The difference between dieting and disorder

Since this past week marked the beginning of the Lenten season, many of us have either been thinking about or hearing a lot about people around us giving up certain pleasures of life as an act of self-discipline. For many people, their observation comes in the form of cutting out certain foods, avoiding staples ranging from brownies to bread. While hearing about people’s new 40-day diets, though, I cannot help but be a bit concerned that these individuals are still taking care of their bodies effectively.

For me, it all started from stress-induced stomach ulcers in high school. I was put on a strict diet and had to avoid eating all the good stuff that you and I love these days, like excessive sugar, coffee, greasy foods, dairy and, wait for it… CHOCOLATE (jaw drop**). Let me tell you, the first few weeks, it was tough and rice never tasted so bland in my life, but after I saw the effects it had on my body, I began to not mind so much. With my stomach to blame, eating nearly nothing became an easy habit to get into and a terrifying one to break. By avoiding so many foods that I felt were “not good for me,” I began to seriously lack nutrients that I needed to live regularly.

Now, the remainder of this story I will supply another day, but for now I just want it to serve as evidence that I understand first hand what it can be like to suddenly obsess over avoiding the consumption of foods that can generally be seen as bad for you. The point is, giving up specific foods for Lent or dieting is admirable, but being safe and healthy while doing so is where the real value lies.

According to the National Eating Disorder Association, nearly 10 million Americans have an eating disorder. Education, though, can be an excellent method of prevention. By understanding how your body works and the importance of even sugars and fats, you are less likely to diet in a way that hurts your body and more likely to effectively maintain healthier food habits. It isn’t about eating less; it is about eating smarter.

Everyone’s body needs a certain amount of energy in order to function correctly daily. So if you’ve decided to give up carbs or meat for Lent or if your new diet consists of drinking only juice, think about how your body will take in the nutrients it needs to work how it needs to. Finding alternative healthy calorie options to replace those that you have cut out is important. Even if you are trying to lose weight, your body still needs the energy, the nutrients and the vitamins only found in food.

Ok, so fear not. This story has a happy ending. I’m doing great, and if you were to be looking for me, you would probably find me at a buffet at this moment. Many people struggle with eating disorders still, though. If you are unsure about healthy diet methods, or even if you are really damaging your body through your Easter-season fasting, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor. The Marquette Employee Counseling Center has many resources for those suffering from eating disorders, as well. Also, if you or any loved ones show signs of an eating disorder, don’t be afraid to contact the National Eating Disorder helpline.

By raising awareness of healthy dieting habits, we can diminish the prevalence of these debilitating eating disorders.

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