Disordered Eating in Modern Times

Ad for 1950s dress patterns

I was watching a show on Netflix, Explained – every episode covers a different topic – about food (I think it might be Why Diets Fail from season 1). They stated that diet culture has followed disordered thoughts around eating closely. Check out this timeline:

  • 1950s – women were housewives who cooked, cleaned, and raised the children while the husbands worked. How did they get it all done, look perfect, have tiny waists, and have differ on the table when their men came home from work? Amphetamines! It was common to have doctors prescribing amphetamines to get women up and going all day, then barbiturates at night to go to sleep. Was this healthy? No way! But it was common.
  • 1960s-19070s – women were starting to work outside of the home and doctors had figured out that amphetamines were probably not a good idea on a daily basis. Women were still doing the majority of the housework and child-rearing. They were tired. Men continued to work outside of the home. Women’s waistlines started expanding. That’ll happen when you eat throughout the day because you’re not on speed. The diet industry started poking up saying “buy these control-top pantyhose” and “girdles help you look like like you used to” and the food industry said “fat is bad, fat makes you fat” and made a bunch of fat-free foods. When you take the fat from food, it tastes bad, so they added sugar to make it taste better. Now fat-free meant added sugar it was unhealthy.
  • 1980s – The food industry said “sugar-free is the way to go” and started producing artificial sugars. Our bodies don’t know how to process this and it was not more healthy. Diet culture pushed artificial sugars and stopped spotlighting fat-free foods, which still existed, and still exist, and started heavily discussing diets. The media focused on Africa being a continent of starving children with We Are the World and children being told to clean their plates because “there are starving children in Africa.”
  • Fast forward to now. Germany is credited with making videos about how the US is dealing with food insecurity. (In fact, the video was made by a US non-profit.) Diet culture is as strong as ever, and eating disorders are going strong as well.

So what do we do? Lean in – whatever you’re rocking, someone loves it and desires you just as you are. Whether you are fat or thin or somewhere in between, you are a perfectly good person living in a body that was assigned to you, just like everyone else. Yes, there’s such a thing as “too big causes problems with your health” such as extra weight putting pressure on your knees, hips, spine, and heart. But there is also such a thing as “too small causes problems with your health” and 80 pounds for an adult is not enough, causing problems with your heart, lungs, and circulatory system. There’s a lot of good grey area to be in. If you’d like to work on your thoughts around disordered thinking, I’m happy to see you for that. If you are actively engaging in an eating disorder, please seek local treatment at a center that specializes in teaching you to eat appropriately.

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Florida, Georgia, and Virginia. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter & Facebook.

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