Posted by Rebecca Cooper
As we enter November's National Diabetes Awareness Month , a closer look at Sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup may help to explain America's rise in obesity, diabetes and the new focus on food addiction.
Ironically, when the government ordered cocaine removed from all Coca-Cola beverages no one would have guessed that an even more consequential substance would take its place. High Fructose Corn Syrup hit the markets in the 1950s as a wonder product. Cheaper than sugar cane while still packing all the intense sweetness we associate with confectionery delights, High Fructose Corn Syrup is now used to sweeten tons of candies, juices, colas, cookies, cakes, and creams and has even found its way into less palatable tempting items including bread, soups, and other pre-packaged foods.
Shadowing the same receptor pathways of other ingested addictive chemicals, including cocaine and opiates, High Fructose Corn Syrup alters the transmission of certain brain chemicals including endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, which, in turn, trigger the pleasure center of our brains, leaving us wanting more. It is important to note that with the incorporation of HFCS into food products have raised more than 1000% since 1970.
A 2007 study (Lenoir M, Serre F, Cantin L, Ahmed SH ), found that intense sweetness surpasses cocaine reward even in addicted and drug-sensitized individuals leading to increased aggression upon withdrawal and a disruption of the dopamine/acetylcholine reward balance in the brain. As the alterations on brain function brought on by HFCS produce many of these hallmarks of addiction - including intense craving, the inability to control or stop use, a pre-occupation with the substance, and withdrawal symptoms - the idea of dessert becomes elevated to a whole new level.
It's so hard today to promote the fact that sugar - and particularly high fructose corn syrup so overused in foods today - is an addictive substance, leaving one wanting more and more. Unfortunately, there are still many nutritionists, dietitians, and professionals who don't believe sugar can be addictive to SOME people. In all my years of work with eating disorder sufferers and emotional overeaters - as well as the new scientific studies - prove otherwise. It is just like alcohol. Some people have no problem having a few drinks, but others cannot stop after that first drink.
We are in the midst of an obesity crisis in this country and I'm convinced high fructose corn syrup is a major culprit. I've known this from working with disordered eating victims for decades and now with this new scientific back-up maybe we can educate the general public that for some sugar or HFCS can be the gateway drug to a life of obesity, diabetes, and/or addiction. Nothing less than the health of our nation is at stake.
If you a friend or loved one that needs treatment for an eating disorder, go to rebeccashouse.org or call 1.866.931.1666.
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October 10, 2012 | 12:58 pm
Posted by Rebecca Cooper
As we enter the beginning of October and many of our sons and daughters return to college campuses it made me think about the role peer pressure and being around the sorority culture plays a key role in influencing the way we think about our body image.
“A binge-purge party is a harmless way to enjoy some fattening foods without getting fat”, my patient told me. “At my sorority a few of us girls would buy all of the forbidden and fattening foods we have been denying ourselves. Then we would have a binge-purge party. It’s a way to have your cake and not get fat. Three of us meet in my room. It was like a secret society. We ate donuts, chips, pizza, ice cream, fast foods and fried foods then we purged the food.”
My patient did not know that even occasional episodes of binging and purging could lead to an eating disorder. Once in the cycle of bulimia nervosa it is hard to get out. She had come to see me because she was binging and purging between the parties. She could not get food out of her mind. She had recently she been hospitalized for dehydration.
Most first-year university students are typically away from their families and home for the first time. They have left their friends and primary support systems and are in search of finding a place to belong. One such place is to be part of a sorority. The pressure to fit in is extraordinary.
It is estimated that at least 20% of college aged-women would engage in bulimic behavior (Costin, 1996). But these numbers do not even begin to cover the multitude of individuals who do not meet diagnostic criteria, but are obsessed with poor body image, unhealthy and disordered eating habits.
There are few studies about the prevalence of eating disorders among females living in a sorority. Before we look at the results of these studies I would like to describe the factors of sorority life that would increase the likelihood of developing an eating disorder.
During rush week Jane was hoping to join a sorority. The initiation process left her with decreased self-esteem and an increase in body dissatisfaction. She explained the process. She was asked to strip down to her underwear. The other girls then examined her. They pointed out areas that needed to be improved by taking a felt tip marker and circling the areas on her body. Jane stood in front of the girls whom she did not even know in humiliation. They explained this was a way to help her be perfect.
Carissa had dieted the whole summer before going to university. She wanted to be as skinny as she could. She was unaware of a study that was done in 1950 that showed the results that semi-starvation (dieting) caused. In this study……………………
Brittney was the perfect student in high school. Her grades were excellent, she was president of the honor society, homecoming queen and very popular. Her perfectionism had taken her far. She soon found out that in high school she had been a big fish in a small pond. College life was a rude awakening. Here she was unknown and a very small fish in a big pond.
She longed to be popular and thought joining the sorority would make her popular. She was accepted into the sorority, but to her dismay she was not the most popular one or the prettiest. The grades did not come as easy as they did in high school and everywhere she looked she saw perfect thin women. That would be her ticket; she would become the skinniest one in the sorority.
The research of the prevalence of eating disorders suggests an increased risk of developing an eating disorder in a sorority setting. However there are many uncertain factors.
First, what are the criteria for finding a control sample? Second, eating disorder behavior is hard to evaluate because testing is based on self –reporting; and third, the diagnostic criteria of the DSM does not include the factors of disordered eating, yo-yo dieting, food addictions or other disordered relationships with food.
This group far out-weights the diagnosed group but causes as much internal conflict, unhappiness and unfulfilled lives as the diagnosable disorders. For this group their relationship with food, weigh, diet and body image has become an obsession and is controlling their lives.
If you a friend or loved one needs treatment for an eating disorder, go to rebeccashouse.org or call 1 (800) 711-2062
June 26, 2012 | 2:54 pm
Posted by Rebecca Cooper
When in history has a male ever been concerned about fitting into a pair of skinny jeans? Media has hyper-focused on the skinny male model. Today’s fashion is geared towards the emaciated male in a pair of skinny jeans. This male body image does not occur naturally unless someone is ill. We now have a whole culture of men trying to obtain an impossible body image.
There appears to be a rise in the number of males with eating disorders. According to NEDA, at least one million males have anorexia or bulimia in the United States. But these numbers are skewed due to the high prevalence of undiagnosed males with eating disorders.
Twenty years ago very few people even knew what an eating disorder was. Today the public awareness of eating disorders has allowed some men with anorexia to come forward. But most males will not seek treatment for eating disorders because of the shame, fewer male residential treatment centers, and the misperception that eating disorders only occurs in females or gay men.
How can you tell if someone has Anorexia Nervosa? A male with Anorexia Nervosa is less than 85% of normal body weight. He avoids eating, has poor body image, and may exercise obsessively. He is intensely concerned about losing flab or building muscle. He believes he is fat when others are telling him that he is too thin. It is important to note that he really does see himself as fat. It is caused by deficiencies in the brain brought on by starvation. Anorexia Nervosa actually takes away the ability to reason.
People with Anorexia usually also have a co-occurring disorder such as anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or/and depression. Males and females both suffer many of the same symptoms of Anorexia such as:
When a male with anorexia under eats, the brain dispenses feelings of euphoria that are actually part of the dying process. In this way food restriction is used as an anti-depressant or a way to “zone out.” He uses the obsessive thoughts of weight, diet, food (not eating), and body image as a way of pushing down feelings or past traumas. This is common for all types of eating disorders.
The highest number of males with eating disorders have binge eating disorder, compulsive overeating or obesity. These boys and men often do not get treatment until they have diabetes, heart attacks or other weight related diseases.
There are many causes of eating disorders. Genetics can make a person more predisposed to acquiring an eating disorder. This usually occurs in families who have eating disorders or other addictions.
The desire for control makes a male more vulnerable to the disease. This is often the result of feeling smothered or abandoned and misunderstood by their families. Many males report that they had parents who overemphasized physical appearances. In these families the individual learned to keep his feelings, doubts, fears, anxieties and imperfections hidden. There may be family issues that he tries to avoid by focusing on his disorder and his ability to control his food intake.
Having a perfectionistic personality type can be a factor in the development of anorexia. Most males with anorexia are above average students and may have excelled at sports. Some say perfectionism is the leading cause of male anorexia. Perfectionism leads to the desire to be good, accepted, perfect and in control – all of which are prerequisites of anorexia.
Male Anorexia is lethal. When the body is not fed it will take fat from the muscles and organs to sustain life. Males generally have less fat than females so there is the added complication of losing muscle mass. The heart is an important muscle that will be affected. That and the potassium and electrolyte imbalances is the underlying cause for more heart attacks then are reported. This makes male anorexia far more dangerous than most cases of female anorexia.
With the rise in male eating disorders and associated risks it is imperative that men with eating disorders seek help! If you or a loved one needs more information Rebecca’s House Eating Disorder Treatment Programs offers free eating disorder assessments and information, call 800-711-2062.
Rebecca Cooper is a California licensed therapist, Certified Eating Disorder Specialist, and the author of Diets Don’t Work®. www.DietsDontWork.org. She the founder of Rebecca’s House Eating Disorders Treatment Program™. www.Rebeccashouse.org. 800-711-2062.
November 7, 2011 | 11:27 am
Posted by Rebecca Cooper
Eating disorder recovery is not like alcohol and drug recovery. When you’re recovering from an eating disorder you usually experience more of a stair step approach or zigzag instead of a straight-line recovery. When you hit something that’s very impactful it may cause you to engage in your disorder. This is your red flag that something is wrong. It can be a great learning tool. You can discover triggers and what alternative tools you can use instead of using the eating disorder. You can examine what was happening, what you in a thinking and feeling, and what was going on just before you engaged in the eating disorder behavior. You can determine the feeling you may need help with or discover that the feeling may stem from past core issues that you are now ready to deal with. If you are in treatment you can get help at this point and get right back into your recovery even stronger.
You may never know what the exact date that you experienced the freedom of full recovery happened. But as you look back you will see that there was a time when the obsessive thoughts of food, weight, diet and body image went away. You will experience life in a whole new way. You will be at peace in your body. You will know when you are hungry and when you are full. You will have relationships with people instead of the eating disorder. You will be connected to you! You will know what you are feeling and take care of yourself like you would will with anyone else that you loved and cherished. You will know your values and beliefs and be able to use this as your compass. You will know your meaning and purpose in life and be able to live life to the fullest. This is full recover.
This wraps up the three-part series about freedom from eating disorders. Stay tuned for a article on eating mindfully during the stressful holiday season!
October 20, 2011 | 10:11 am
Posted by Rebecca Cooper
Early recovery is difficult. When we stopped the eating disorder, feelings start to surface. Many times you do not even know what the feeling is. So one of the first new skills in recovery is to be able to identify your feelings. You cannot take care of yourself if you don’t even know what you are feeling. What makes this even more difficult is that the feelings you have been suppressing with the eating disorder now start to surface.
The next new coping skills you need in early recovery is how to deal with the stress and anxiety of everyday living. You need to be comfortable around other people and implement new ways of taking care of yourself. It can be hard not having your usual coping mechanism and feeling so raw. You need to be able to identify your stressors and deal with them in a healthy manner.
One of the most important new skill is in eating disorder recovery is learning to identify your negative self-talk. Again, some people are not even aware of the messages they are telling themselves. This can be one reason why you are using the eating disorder to just stop that negativity going on in your head. If the negative self-talk is not addressed to it can lead you back into the eating disorder.
Some of the people I deal with have long-term recovery from other disorders but still have not been able to recover from disordered eating and eating disorders. It’s just like any other disorder, when you first start recovery it feels like you had never experienced anything of the situations you are now faced with. Most people report doing everything from the point of recovery is different. It feels like you’ve never done it before.
You are still struggling with keeping the eating disorder, thoughts and behaviors at bay. But you need to perform your duties with no coping skills for the anxiety and situations that arise. It takes a lot of courage to push through each one of these barriers to keep progressing towards recovery. I usually recommend a “get well” job. This allows you to practice your coping skills in a work environment with less pressure. At Rebecca’s House we have always stressed the need for “real” world experience while in treatment.
Please stay tuned for my final installment of this article next week!
October 12, 2011 | 12:28 pm
Posted by Rebecca Cooper
It is hard to explain to someone who has never had an eating disorder the freedom it is to be out of one. Everyone in recovery will tell you that it’s not necessarily all the behaviors that accompany the eating disorders but it is the obsessive, continual chatter that is in your head about food, weight, diet, and body image. Even the person that is restricting, dieting or suffering from Anorexia, has the same internal negative dialogue.
It is the first thing you think of in the morning and the last thing you think of at night. When you get up in the morning you think today will be different. Today I am not going to engage in my eating disorder, but after a while it seems like you just can’t hold on any longer and you are compelled to get the food, eat it, and get rid of it or watch the extra pounds pile on. Again the behaviors may be different but the underlying symptoms are the same. The disordered eating and thinking becomes a vicious cycle that is impossible to break out of on your own.
Many people start the disordered eating when we were around 13 to 15 years old. It usually begins with a diet or restricting food. At this time in your life you do not have the coping skills necessary to address the many stressors in your life. So you use the one coping skill that you know will give you a few seconds of relief of not feeling, the eating disorders. You spend our younger years using the eating disorder to cope with hard situations in your live rather than learning new healthy skills and implementing them. As time passes, the only coping skills you have is the eating disorder.
Please stay tuned for part two of this article next week on this three part series about eating disorder recovery.
September 26, 2011 | 10:51 am
Posted by Rebecca Cooper
Some of us are so disconnected from our appetite, our Self, and feelings that we are getting caught up in mindless habitual eating or yo-yo dieting. Some of us don’t know when we are hungry or full. We may confuse an emotion or feeling with being hungry. We may use food to comfort ourselves or as a way of relieving stress. We may feel hungry when we are actually bored or lonely. We zone-out on food or compulsive thoughts about food, weight or body image. We push all this down with a mountain of food. We don’t pay attention to our appetite.
We don’t access that internal control—our appetite. We just want to eat. It’s not about physical hunger. Food becomes our best friend, our companion, and our comfort. We reach for food to fill that empty hole that food cannot touch.
We have to learn to identify the feeling, thought or trigger behind the reaching for food. Many of us mistake hunger for many other feelings. We can not fix something we are not aware of. If we do not know what we are feeling, we can not take appropriate action to deal with that feeling. Food does not work for emotional reasons.
For example, a lot of eating is triggered by stress. Food does not fix stress. A few quiet moments to relax, meditation, connecting with a higher power or observing nature are tools that can help. Food has become a substitute for dealing with the stress in our life, but it creates more problems, health and self-esteem issues, and more stress. In the upcoming blog posts I will talk about some tips on coping with stress and to free your mind for healthy mind and body!
August 31, 2011 | 10:23 am
Posted by Rebecca Cooper
The Destructive Culture of Dieting
Weight problems and food addictions have become a national epidemic. At any given time, twenty five million Americans are seriously dieting. Only 1 out of every 200 dieters lose their weight and keep it off for a year or more. Although there are more diet programs and weight loss products than any other time in history, recent studies show that roughly sixty percent of adult Americans are overweight and one third are obese. America’s obsession and preoccupation with food and body image is often a precursor to the development of an eating disorder. Statistics show that thirty-five percent of normal dieters progress into an eating disorder. Approximately eight million people in America have an eating disorder and eighty-six percent started by age twenty.
When you diet, you set yourself up to overeat because you subconsciously rebel over restricting your food. You are discounting your appetite, your internal guidance system. You no longer eat when you are hungry or stop when you are full. You let the external source, the diet, determine when, what, and how much to eat. You may no longer know what it feels like to be hungry or full.
Due to the food restrictions of the diet, your metabolism slows down. Your body thinks it is experiencing a famine; it is in starvation alert mode and is trying to store every calorie. Then you “slip” or eat normally. Your body then stores as much fat as it can because it thinks there may be another famine just around the corner. The result is that you gain weight with a vengeance, faster than before dieting.