Written by MEDA Graduate Clinical Interns, Molly Curcio & Rachael Trotta in response to the Boston Globe Article “After patients’ weight loss surgery, her work really begins” published on September 15, 2017
There are a number of factors that influence food choice and body size. The general public has a tendency to focus on the notion of “self-control” and dieting rather than underlying invisible influences. Those struggling with disordered eating are often stigmatized, shamed, and told they lack self-discipline. Too often, people think that weight loss is solely about “willpower”. This misconception ignores the fact that there are neurological pathways and responses that have significant unconscious power over our decision making regarding food and exercise. Additionally, all bodies react differently to the stimuli of nutrition and movement; we are literally not in control of how the body responds.
Beyond biology, there are emotional components that play a part in why people make certain food choices. There are a number of reasons that extend beyond hunger that influence a person’s choice; these can include feelings of loneliness, anger, sadness, guilt, boredom, and frustration. Eating can become a way to cope with distressing emotions, take care of oneself, and survive difficult situations. For many, there is no longer a trust in the body to regulate itself. Instead, external cues and rules regarding food cloud the innate ability to respond to biological prompting. To only address weight loss ignores the root of the behavior, the purpose it serves, and sets up a system that will likely fail and lead to a harmful restrict/binge cycle. It also ignores the simple truth of body diversity- not all bodies are meant to be thin.
Societal influences also play a role in an individual’s beliefs and behaviors around food.
On a daily basis the public is constantly bombarded with subliminal messages that reinforce unrealistic beauty standards. Simultaneously, industry conglomerates invest millions of dollars in media campaigns that promote illusions that eating certain products will cure any life stressor. These conflicting forces can create an environment in which it is difficult to intuitively eat rather than follow “food rules” that are ineffective and harmful.
Making assumptions based on appearances ignores the truth about an individual’s health–both physiological and psychological. It ignores the reality that there are many factors that influence each food choice and the body’s response. Perpetuating the misconceptions associated with disordered eating hinders the desire to seek treatment, as our society has conditioned the public to believe that particular external factors signify health. There is no quick fix or easy solution to address disordered eating. Moving forward, it is critical to establish a community of treatment providers and medical professionals who have sufficient knowledge on the multifaceted nature of disordered eating and the various treatment options available.
If you are struggling with your weight and suspect you may have a disordered relationship with food and/or exercise, do not hesitate to reach out to MEDA for help at 617-558-1881 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on our services, see our website here: www.medainc.org