Weight Loss Addiction

Signs of our national obsession with weight loss can be seen everywhere. It is certainly evident among young Hollywood – so many young actors (usually female) are photographed, skin just barely covering their bony frames. A popular weight-loss television commercial shows a woman complaining about “feeling like a fat pig wearing Size 10”. She is gleeful when she later reports she’s reached the ultimate goal “now I am a Size Zero’. When did “Zero” become a size, anyway?

Eating disorders are extremely serious conditions which cause physical and emotional damage. In extreme cases, eating disorders can lead to death. There are a number of different eating disorders; all of them are life-altering and pose a risk, to say the least. Anorexia and Bulimia are the most common eating disorders, by far.

Anorexia – Anorexics, often obsessed with not getting fat, starve themselves. An anorexic can never be thin enough, though by anyone else’s standards they are extremely underweight, even emaciated. Restricting calories, excessive exercise, diet pills and purging may all be play a role in anorexia.

Bulimia – This disorder revolves around a destructive cycle of bingeing and purging. The bulimic will engage in out-of-control binge eating and then purge themselves of the calories ingested. Bulimics are known to vomit (often many times each day), exercise, fast or abuse laxatives in order to avoid gaining weight.

Weight-loss addiction, like all addictions, is closely linked to emotions. People with eating disorders anesthetize themselves from sadness, loneliness, anger and other painful emotions by engaging in very risky behaviors. Overeating often provides temporary relief from these feelings too. Specialists in the field report restricting food is a way of gaining control. Purging is a way for the addict to fight feelings of self-loathing and helplessness. Also, like other addicts, people with eating disorders eventually become obsessed over food and weight to the exclusion of everything else in their lives.

Symptoms of Eating Disorders

  • Compulsive exercising
  • Obsessing over calories, carbohydrates, fat and food, in general
  • Continual dieting (even when appearing very thin)
  • Inexplicable weight loss – especially if achieved very quickly
  • Taking diet pills or laxatives
  • Escaping to the bathroom immediately after eating
  • Preoccupation with weight/body shape
  • Avoidance of any situation (social or otherwise) where food will be present

Even in the earliest stages of weight-loss addiction most people experience a completely distorted, negative image of their bodies. This leads to feelings of overall self-loathing. Left untreated, eating disorders may result in death due to starvation or to bone loss, reduced kidney function and other life-threatening illnesses. Because of the feelings of extreme self-hatred, weight-loss addicts are prone to episodes of deep depression that may result in suicide.

Fact or Fiction?

Eating disorders are only found among teenage girls and young woman
That’s fiction: While commonly found in teens and young woman, men and women of every age group can experience eating disorders

Only “skinny” people can have an eating disorder
That’s fiction: Weight-loss addicts come in every conceivable shape and size. A large number of people with eating disorders are average or overweight

Only shallow, vain people having eating disorders
That’s fiction also: Feelings of shame and powerlessness push people into eating disorders; vanity has nothing to do with it

What can be done about addiction to weight-loss?

Fortunately, eating disorders have been studied and are well understood by many medical and mental health professionals. Help is available in a number of forms: individual counseling, support groups and treatments centers have all proven successful in getting the person with an eating disorder on the road to recovery.