Counting calories, cutting out carbs, fasting for days - so many people spend their lives obsessing over what they can and cannot eat. People set themselves goals "No bread/wine/chocolate/insert other delicious treat here." They become consumed by these self imposed rules.
Sometimes people believe they will be happy if they can just achieve the "perfect" body size. They convince themselves that if they lose a stone or drop a dress size then their lives will be complete. They believe they will be happier and more successful. Their entire existence becomes bound up in their weight loss goal.
I used to teach a program called "Health 4U" in schools to 3rd year girls. In one lesson we focused on fad diets. As part of this lesson we watched part of Louise Redknapp's documentary "The truth about Size Zero" and the horrific time she had while significantly restricting her calories for a month. It was extremely alarming that many of the 15 year old girls in the class had been on similar diets and were fixated on being a certain (often unachievable) size.
Unfortunately, diets can go awry and turn into obsession. More often than we realise, they develop into eating disorders. The line between diet and disorder can be a fine one. I have encountered both sides of the line through my experience in psychology in elite sport. Some sports require that participants are a certain weight to compete. This can result in strict diets and compulsive exercise. Although such target weights are legitimate aims, the fixation and obsession required to achieve them can cause emotional and psychological turmoil. The cause and circumstances for each individual suffering from disordered eating are different. I have shared below a particularly powerful and personal account of a very brave anorexia nervosa survivor to round off this blog.
Tracy Donachie, MSc in Performance Psychology.