives.
- Girls who diet frequently are 12 times as likely to binge as girls who don’t diet.
- 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20 to 25% progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders.
- One in five anorexia deaths is due to suicide.
2. Surround yourself with positive people and media
To piggyback on the last tip, expand your awareness generally of the media you are taking in daily. Find body-positive, non-dieting podcasts and blogs to help you see a different way.
It's so exhausting to be surrounded by friends and family constantly talking about hating their bodies and what diets they're on. You can't underestimate the importance of surrounding yourself with positivity, so feel free to set boundaries or even make some new friends if you need to.
3. Take an inventory of your self-talk
Spend some time paying attention to and getting curious about your thoughts. Notice how often in a day you are having self-deprecating thoughts. Make a conscious effort to speak kindly about yourself to yourself. Find elements of yourself that you're proud of and grateful for and remind yourself of all the things you're doing right.
Being kinder to yourself will have a huge impact on the way you take care of yourself in general and with food.
4. Separate fact from fiction
If you and food have struggled for years, you might want to invest in learning how to separate nutrition science fact from fiction. A lot of information is out there creating fear around food to sell you something.
Invest in individual counseling with a registered dietitian or take an introduction to nutrition course at your local junior college. Understanding how food really works in the body can be a powerful way to move forward with creating a healthier relationship with it.
5. Examine your intentions
There's a big difference in choosing foods based on what satisfies you and makes you feel good rather than choosing foods based on rigid rules that take over your life. Be curious about why you are making the food choices you're making. If your intentions feel restrictive and stressful, re-evaluate and reframe your intentions.
In an ideal world, eating is based on principles of moderation, balance, variety and satisfaction, not rigid rules.
More than 20 million women and over 10 million men will have some form of eating disorder during their lifetime, according to . Eating disorders also have the highest mortality rate of any mental disease. That’s part of the reason why Gov. Gary Herbert declared this week Eating Disorder Awareness Week in Utah.
This announcement is in support of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week as spearheaded by the National Eating Disorders Association. The goal of Gov. Herbert’s declaration is to increase awareness of the prevalence of eating disorders among Utahns and put life-saving resources into the hands of those in need.
“Eating disorders are a serious public health concern and should not be ignored,” said Gov. Herbert in a press release. “Many of our citizens suffer from these complex mental health conditions. I hope we will all use this opportunity to increase our knowledge of the harmful effects of eating disorders, as well as how to prevent them.”
For more resources and help, visit nationaleatingdisorders.org
6. Get screened to find out if you are at risk of developing an eating disorder
Take a few minutes to take a free online screening to see whether you are at risk of developing an eating disorder. And, if you are at risk or if you're sure you need some help, don't be afraid to reach out for professional help. A team of trained professionals in the field of eating disorders, including a physician, therapist and registered dietitian, can help you on your journey to recovery.
Having a healthy relationship with food is worth it. Peace with food and your body brings so many new opportunities and richness into your life. Don't waste any more time on diets and start healing your relationship with food today.