Signs of an eating disorder need to be evaluated regardless of age

Eating Disorder in Midlife Often Overlooked

SIGNS OF AN EATING DISORDER NEED TO BE EVALUATED REGARDLESS OF AGE

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, so the post has been reproduced here.

The recent sudden death of a 65 year old woman I know made me wonder if she wasn’t one of those women who struggled with an undetected eating disorder in the final two decades of her life. She had become “painfully thin” and looked so frail I couldn’t imagine how she stood up on her own. When I saw her at social gatherings, she never had a plate of food. And although she had some medical problems, her death came as a shock to everyone who knew her.

There’s plenty of evidence to show women do not stop caring about their weight as they age. How they deal with it separates the perpetual dieters from those with anorexia, bulimia or other disordered eating. Unfortunately, the societal pressures on women to be thin have become so persistent that women over 40 are just as likely to have eating disorders as those under 40.

The appearance of an eating disorder in an older woman is often the resurfacing of a problem that started in her youth. Anyone who learned at a young age to cope with stress by controlling her appetite is susceptible to resuming those coping mechanisms when life gets difficult. For women over 40, the trigger may be a trauma, such as the end of a marriage, loss of a loved one, or onset of menopause.

But even a woman who never dieted in her 20s can resort to unhealthy food restriction in her 50s when she realizes her tummy is not flat as it used to be. A study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders in June 2012 found 62% of women age 50 and older said their weight negatively impacted their lives.

The danger for older women is that they are not as readily diagnosed as young girls. Changes in the eating habits of a teenager are noticed by her parents, as is a sudden drop in weight or the absence of menstruation. Since weight loss and a diminished appetite are common side effects of many illnesses and medications, they are not as surprising when seen in an older woman.

Yet the health risks of eating disorders are just as great for older women as young. The heart muscle is weakened, cognitive function declines and bone loss accelerates. If left untreated it can lead to organ failure and death. The goal is to get treated before these problems begin.

Signs of Possible Eating Disorder

  • Excessive concern with dieting and losing weight
  • Dissatisfaction with body weight, shape, size
  • Weighing oneself more than once a day
  • Denial of hunger
  • Excessive or compulsive exercise
  • Self-induced vomiting after eating
  • Binge-eating followed by guilt, shame, regret
  • Use of laxatives, diuretics or diet pills without medical supervision

Even though eating disorders look like food issues on the outside, they are rooted in unresolved psychological issues. The American Journal of Psychiatry reports almost 50% of people with eating disorders meet the criteria for depression. Focusing on how much you weigh can be much easier than dealing with low self-esteem or feelings of worthlessness.

It is important to remember that the behavior of someone with an eating disorder is an expression of their pain. They do not need to be told to eat more or exercise less. What they need is recognition of their pain, and an offer of help to get some relief.

Do you recognize the signs of an eating disorder in anyone you know?

two women and a man working in a community garden

Health Benefits of Starting a Garden

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.

OUTDOOR GARDENING OFFERS MANY BENEFITS BESIDES FRESH GARDEN VEGETABLES

Don’t you love it when something you’ve always believed to be true is actually proven by research? I’m one of those people who believes outdoor gardening is good for the mind, body, and soul. Now a growing body of evidence supports this notion, too.

I’m not just talking about planting garden vegetables so you can reap all of the nutritional benefits that go with them. Studies show starting a garden is good for you no matter what you grow, or where.

Gardening and Weight Control

The latest study to support my theory was published this month in the American Journal of Public Health. Researchers from the University of Utah found people who tended community gardens weighed less than their neighbors, siblings and spouses who didn’t.

Community gardens have already been shown to provide social benefits to those who till them and nutritional benefits to all who eat the harvest. This study confirms that those who get their hands dirty also have lower body mass indexes (BMI) and lower odds of being overweight or obese.

The study only looked at a small community in Utah, so cannot be interpreted to be true for the population at large, but I think we can expect to see similar results when a larger study is conducted.

Another thing the study does not answer is whether lower weight people are drawn to gardening, or whether gardening makes them lighter? What do you think?

Gardening and Mental Health

A study just published in Psychological Sciences, the journal of the Association for Psychological Sciences, made a strong case for the benefits of gardens, even if you don’t til them. It found people who live near parks, gardens or other green space report a greater sense of well-being than city dwellers who don’t get to see much outdoor greenery.

The researchers analyzed data collected from households in the United Kingdom and found individuals who lived in greener areas reported less mental distress and higher satisfaction with life. This more positive outlook held up even across differences in income, employment, marital status, physical health and housing type.

This study did not prove that moving to a greener neighborhood will make you happier, but does support findings from other research that shows short bouts of time in green space can improve mood and cognitive functioning.

Since April is National Garden Month, I can’t think of a better time to get outside and do some gardening. Whether you plant vegetables, flowers, herbs, shrubs, trees or grass, starting garden is good for your health!

Psychological Benefits of Gardening

  • Nurture your natural instincts
  • Cultivate your sense of patience
  • Explore your creativity
  • Relieve your stress
  • Lessen your anxiety
  • Improve your mood

Physical Benefits of Gardening

  • Eat more fresh produce!
  • Strengthen your muscles
  • Burn some calories
  • Breathe in fresh air
  • Make vitamin D from sunshine
  • Sleep more soundly

What’s growing in your garden?

Switching to diet drinks is not enough to produce weight loss

Aspartame: Weight Loss Friend or Foe?

This blog was written as a guest post for Yahoo!Shine. You can read the original post here.

In the wake of today’s growing obesity epidemic, beverages made with low-and no-calorie sweeteners are a valuable tool. They help people to enjoy sweet tasting foods and beverages without too many calories and help manage weight. Since obesity is caused, in part, by excess calories, using these sweeteners just makes sense. Unfortunately, not everyone advocates for their use.

Despite all evidence in favor of sugar substitutes, there have been repeated challenges regarding their safety, which leave many people wondering if they’re a healthy option. Recent coverage of an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) study prematurely portrayed aspartame as harmful, and is a perfect example of media raising unnecessary alarm. As a registered dietitian and specialist in weight management, I’d like to lay these concerns to rest.

First, the facts: Aspartame was approved for use as a table-top sweetener by the Food and Drug Administration more than three decades ago. It then received approval for use in carbonated beverages and other food categories. It has also been approved as a food ingredient by regulatory agencies in more than 100 other countries and used by millions of people living with diabetes or simply trying to control their weight.

The recent AJCN aspartame study tried to link the sweetener to cancer, but like so many other studies, failed to find a connection. After promoting the study, the researchers retracted their findings and noted the results were so inconsistent they may have simply been due to chance. That is not what the media initially reported, however, causing alarm and confusion for many.

This time the reaction to the misinformation was swift. In less than 24 hours, Harvard and the Brigham and Woman’s Hospital, where the study was conducted, apologized for promoting this flawed research. Other scientists also took a stand, such as Dr. Steven Nissen at the Cleveland Clinic, who asserted, “Promoting a study that its own authors agree is not definite, not conclusive and not useful for the public is not in the best interests of public health.”

After 30 years of widespread use, we know that aspartame is safe. It is one of the most thoroughly investigated ingredients in the world with more than 200 scientific studies conducted in both laboratory animals and in humans confirming its safety. It’s time to focus our attention on how low calorie sweeteners can help people control their weight instead of repeatedly raising fear about their use.

The best way to protect your health and maintain a healthy weight is the same now as it ever was – eat a balanced diet and get regular exercise. And if you’re doing that, then there’s no reason not to enjoy a beverage with sugar substitutes, too.

Robyn Flipse is a registered dietitian and cultural anthropologist who consults for food and beverage companies, including Coca-Cola, McNeil Nutritionals, and General Mills.

Control unwanted calories when eating out to control weight

Calorie Control Means Weight Control When Eating Out

USE THESE 10 TIPS TO KEEP UNWANTED CALORIES OUT OF YOUR DIET WHEN EATING OUT

Eating out is no longer just for special occasions. For many, eating in restaurants is a means to survival. But with it come all those extra calories from larger portions, hidden ingredients and menu temptations that can wreak havoc on any diet.

If you are trying to control your weight, you’ve got to control those extra calories when eating out. This doesn’t mean you should only order broiled fish and undressed salad. To control unwanted calories you’ve got to control the situation.

Here are 10 Tips for Calorie Control When Eating Out that put you in charge.

  1. Choose wisely when deciding where to eat so you know in advance what’s on the menu.
  2. Decide what you want to eat before looking at the menu to avoid being distracted by tempting choices.
  3. Don’t arrive famished, it’s much harder to resist temptation.
  4. Refuse the complementary bread, tortillas or fried noodles if offered.
  5. Don’t be shy. Ask how things are prepared and request what you want – you’re paying the bill.
  6. Skip the shared appetizers and just pass them along if they weren’t what you ordered.
  7. Listen to your stomach. When you start to feel satisfied, STOP eating and pack up the unfinished food for another meal.
  8. Beware of the effects of alcohol. Cocktails contain calories AND impair your judgment about how much you’re eating.
  9. Fit the meal into your day by making adjustments at other meals so you have room for some of the extras calories.
  10. Remember, there is always tomorrow. When everything just looks too good to pass by, plan a return visit for another meal.

How will you be controlling calories on your next meal out?

): Sugar and sweeteners can be part of healthy diet

Sugar or Sweetener – Which is Best?

Both sugar and artificial sweeteners can have a place in a healthy diet

They’re the foods and beverages we love to hate – anything that tastes sweet. We love them because they satisfy one of our most primal appetites. We hate them because it’s so easy to consume too much of them, or to eat and drink sweet tasting things instead of the other less tasty stuff.

But is that really a sugar/sweetener problem or one of portion control? Take a look at my post on portion control and evidence below, then decide.

Sugar is Natural

The Food and Drug Administration allows food manufacturers to describe foods as natural if they do not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances. Both sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) meet those criteria. The both come from plants and undergo less processing than what it takes to turn milk into cheese.

Once sugar, HFCS or a naturally sweet piece of fruit is eaten, they are broken down into the exact same simple sugars. Your body cannot tell where they came from and uses them all in the same way. And although fruit does have other nutrients in it along with the sugar it contains, the sugar is there for a reason. It helped us select the ripest, and consequently, most nutritious fruits when we were foraging for our food, and that contributed to our evolutionary success as a species.

Flash forward to the 21st Century and sugar is no longer hard to come by or only found in fruit. That makes it easy for some people eat too much of it, but that does not mean sugar or HFCS is bad for us. Too much is not good, and that’s true about everything as I wrote in my blog, There are No junk Foods.

And what about the alternative to sugar and HFCS, artificial sweeteners?

Sweeteners Are Safe

Low and no calorie sugar substitutes have been available for over 50 years. Saccharin was the first, and each new sweetener discovered since then has undergone more extensive study than any other additive in the food supply.

Still, the suspicions linger on.

The weight of the research sides with the sweeteners. Not only is there no scientific evidence that they are harmful or increase our appetite, they can actually play a role in weight and blood glucose control when used as part of an energy balanced diet. Of course, some people use a lot of them who do not have balanced diets, but are the sweeteners to blame?

According to international experts, the answer is no. The safety of the low and no calorie sweeteners on the market today has been endorsed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives of the World Health Organization, the Scientific Committee for Food of the European Union and the regulatory agencies for more than 100 countries. Could they all be wrong?

Position Statements in support of these sweeteners have also been issued by groups including the American Diabetes Association, American Medical Association, American Dietetic Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Cancer Society to name a few. Are they all misleading the public?

You decide. Are sugars and sweeteners the problem, or do some people have a problem with them?

Poor time management can lead to weight gain

Lack of Time Can Cause Weight Gain

Learning time management can lead to weight management

People are always complaining they don’t have enough time. They blame their lack of time for not reading more good books, not visiting their favorite relatives and not improving their tennis serve. The lack of time is also keeping people from losing weight.

Weight control requires that you have control over two other things in your life: the number of calories you consume and the amount of energy you expend. Controlling those two halves of the weight control equation requires a big investment of time.

To control the calories coming in, you have to be willing and able to prepare foods that can fill you up without exceeding your allotted calories for the day. To keep that number high enough to be satisfying, you have to be willing and able to be in motion more hours of the day.

Both take time.

The foods that are most filling while also being lower in calories are fruits and vegetables; lean meats, fish and poultry; and whole grains. Building your diet around these foods requires more time to shop for them and prepare them. No matter how many modern appliances you have in your kitchen, none of them can do the labor-intensive part of food preparation.

You can let the food industry do some of your fresh produce prep, like husking your corn and shredding your cabbage, but you’ll pay more and get less nutritional value for that time savings. And as good as frozen vegetables are, there are no frozen salads.

Turning lean cuts of beef, pork and chicken into tasty dishes takes time, too. Lacking fat, flavor must be provided by marinades, spice rubs and sauces, preferably not from a jar. And a side of brown rice, pearl barley or bagged beans takes longer to cook than their white, instant and canned counterparts.

Fortunately, shopping and cooking are a form of physical activity, the other half of the weight control equation. Whether done in a gym four times a week or wedged into each day, finding time to stop everything else and put your body in motion is an anti-obesity strategy that deserves your time, too.

If you are one of those people who is time-starved and overfed, this is your wake up call. Please don’t hit the snooze button. It’s time to take control of your time.

To get started, here’s 3 Smart Time Management Tips for Better Weight Management.

  1. Handle food in batches to avoid duplication of effort. Examples: Prefill coffee filters with ground coffee and stack them up for the week, cook a large amount of brown rice and freeze extra portions in zip-top bags for easy thawing, chop 3 onions at a time and save some for another day.
  2. Put other things in the oven once it’s preheated and in use. Examples: Add a few potatoes or yams so they’re ready for a quick lunch, cut-up pita bread or corn tortillas for homemade chips, slice and drain tofu and bake for use in a stir fry later in the week.
  3. Stand instead of sit whenever you can. Examples: In any waiting room, at airport gates, when talking on the phone, watching kid’s sporting events.