Counselling for eating disorders: habitual dieting – dieting gone wrong
Issues of weight, obesity and body image surround us and dieting is a common feature of our society.
Habitual dieting results from constant attempts to diet when those diets are not properly monitored or carefully planned. Habitual dieting often results in a “yo yo” effect where your body weight goes up and down.
Habitual dieters may be at risk of developing an unhealthy association with food or an eating disorder.
The obesity epidemic is oft cited in the media and is an appropriate and necessary focus of current Australian public health care policy. So it is no wonder that dieting is such a common phenomena in our society. There is no doubt that carefully planned and monitored dieting, preferably with the assistance of a qualified dietician or psychologist, can result in healthy and necessary weight loss. However, an over-emphasis on dieting or inappropriate or unhealthy approaches to dieting can put you at risk of developing an eating disorder.
What is habitual dieting?
Habitual dieting is the result of constant and chronic dieting habits. Often these habits develop because our dieting is not carefully planned or monitored – you might lose weight initially, but you soon find it difficult to maintain the weight loss. This can cause a “yo-yo” effect, where your weight increases post-diet, decreases again as a result of some new dieting regime, and increases yet again over time.
Why do we diet in the first place?
For many of us, we begin a diet because we are overweight or dissatisfied with our body image. Our sense of desired body image tends to be formed and reinforced by fashion, popular culture and the models and film stars who appear in magazines – a body image which is generally unrealistic and mostly unattainable for the large bulk of the community.
Yet still, the desire to be thin persists.
Unfortunately, and more and more frequently, this desire begins at a young age. Indeed it is not uncommon nowadays to find both young girls and boys who are in their pre-adolescent years worried about their weight and interested in dieting.
Of course, the pressure to meet an unrealistic ideal body is not limited to our children. Many of us are constantly aware that we do not look like what is considered the social ideal to be “healthy and fit” and as a result, we may find ourselves regularly and habitually dieting as a result.
What are the risks of habitual dieting?
Habitual dieting can indicate, reinforce or create an unhealthy association with food – which might herald the beginnings of an eating disorder. Eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia can result from restrictive eating habits and fear of food.
Anorexia is an eating disorder that often starts out a simple diet. As the diet continues, more and more foods are restricted to the point of unhealthy thinness and, in extreme cases, malnutrition. The person who is dieting may look in the mirror and see an unusually overweight person, but their distorted body image does not reflect how thin they actually have become.
Bulimia is an eating disorder categorised by excessive binge eating, followed by intense feelings of guilt and panic and the use of extreme methods to purge and eliminate the food from the body. These efforts often include self induced vomiting, use of laxatives and excessive exercising.
In addition, the “yo yo” effect caused by habitual dieting can also cause strain on your physical health.
Where do I go for help for habitual dieting?
If you are concerned about your eating habits and you feel at risk of developing an unhealthy relationship to food, you might consider talking your problems through with a qualified counsellor or psychologist. They can help you evaluate your concerns and determine whether you need further psychological support or if you might benefit from the advice of a qualified dietician. Contact Associated Counselors & Psychologists Sydney today for more information.
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