Dieting and Eating Disorders

Hardly a week goes by when I don’t hear stories about young people, typically preteen girls to those in their early twenties, who are struggling with eating disorders. Some of those young people lose their lives to those battles. For those who survive, the journey through the landmine of disordered eating habits can last years, often decades, until they or someone helps them realize:

It’s not about food

They are hungry for something unfeedable; that is,

What they are really hungry for is to be loved, heard, recognized and acknowledged

My personal issues with disordered eating started when I was in my early teens. Memories from  the more than a decade of my challenges with food, body image, denial, anger, and shame are visceral, but they also led me to where I am today: helping other women remember, reconnect, and reclaim their birthright—their Divine Feminine selves, regardless of their dress size, weight, bra size, or whatever else society decides they should be a basis for judgment.

I talk with women every day about their relationship with food and their bodies, emotional eating, feeding what they are truly hungry for, and connecting with the Divine Feminine that dwells within them. We consistently focus on positive self-image, self-confidence, self-love, feminine power, and honoring the body as a sacred temple. We explore ways to move into their power with dance, embracing all of their senses, practicing gratitude, getting in synch with Nature’s cycles, and reaching out to their sisters.

These are some of the tools we need to achieve a healthy, balanced, spiritually and emotionally fulfilling life.

Young women who are introduced to these concepts in early years can come to appreciate their divine nature as adults, and what a blessing that would be!

So I am deeply distressed when I hear and read about programs for young girls (and boys) that focus on dieting and weight loss. Yes, I am aware of statistics showing that nearly 20% of school-age kids are overweight or obese. I also know that the excess weight is associated with serious health problems, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

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Yet I also believe that the way to address any concerns about weight-related health issues in children and teens is with love, nutritional education, and spiritual guidance that empower them and help them come to realize their unique divinity, their “okayness,” their inner strength and power, and that they should not judge themselves by their weight or the size of their clothing.  

Tools young people do not need are shaming situations like being sent to fat camps, hearing their parents criticize their weight, and free memberships for teens at Weight Watchers. Kids who have been sent to fat camps are often traumatized for years after the event, while research has shown that parents who berate their overweight children (and often with good intentions in mind) can predicate unhealthy eating habits such as binging or starving and inadvertently reinforce negative views on weight, even for kids who are not overweight.

Weight Watchers recently announced it is offering free memberships for teens this summer. This announcement horrified me. Children as young as 10 can be enrolled and will be subjected to indoctrination into a dieting and weight goal mentality that could seriously damage them for the rest of their lives.

It’s well known that dieting is a stepping stone to disordered eating. I am hopeful that the uproar from the public, eating disorder experts, healthcare providers, and others surrounding this marketing ploy by Weight Watchers will make them rescind this offer.

Our young people need to honor and cherish their body and inner sacredness and not be governed by numbers on a scale or an industry bent on profits and impressive ratings.

With love,

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