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Over 45 Years of Eating Disorder Specialty Practice
 

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"Eating disorders are on the rise in Jewish communities" on WBEZ 91.5
 
 
Are You Overweight?
By Abigail Natenshon, MA, LCSW, GCFP
As appeared in Eating Disorder Sourcebook: Health Reference Series 2011



Are you overweight?

This is a tough question. Sometimes people believe that if they do not look as thin as Heather Locklear or Kate Moss they must be overweight. This is certainly not the case; only a very small percentage of people are born with an ectomorph body type that would allow them to look this thin and still be healthy. Misconceptions about being overweight abound; people assume that overweight people do not care about their appearance, that they are lazy, undisciplined and irresponsible about themselves and their appearance. Some believe that if they do weigh more than they should or they want to, then that makes them physically unfit, unattractive, and unacceptable to their peers. Few people understand that obesity is a factor that is largely determined by natural factors such as genetics, and the maternal environment provided the fetus while in utero. Nor are various forms of weight measurements such as Body Mass Index (BMI) accurate indicators of overweight in children and teens because healthy weight ranges change with each month of age for each sex, and because healthy weight ranges change as height increases.


Clearly, the most destructive of all misconceptions about being overweight is that dieting is the best, and only way to lose weight.  In fact, the opposite is true.  In fact, studies show that

  • Dieting is the worst way to lose weight.
  • Young people who restrict food or diet early in life have a much greater chance of becoming obese adults.
  • 95% of dieters gain back all of their weight, and more, within five years.
  • Dieters lose weight in muscle tissue and gain it back in fat.

Here are some facts that you need to know:

  • Certain people who are large in size or who might appear to be overweight are not unhealthy. Some people are born with naturally larger bones and an endomorph body type, which is rounder and softer and gains weight more easily. Size and shape acceptance becomes critical in such instances.
  • Aside from genetic factors, people may become the size and shape they are because of the nature and quality of their eating and exercise lifestyle. People who eat well and exercise regularly have the capacity to remain physically fit, strong and healthy, despite their genetically determined body type and shape.
  • It is only when a person is overweight as a result of eating too much of the wrong kinds of foods in erratic eating patterns, and/or from a lack of exercise, that overweight can become a health hazard. Be aware that when mesomorph body types become overweight, they may look like endomorph body types.

 

Do you have a healthy relationship with food?

The important question to ask yourself is not whether you are too fat. It is whether or not you have a healthy “relationship” with food.

  • Do you envision food as fuel and as nourishment, as tasting good and being an enjoyable and regular part of your life?
  • Do you see food as a life-giving substance that allows your brain to function optimally, and your muscles and bones to grow healthfully?
  • Do you see eating as pleasurable and satisfying and at the center of sociability with family and friends?

Hopefully, you were able these questions affirmatively. If not, why not?  Does food and eating frighten and worry you? Are you preoccupied with counting calories and feeling concerned that every bite you put in your mouth will appear on your body, that food is fattening, and in some ways, feels to you like an enemy? If so, you may be experiencing the early signs of a clinical eating disorder or at the very least, disordered eating and you may want to seek some help.

If you believe that you are overweight and are aware that you do not eat regular, healthy meals;  if instead of eating nutritious foods to sustain your growing body, you turn to easily accessible “junk” foods;(foods without nutritional value) and if you would like to lose weight in order to become more physically fit and to look better, it is important for you to begin thinking about eating differently, not less. Does this come as a surprise to you?

 

What does it mean to become a healthy eater? Healthy eating is the ability to eat regularly, freely and pleasurably without fear of becoming overweight. Did you know that when you eat regular meals, you enhance the functioning of your body’s metabolism and insure that once your body reaches its set point weight, it’s “happy weight,” or the weight it needs and wants to be in order to function at its best, you will stop gaining weight naturally, without trying? Did you know that healthy eating in the form of nutritious, balanced and varied meals also offers the best way to lose weight in a healthy way, and for the long term, should that ever become a necessity.

 

How should you eat to allow your body to reach its set point weight?

  • Always eat three square meals a day. If you skip meals, you will damage the function of your metabolism and will no longer be able to burn fat effectively.
  • Never substitute a protein bar for a meal.
  • Be sure to eat protein, carbohydrates and fat at each meal. Protein makes your mind alert and gives you a feeling of being full. Carbohydrates give you energy, and fat makes you feel satisfied, contributes to your neurological and reproductive development, and carries vitamins throughout your body.  
  • Recognize that eating fat doesn’t make you fat.
  • If you decide to limit your fat intake, consider limiting the saturated fats only.
  • Never miss breakfast. People who eat less in the early part of the day eat 40% more during the latter part of the day.
  • Limit the amount of soda pop that you drink. Drink water instead. It is better for you. Beware of diet drinks that are loaded with chemicals that make you feel hungry for sugar.
  • When you snack, treat your body to something that will help you to grow up and to grow strong. Cheese and crackers, peanut butter on bread, yogurt and fruit are all great alternatives to cookies and cakes.
  • Remember that cookies and cakes aren’t bad ……as long as you eat them in moderation! Remember, there are no bad foods. Excess is bad; food is not.
  • The more a person deprives himself of a certain kind of food, the more apt (s)he is to binge and gorge on that food when (s)he succumbs. A healthy eater is a person who can eat all kinds of foods, in moderation, and without fear.
  • Make sure you get regular exercise. Walk to school when you can, take the dog out for a walk, enjoy and rake leaves in the fall, play in and shovel snow in the winter, plant and enjoy the flowers in the spring.

 


First things first

In your effort to learn to eat differently, it is essential first to become aware of your eating habits and exercise lifestyle. Then, decide if you would like to make some changes and if so, what changes. If you are a child or young adult at home, you need to communicate with your parents so they can learn to effectively support you. Consider the following:

  • Make a journal of what you eat during every day. You will begin to learn a great deal about yourself, your eating habits, and what you might like to change.
  • Do not eat anywhere other than the kitchen or dining room table, sitting down, with a plate in front of you.
  • Don’t eat in front of the television. The less television watching you do, the more exercise you are likely to get.
  • Ask your parents to fill the house with “nutritionally dense” foods, or foods that are good for you. Offer to go food shopping with them so you can show them what you like to eat. They can help you find the most healthful foods for you.
  • Cook meals with your parents. It’s great fun and a wonderful skill to have.
  • Be sure to include your parents in your hopes, plans and efforts. They will want to know how they can help and support you.
  • Always eat moderately and wisely and you will find you will be able to eat fearlessly and to trust your body to be healthy and not get fat.

Food should be enjoyed. It is one of the greatest gifts we as humans have. Your relationship with food is something that is clearly within your power to change if you are not happy with it at the moment. Learning to eat healthfully will improve how you feel about each day, as well as how you feel about yourself.

Eating healthfully is the route to living healthfully, and living healthfully is the prerequisite to becoming the adult that you would like to be one day.


 

 
       
 
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