This Site Posted a Recovering Anorexic Woman's Photos as Weight

Recovering from an eating disorder takes time, often years, and can come with relapses and countless roadblocks. So in an effort to share what she has been through, Anne Marie Sengillo posted her own eating disorder recovery journey on Reddit, which chronicled her rapid, unhealthy weight loss in 2007—she went from 150 pounds to 90 pounds in one year, and at one point even got as low as 70 pounds—and her slow road to better health since then.

The photos in the post were meant to send a cautionary message—not an aspirational one. Yet TheChive.com picked up the images and included them in an article about amazing weight loss transformations.

“That was the exact opposite reason of why I posted those photos,” Sengillo told People. “Those pictures you see online of super skinny girls? Most of the time it’s either done dangerously or they have a really high metabolism, and that’s only a few percent.”

RELATED: 7 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Someone Who’s Had an Eating Disorder

The Chive has removed her photo and issued apologies both publicly and to Sengillo privately. “We had previously discovered the photo somewhere out there in the internet echo chamber which contained no frame of reference whatsoever,” reads the statement on its site. “We obviously had no idea Anne Marie had anorexia but that doesn’t excuse the action at all. It was a mistake, completely unintentional, and the photo was removed the second we found out about it.”

Now, we’ve all felt inspired by “before and after” weight loss photos, but when the “after” photos are of someone who is dealing with a serious medical disorder and are taken out of context, the message becomes disturbing and detrimental.

Especially considering what Sengillo was going through when her eating disorder first began. In her original post, Sengillo said, “My dad died and other crap snowballed my weight loss into some monster of a thing. It started out innocently enough, but became a 5 hour a day workout and 500 calories a day.”

She then went on to describe how she put on weight in 2008, but reverted back to a dangerously low weight again in 2009. A caption under one shot reads, “My first relapse. I had a few more. I had more stress at school and started a job. I would diet and work out to calm my OCD and PTSD thoughts.”

At the end of the post there’s a recent picture of her shoveling the snow with the caption, “Fox news did a segment on me because I have been shoveling the sidewalks and driveways in my neighborhood for free since I am out of work. Back in my 70lbs I would never have been able to lift a shovel.”

We’re happy that Sengillo is in a healthier place now, but she’s still facing the consequences of her disorder. “I have osteoporosis in my hips and knees and I’m only 27,” she told People. “I have liver and kidney problems. I have to get blood tests done every week. There’s a possibility I won’t be able to have kids.”

All things you’d never see in a photo.

RELATED: 11 Subtle Signs of Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders: Not Just for the Young

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By Anne Harding

TUESDAY, June 26, 2012 (Health.com) — Diane Butrym doesn’t fit the stereotype of an eating disorder patient. She’s a 51-year-old microbiologist and mother of two, not a troubled teen or 20-something, yet for the past decade she has struggled with bulimia.

Butrym’s problem began in 2002, which was an eventful year for her. That March she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and in October, after a successful course of treatment, she was struck by a car in a crosswalk on her way home from work, sustaining multiple ankle and knee injuries that required surgery.

She had always been slim and athletic, and exercise was her outlet for stress. Sidelined with her injuries, Butrym began sharply restricting her calorie intake so she wouldn’t gain weight, and before long she was binging and purging. The cycle started to feel addictive; it gave her much-needed pleasure and also eased her stress.

Related links:

Are Eating Disorders a Form of Substance Abuse?

When Eating Healthy Turns Obsessive

Tips for Eating Healthy During Menopause

“I was really angry about what was happening, and I didn’t know any other way of getting rid of my anger,” says Butrym, who lives in Schenectady, N.Y.

Butrym’s case is hardly textbook. Bulimia and anorexia tend to emerge during adolescence, not middle age, and the disorders are more prevalent among young people. Butrym may not be as exceptional as she seems, however.

In recent years, doctors and researchers have begun to look more closely at disordered eating in mid-life. Despite the growing attention, experts say the problem is likely underreported, partly because adult women disguise behaviors such as purging, and partly because eating disorders typically aren’t on the radar screen of doctors who care for this age group.

“Eating disorders are still in the closet to a large extent, especially for adult women,” says Margo Maine, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Hartford, Conn., who specializes in treating the disorders. “Adult women have such shame about admitting it.”

Next page: How eating disorders differ in mid-life

How eating disorders differ in mid-lifeFull-fledged eating disorders are rare at any age, affecting fewer than 3% of teenagers and 1% of adults at any given time, according to government estimates. (An overwhelming majority of cases occur in women.) However, a smattering of data from around the world suggests the behaviors associated with bulimia and anorexia may be more common in mid-life than previously believed.

The most recent evidence comes from a survey of 1,849 women age 50 and up, the results of which were published last week in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. Eight percent of the respondents reported purging in the previous five years, and 7% said their efforts to control their weight led them to exercise so much that it had begun to interfere with their daily functioning.

The survey, which was conducted online, isn’t a reliable gauge of how common these behaviors are among adult women in the general population. But the results do provide a glimpse into disordered eating in middle age that rings true with the growing anecdotal evidence, the researchers say.

“My gut says this is pretty on-target,” says Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D., the lead researcher of the survey and the director of the eating disorders program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

What’s driving these women to purge or work out excessively? Although the survey didn’t examine this question in detail, a majority of the survey respondents said they felt dissatisfied with their bodies—a hallmark of eating disorders across all age groups.

Indeed, previous research suggests that many of the factors that underlie eating disorders in young people may contribute to similar problems in older populations. According to a 2008 study in the Journal of General Psychology, the most common drivers include stress, depression, perfectionism, and social pressure to be thin, in addition to body dissatisfaction.

Butrym’s story is unusual in that most middle-aged women with eating disorders do not become ill for the first time as adults, Maine says. But there is some evidence that certain stressful experiences that are more common in middle age—such as divorce, the death of a spouse, or medical scares like Butrym’s—may help trigger, or reawaken, an eating disorder.

Weight gain and body changes related to aging likely play a role as well. As menopause approaches, metabolism slows and estrogen production drops, causing shifts in fat distribution that can lead to a thicker middle, even for women who are eating healthy and exercising regularly. Most women gain eight to 10 pounds during the transition through menopause, which could aggravate any predispositions for disordered eating, Maine says.

Next page: An epidemic of body dissatisfaction

An epidemic of body dissatisfactionWomen like Butrym who develop full-blown eating disorders may simply be the most extreme examples of a widespread fixation on body size among middle-aged women, Bulik’s survey suggests.

More than 70% of the women in the survey said they were currently trying to lose weight, and 62% said they felt concerns about weight, shape, or eating had a negative impact on their life “occasionally” or “often.” Forty-one percent said they scrutinized their body at least once a day—by pinching their waist, for example.

Frustration with menopause-related weight gain, in particular, shone through in the answers to the survey’s open-ended questions, Bulik says. “A lot of the women said, ‘Who stole my waist? Where did my waist go?'”

Maine and Bulik agree that the pressures adult women face at home, in the workplace, and in society are probably making matters worse. The changes associated with menopause are perfectly natural, but they aren’t always easy to reconcile with catchphrases like “50 is the new 30” or the day-to-day demands of modern life.

Many middle-aged women are juggling child rearing and work responsibilities, or caring for aging patients. That can leave little time for planning healthy meals or exercising, at a stage of life when the amount of exercise needed to maintain one’s weight—let alone drop a few pounds—goes up.

“As a culture, we live in a very, very stressful time, and for women this is even more so, because our roles have changed so dramatically,” says Maine, coauthor of The Body Myth: Adult Women and the Pressure to be Perfect.. “We have little time [and] few avenues with which to cope with the stress, and dieting and exercise abuse and weight loss are ritualistic ways for us to manage our stress.”

The preoccupation with body size seen in the new survey can take a psychological toll even when it doesn’t develop into an eating disorder. Many women who took the survey reported feeling distracted and preoccupied by their weight and shape as they went about their everyday tasks, Bulik says.

Next page: An often-overlooked problem

An often-overlooked problemEating disorders are hard on the body, especially over a long period of time. They can be fatal, and even in less dire cases they can lead to serious heart problems, digestive problems, tooth decay, and osteoporosis, which is already a major concern for postmenopausal women.

“We’re actually more concerned about the physical consequences for women as they get older, because their bodies just don’t bounce back as well,” Bulik says. “All of those systems start not being as robust as we get older. … Add an eating disorder and the risk goes up.”

The standard treatment for disordered eating typically includes psychotherapy, as well as counseling about nutrition and eating habits. Women need to be proactive about seeking care, Maine says, since doctors—and especially primary care physicians—often overlook problematic eating behaviors in older women.

“There’s really a lot of help available, but women have to find it,” Maine says. “It’s not going to come to them, unfortunately.” A good place to start, she adds, is the National Eating Disorders Association (www.nationaleatingdisorders.org).

Butrym sought treatment in 2003. She recovered, but her life stresses snowballed: She failed to receive workers’ compensation for her accident injuries, and she wound up losing her job in a hospital lab. She started purging again, and she has cycled out of inpatient and outpatient treatment since then.

Butrym is currently in recovery, and going back to school to study public health. “I’m excited about having a new career and having a new life,” she says. “That’s what recovery and therapy is all about, … realizing and seeing that you’re more important than that number on the scale, or the number of wrinkles you have. You have more to give people than that superficial life.”

Lady Gaga's Weight: What's the Big Deal?

Credit: Corbis

Seems like some folks think Lady Gaga has packed on a few pounds–and she doesn’t seem to care one bit. In fact the singer, who is known for some pretty outrageous fashion choices (have you seen her pink and blue oversized dress?), has had no problem tackling all the attention her new curvaceous figure is getting head on.

Last week she tweeted: “And thanks to my fans who love me no matter what, and know the meaning of real beauty&compassion. I really love you.”

The tweet also included a link with an image of Marilyn Monroe featuring the quote: “To all the girls that think you’re ugly because you’re not a size 0, you’re the beautiful one. It’s society who’s ugly.”

Now I’ve checked out the pics of Gaga, and while I would agree she isn’t as svelte as she was, say, a year ago, I honestly don’t see what the big deal is. Sometimes I think we are overly critical of people who don’t have an “ideal” body—in other words a size zero—which is funny considering all of us “regular” folk aren’t all perfectly petite either. Somewhere we stopped thinking curves were OK.

Just think back to all the attention Jessica Simpson’s curvy “mom jeans” pic and Tyra Banks’s 161-pound frame received. It is kind of sad really.

In response, Lady Gaga posted pictures of herself wearing just a bra and underwear, and said she had struggled with bulimia and anorexia since she was 15—so this sort of body criticism is no joke.

Personally, I think all of these images are messing with our minds—-and research seems to agree.

In a Brigham Young University study, healthy-weight women viewed pictures of overweight women and were told to imagine that someone else was saying the model looked like her. The study subjects experienced a spike in activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain responsible for strong emotions (think unhappiness!).

I say as long as you are healthy, be happy with your body. (I am an advocate of eating healthy and exercising, though!) And, like Lady Gaga, keep on belting out how amazing you are!

Candace Cameron Bure’s Struggle to Get Healthy

7 Strategies to Love the Way You Look

How Alanis Morissette Beat Her Eating Disorder

Fitspo Images: Exercise Motivation or a Dangerous Obsession?

Tumblr via Lauren Touyet on Pinterest.

Women have suffered from self-esteem issues since the dawn of time. Now thanks to social media, self-loathing is just a few clicks away.

Thinspo–short for thinspiration–is a term used to describe images and ideas posted on social media sites that are supposed to inspire women to lose weight, but all too often fuel eating disordered-behavior and the pursuit of skeletal thinness.

To their credit, large social sites like tumblr and pinterest have recently banned thinspo-tagged content or any content that idealizes the skin-and-bones body type.

Bravo.

But what of fitspo, thinspo’s toned and chiseled counterpart?

This meme depicts women pumping iron, sprinting up staircases, and boot-camping their way to ripped shoulder muscles, shredded quads, and six pack abs. Many consider images of fitspo models and the push-yourself sayings that usually accompany them, an improvement over depictions of starvation and emaciation–and a real motivation to get fit.

Are they really an improvement? Deb Serani, a clinical psychologist and adjunct professor at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York doesn’t think so.

She says that while fitspo may motivate some people to pick up the weights or run that extra mile, it is fraught with mixed messages.

“Fitspo photos and shared beliefs do in fact negatively impede girls and women when it comes to self-esteem, body image and perceptions of health,” she says. “With every line that’s drawn, there will always be another to see how far a new one can be pushed.”

Serani points out that the desire for a seriously fit-looking body is just a variation on the desire for thinness. It may be disguised as the “new healthy,” but it’s always dangerous to value a single body type above all others, especially when that body type is virtually impossible for most women to achieve.

“It’s just another way to body shame girls and women who don’t fit this unrealistic mold,” Serani says.

Serani suspects that some fitspo enthusiasts may be suffering from a new kind of eating disorder known as orthorexia nervosa. This is when a woman is so determined to drive her body towards athletic perfection, she becomes preoccupied with workouts and healthy foods and her body image becomes so distorted, she is never satisfied with the way she looks.

For a woman like that, fitspo is not a harmless motivational tool–it can fuel a dangerous obsession.

Even for women who don’t have an eating disorder, body shaming of any kind can be demeaning, defeating and deflating. Isn’t it time we stop beating ourselves up for being unable to achieve the impossible and start celebrating our successes?

Good health should be the goal, no matter what shape and size the package it comes in.

Related info:

Orthorexia: When Eating Healthy Turns Obsessive

How Alanis Morissette Beat Her Eating Disorder

Candace Cameron Bure’s Struggle to Get Healthy

British Actress's Shocking Weight Loss: How Skinny is Too Skinny for a Role?

Antonia Campbell-Hughes attends a premiere on October 10, 2012 in London, England. Getty Images

The famous acting coach Constantin Stanislavski once said, “There are no small parts, only small actors.”

Northern Irish actress Antonia Campbell-Hughes has become the literal embodiment of this quote by transforming her naturally slender body into a gaunt frame for an upcoming movie role as an Austrian kidnapping victim.

In doing so, she joins the list of incredibly shrinking actors and actresses, including Natalie Portman, Matthew McConaughey, and Christian Bale, who have shed sometimes shocking amounts of weight for roles.

This begs the question: Is extreme weight loss for the sake of a movie part good acting or just a plain bad idea? And what sort of message does it telegraph to an audience of impressionable young people, many of whom are already weight-obsessed?

Antonia Campbell-Hughes attends an afterparty on October 20, 2009 in London, England. Getty Images

Jennifer Thomas, Ph.D., the assistant director of the eating disorders clinical and research program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, worries that Campbell-Hughes’ drastic downsizing may be viewed as desirable by some women, especially those who are predisposed to an eating disorder.

“Girls and women could easily look at her picture and think, ‘maybe I should look like that,’” says Thomas, who hasn’t met the actress.

Thomas says that many of her patients with anorexia and bulimia do a constant scan of the media in search of quick fix weight loss tips. If actors reveal the specifics of how they whittled down to such a dangerously low weight, vulnerable women are likely to try the same tactics even if they are obviously unrealistic or unsafe.

When Beyoncé went on a 2-week Master Cleanse to lose 20 pounds for her role in the move Dream Girls in 2006, juice fasting quickly became all the rage despite being condemned by medical experts. Portman’s gaunt Black Swan figure inspired a spate of magazine articles and blogs extolling the virtues of her punishing diet and exercise program–though she herself admitted the regimen made her feel like she was going to die at times.

Shedding too much body fat can increase the risk of numerous health issues, says Thomas, such as loss of periods, fatigue, anemia, hair loss, and a weakened immune system. Even if actors gain the weight back, it can cause long term problems such as bone loss and infertility.

And people who diet down for a role may have a tough time snapping out of anorexic-mode, says Thomas. (Tracey Gold, the Growing Pains actress who nearly died from anorexia, was on a medically supervised weight-loss plan before becoming dangerously thin.)

So it seems that actors who emaciate themselves for a role–whether on their own or due to pressure from a director, producer, or company making a movie–aren’t doing themselves or anyone else any favors. I’m all for realism on the big screen, but there should be a point where the responsibility to set a healthy example, and an actor’s personal health, outweigh the need to portray a super skinny character.

For more on this topic:

25 Shocking Celebrity Weight Changes

Reader Healthy Weight Loss Success Secrets

Skinny Secrets

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: 5 Things You Should Know

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This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, dedicated to raising awareness about anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating disorder, and other conditions that involve preoccupations with food and weight.

Think you know what an eating disorder is all about? You may not.

Research by Oxford University suggests that eating disorders remain poorly understood by the general public and even health professionals.

Sure, some symptoms are obvious–say, weight loss or purging after eating–but others are less so.

In order to identify the sometimes subtle symptoms of an eating disorder and encourage someone to seek help, here are five surprising facts you should know.

It’s not just teens and young womenMany people assume that only teenage and young adult women develop eating disorders–but increasingly, doctors are seeing more and more cases in women and men of all ages, even in children and the middle aged. A recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found a lack of awareness about male eating disorders often prevented diagnosis and treatment–even though men and boys account for about 25% of cases.

“I have started to see a lot more women in their 40s and up who come to me with eating disorders,” says Jodi Rubin, a therapist in New York City and adjunct lecturer at the NYU Silver School of Social Work. Often times, these later-in-life disorders are triggered by a major life change–leaving or re-entering the work force, getting a divorce, or having a baby, for example.

You can’t tell by looking at someoneAn eating disorder can be hard to spot: Bulimia and anorexia symptoms traditionally include dramatic weight loss, but it’s also possible to have disordered eating while maintaining a normal body weight, says Rubin. Binge eaters, in fact, may even be overweight, or may repeatedly shed and then pack on pounds.

“Eating disorders are about control and self esteem as much as they are about the number on the scale,” she says. Someone with an eating disorder may work hard to keep their weight at a certain number as to not “let on” that he or she has a problem, for example.

There are as many emotional symptoms as there are physicalSure there are plenty of visible cues that someone might have an eating disorder: Along with weight loss, people who severely restrict calories or nutrients may experience thinning hair, dry skin, and–in the case of a purging disorder–swollen cheeks.

But the emotional signs of an eating disorder may be easier to spot, if you know what to look for. At their root, almost all eating disorders are symptoms of depression or self-esteem issues, says Rubin. You may notice that a friend or loved one has become moody, uptight, anxious, or is expressing self-doubt and shame–either about his or her body, or about life in general.

Strange behaviors might be a clueNewly adopted rituals can also be a sign that a person’s relationship with food has taken an unhealthy turn. A friend may begin to obsessively count calories, focus only on specific foods or food groups, or avoid making spontaneous plans, or stop eating with other people altogether. When you do eat together, he or she may exhibit unusual food behaviors–using a lot of condiments, or fixating on strange food combinations, for example.

For people hyper-focused on their weight and body image, a preoccupation with exercise often goes along with an eating disorder, as well. It’s normal to want to burn off excess calories after a big meal, but if a friend seems to panic after missing one workout, that’s a red flag.

Calling someone out may not helpMany people with eating disorders are in denial about their problem, says Rubin; some are even proud of the control they are able to exert over their bodies. By bringing up food or weight issues you’ve noticed with a friend, he or she may tell you that you’re imagining it, or that there’s nothing to worry about.

Instead, try talking about the emotional issues: “If you say, ‘I’ve noticed you seem depressed lately,’ they’re not really able to deny that,” says Rubin. And even if they don’t come clean and agree to seek help then and there, they’ll remember that you’ve expressed concern and that you’re a safe place to go when they’re ready to talk.

Read more:

Eating Disorders: Not Just for the Young

Candace Cameron Bure’s Struggle to Get Healthy

When Healthy Eating Turns Obsessive

Dos and Don’ts for Dealing with Anger

Depressed? 12 Mental Tricks to Turn It Around

5 Signs You're Taking Your Diet Too Far

When I first started out in private practice, clients came to me because something was wrong. Most of them struggled with their weight, or were newly diagnosed with a condition like high cholesterol or elevated blood pressure. Today, healthy, fit clients schedule appointments with me simply to pick my brain. Many describe themselves as health enthusiasts who want to learn all they can about optimal nutrition, the hottest superfoods, and latest trends. I love that nutrition is now considered exciting—even sexy.

But I sometimes see healthy eating and weight loss taken to extremes, which can actually worsen physical and emotional well-being and negatively impact quality of life. (Case in point: a recent study highlighted how obese teens trying to lose weight are in danger of developing eating disorders.) This topic is especially timely given the social media uproar following Tuesday’s finale of The Biggest Loser, where winner Rachel Frederickson lost so much weight that Time.com reported she wouldn’t be allowed to model in some countries based on her BMI, and in advance of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week from February 23 to March 1.

While this post is certainly not meant to diagnose anyone, here are five indications that your healthy efforts may have morphed into detrimental patterns.

You’ve become scale-obsessed

I actually believe it’s perfectly okay—and for some people, even healthier—not to weigh themselves. (Find out why in my previous post 5 Reasons Why You Can Skip the Scale.) But if you do, treat weighing in as a simple reality check to help you understand your body’s patterns and to see if you’re moving in the right direction. It’s also important to put the numbers in proper perspective. Weight fluctuations from day to day, and even hour to hour, are completely normal, because when you step on a scale, you’re weighing not just muscle and body fat, but also: fluid, food inside your GI tract that hasn’t been digested and absorbed; waste that hasn’t been eliminated; and glycogen, the storage form of carbohydrate you carry in your liver and muscles. The latter three can shift considerably and quickly, whereas changes in muscle and fat tissue happen more slowly. Also, you can be retaining water or building muscle as you’re losing body fat, which means the number on the scale might stay the same, even though you’re getting leaner.

For all of these reasons, weight alone doesn’t tell you much. Yet many people become fixated on the number and they feel angry or depressed if it doesn’t go down, or if it’s not declining fast enough. If you find yourself weighing in more than once a day, or if your mood is seriously affected by the number, or if you undereat or overexercise because your weight hasn’t decreased, your relationship with weight has likely become unhealthy. Consider letting go of the scale and focusing on how your body feels instead—and talking to a health professional about reasonable weight expectations.

You’re secretive about your diet

When you’re trying to eat healthfully and lose weight, there’s no reason to tell everyone and their mom about your personal regime. But if you feel the need to avoid the subject because you’re afraid you’ll be judged for being too strict, you may be crossing into disordered territory. This is especially the case if your own gut instinct is telling you that you’re overly restricting but you can’t or don’t want to stop.

In my experience, a big red flag is a willingness to stick to a restrictive plan despite unhealthy side effects like fatigue, moodiness and irritability, sleep disturbances, poor immunity, and constant hunger. Even if you are losing weight or you’re eating ultra healthy foods, if you aren’t keeping yourself nourished, I promise you’re doing a lot more harm than good. Throughout my 15+ years working with clients, I’ve found that creating more balance (and often adding food to a plan) leads to much better results, not just for weight control, but also for emotional well-being and a healthy social life. For more about diet strategies that can go awry, check out 5 Common Dieting Mistakes, Solved.

Your self-esteem is tied to your weight or eating habits

Even clients who know I’m not at all a food cop are sometimes afraid to tell me what they’ve eaten. It’s typically because they’re judging themselves: they’ve developed a pattern of feeling happy and empowered when they’ve been “good” and beating themselves up when they’ve been “bad.” Unfortunately, these associations can stall your progress, because they don’t allow you to examine why you get off track. And when you don’t know why you’re doing something, it’s very difficult to change.

The truth is, you may slip up because your diet is too strict and your hunger hormones are raging. If that’s the case, the fix lies in balancing out what you’re eating, not berating yourself. Or, if you tend to eat due to stress or anxiety, addressing your emotions is the key to ending the cycle, not trying to have more willpower. So if you gained a pound or two this week, or your kale rotted in the crisper while you ordered takeout again, banish the harsh self-talk and criticism. Instead, take an objective look at your triggers, focus your energy there, and remind yourself that health is about progress, not perfection.

Most of your mental energy is spent thinking about your diet or weight

Some of my clients love food apps and other tools that help them record what they ate and track their weight. Others don’t. But one thing’s for certain: for some people, these tools can become an obsession. If you find yourself constantly thinking about what you’ve eaten (or what you’re going to eat) and worrying about your weight to the point where you’re distracted from other activities, your weight-loss goals may have eclipsed your healthy lifestyle goals.

In my years of counseling clients, I’ve seen this pattern lead to burnout and trigger a rebound right back to old, unhealthy patterns. Fortunately, you don’t have to be preoccupied with your diet and weight in order to see results. Simply focusing on the basics—like eating at consistent times; eating balanced meals that include plenty of veggies, along with lean protein, healthy fat, and small portions of “good” carbs; and stopping when you’re full—can allow you to see real and lasting results, while also having the time and energy for other parts of your life. If you’re afraid to let go of thinking about or recording your every effort, ask yourself if you can honestly envision continuing to do so six weeks or six months from now. If the thought makes you cringe, make an effort to create some balance. Letting go a bit doesn’t have to mean sacrificing results.

Your diet distances you from your family and friends

I’ve had clients tell me that they stopped spending time with friends and avoided family functions because their devotion to their diet outweighed their desire to engage in social situations. Some of this is normal for anyone who’s adopting healthy habits because the cultural norm is to overindulge. But if you find yourself becoming isolated and avoiding the people you care about, things may have gone too far.

If you’re on a quest to eat healthfully and the people in your social circles aren’t healthy eaters, there are ways to enjoy getting together that won’t require you to eat junk food. For example: at a party, bring a healthy dish to share, to serve as your personal go-to; choose restaurants where you know you can get a healthy meal, and opt for non-food centered ways of spending time together, like going for a walk or a hike, rather than meeting for drinks or frozen yogurt.

If you feel like you’re not getting the support you need and you want to have a heart-to-heart, check out my advice on how to deal with food pushers. But if you’re finding yourself prioritizing your diet before your loved ones completely, consider talking to a health professional. To find a psychologist, visit the American Psychological Association. And to find a nutritionist, go to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, click on Find a Registered Dietitian on the upper right corner, choose Expertise Area, and check Eating Disorders.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Chat with us on Twitter by mentioning @goodhealth and @CynthiaSass.

Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches. Connect with Cynthia on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Vegan Blogger's Eating Disorder Sheds Light on Orthorexia

People opt for a vegan lifestyle for a variety of reasons. Some forgo all animal-based products because they support an animal-cruelty-free lifestyle. Others do it for health reasons. And some, like Jay Z and Beyonce, try it part-time to jumpstart a healthy lifestyle, commemorate a major life event like a birthday, or even help lose the baby weight.

For Jordan Younger, the popular blogger known as The Blonde Vegan, it was for health reasons. So it came as a shock to her nearly 70,000 Instagram followers when she announced she was moving away from a vegan diet for precisely the same reason—health concerns. In an interview on Good Morning America, Younger revealed that she had come to realize that she actually had an eating disorder—and not one many people had heard of.

You see, almost everyone knows that anorexia is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder caused by a fear of being overweight. Younger, however, wasn’t concerned about weight gain; her focus on healthy eating had become an uncontrollable obsession that led her to restrict her diet to the point that she was becoming malnourished.

It’s called orthorexia, and it’s a fixation with healthy eating that leads to more and more restrictions on food, often to the point of vitamin deficiencies, weight loss, or crushing anxiety related to food. Orthorexia is not recognized as an eating disorder by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) but it does have some similarities with other disorders like anorexia and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

“I would just stand in front of the refrigerator for 20 minutes totally panicking that I wasn’t going to be eating the right thing for my body,” the 23-year-old told ABC News. “I was a slave to food.”

In her blog Younger recounts how, after days of barely eating, she walked more than a mile to a second Juice Press location because the first one didn’t have the specific type of green juice she was seeking. In addition to being “addicted” to juice cleanses, she had skin rashes, weakness, and her period stopped. It took months, and a friend’s help, to realize she actually had an eating disorder.

Younger noted that vegan diets can be healthy, if done correctly. “Vegan diets can absolutely work if you’re eating a balanced diet,” she wrote in her blog, and wished her followers well. But sadly, many were angered by her decision. “I got death threats,” she told ABC.

Vegan diets can indeed be healthy (check out 12 Things You Need to Know Before Going Vegan). However, it’s safe to say that Younger made the right decision, given that eating disorders are dangerous and the exact opposite of healthy eating.

Jennifer Lawrence Called Gluten Free the New Eating Disorder

 

Jennifer Lawrence is known for her no-holds-barred attitude in interviews, which is one of the reasons she’s attracted throngs of fans who admire her unrestrained personality. But one of Lawrence’s latest comments created a flurry of both positive and negative reactions, and sparked an important conversation. In Vanity Fair, the actress described gluten-free eating as “the new cool eating disorder, the ‘basically I just don’t eat carbs.’”

When I heard the comment I had a mixed reaction. My first thought was, wow, that’s a broad generalization, and my second was that she does raise a point—in some cases, going gluten free can be a sign of disordered eating. In one of my previous posts, I noted that in my experience, detoxes and cleanses are increasingly being used as a form of purging, a slippery slope that can lead to a more serious eating disorder, or at the very least keep someone stuck in a vicious cycle that’s unhealthy both physically and emotionally.

This begs the question: how do you know if cutting out gluten may be a sign of an unhealthy relationship with food? Here are five indicators, along with a resource for getting help if you or a loved one may be struggling.

 

 

You’ve cut out all carbs, even those that don’t contain gluten

As I pointed out in a previous post 5 Things You Need to Know About Gluten, gluten is not found in all carbs. In fact, many starches, including beans, lentils, brown rice, corn, quinoa, potatoes, and squash are naturally nutrient-rich, gluten-free options. I’ve seen people on a gluten-free diet declare that they can’t eat something that doesn’t contain gluten at all—they’ve become overall carb phobic, and that’s unfortunate. A healthy, balanced diet requires some whole food sources of carbohydrate, and the truth is not all carbs are created equal.

RELATED: 6 ‘Bad’ Carbs That Are Actually Good For You

Processed starches stripped of their nutrients and laden with sugar, salt, and preservatives shouldn’t be lumped in with spaghetti squash and quinoa as being bad for you. And not all carbs are inherently fattening: the quality and quantity ultimately determine whether carbs get burned for fuel, like gasoline in your car, or shuttled to your fat cells. If you’ve found yourself avoiding carbs altogether, check out my previous posts Your 5 Worst Gluten Free Mistakes and Fruit Isn’t Making You Fat.

 

 

Your only reason for going gluten free is weight-related

If you’ve tested negative for celiac disease, the autoimmune disorder that requires mandatory gluten banishment, the primary reason for cutting out gluten is to alleviate symptoms of gluten intolerance. This condition, while not a disease, can trigger unwanted side effects ranging from bloating to flu-like symptoms and brain fog, which gradually resolve when gluten is removed. If you didn’t experience any of these symptoms and eliminated gluten simply in the hopes of losing weight, you may or may not see any results.

RELATED:Â 10 Bogus Health Trends That Waste Your Time

For example, if you were eating lots of processed starches (like bagels, muffins, white pasta, white rice, crackers, and pretzels) and as a result of going gluten free you swapped them for whole foods, such as fresh produce, quinoa, and brown rice, then you may lose weight. But if you replaced processed gluten-containing foods for processed gluten-free foods (think: gluten-free versions of bagels, muffins, and sweet or salty snacks), you may not lose weight at all. Bottom line: cutting out gluten simply as a weight loss tactic, particularly without regard to the healthfulness of your overall diet, may be a red flag. For more, read on to the next section.

 

 

You went gluten free in order to be excused from eating certain foods

If your primary reason for ditching gluten was to have a legitimate reason to not eat foods you want to avoid, like bread, pizza, and baked goods, examine your motives a bit further. I’ve had clients do this to make it easier to cope with food-pushing friends or relatives who don’t share their desire to eat healthier, but I’ve seen others use it as a form of self-imposed restriction. In other words, if you don’t have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, and you occasionally want to indulge in something like a slice of pizza or a cupcake, declaring that you’re gluten free takes the option off the table, or at the very least creates more obstacles.

RELATED:Â 4 Ways to Cure an Unhealthy Relationship With Food

I’ve seen this ploy backfire, and result in secretive rebound binge-eating (like a whole pizza, box of cookies, or loaf of bread in one sitting). If you’re in this boat, think through your next move. It’s never too late to let friends and family know that you feel better when you eat healthfully most of the time—that is, when you avoid refined starches or sugary foods, many of which happen to contain gluten—but you still want to have the option of enjoying these foods on occasion, on your terms. In fact, this holds true even if you end up indulging in gluten-free versions of can’t-live-without goodies, like pizza made with gluten-free crust, or gluten-free sweet treats.

 

 

You’ve become obsessive about your diet

One of the biggest signs of any type of disordered eating is spending far too much energy thinking about food. If going gluten free seems to have coincided with spending hours each day planning meals, analyzing or scrutinizing your intake, and avoiding social situations that involve eating, it may be an indication that your eating patterns have taken an unhealthy turn. For more info, check out my post 5 Signs You’re Taking Your Diet Too Far.

 

 

You secretly binge on gluten-containing or carb-rich foods

Since restriction can lead to rebound binge eating, it can become a dangerous cycle, particularly if purging methods are used to compensate for binges, such as starvation, compulsive exercise, or the use of diet pills or laxatives. If you’re eating a balanced, healthy gluten-free diet, you shouldn’t experience the sense of deprivation that leads to binges—especially because in addition to naturally gluten-free whole-food starches like sweet potatoes, there are gluten-free options for building in occasional treats. Typically, gluten-free eaters who secretly binge are those who made the switch merely as a form of restriction, or who cut out carbs altogether.

If you’ve experienced this, or any of the possible warning signs above, reach out to someone. Confide in a friend or family member you trust, or schedule a consultation with a professional. For more about who to turn to for help, check out this resource from the National Eating Disorders Association.

RELATED: 11 Subtle Signs of Eating Disorders

What are your thoughts on this topic? Chat with us on Twitter by mentioning @goodhealth and @CynthiaSass.

Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches. Connect with Cynthia on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

 

How an ADHD Drug Might Help Treat Binge

By Alan MozesHealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 14, 2015 (HealthDay News) — A drug used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may also help treat binge-eating disorder, preliminary research suggests.

At higher doses tested, the prescription drug Vyvanse curtailed the excessive food consumption that characterizes binge-eating disorder, researchers said.

Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine dimesylate) is solely approved in the United States to treat ADHD, and no drug has been approved to curb binge-eating disorder.

Binge-eating — only recently recognized by the psychiatric community as a distinct disorder — is characterized by recurrent episodes of excessive food consumption accompanied by a sense of loss of control and psychological distress, the study authors noted. It is also associated with obesity.

“Right now the most commonly used medications are epilepsy drugs,” said study co-author Dr. James Mitchell, president of the Neuropsychiatric Research Institute in Fargo, N.D. “And they do help patients to eat well and cut down on weight,” he added.

“However, their side effect profiles are not great, with their impact on cognitive [mental] impairment in particular making them difficult for many patients to tolerate,” Mitchell said.

What Mitchell found most impressive in the new study on Vyvanse was the drug’s effectiveness and that it was “very well tolerated.”

The 14-week study, reported in the Jan. 14 online edition of JAMA Psychiatry, was funded by Shire Development, LLC, the manufacturer of Vyvanse.

The researchers tracked outcomes among roughly 260 patients with moderate to severe binge-eating disorder between 2011 and 2012.

All of the participants were between 18 and 55 years old, and none had a diagnosis of any additional psychiatric disorders, such as ADHD, anorexia or bulimia.

The volunteers were divided into four groups for 11 weeks. The first group received 30 milligrams (mg) of Vyvanse daily, while the second and third groups started with 30 mg a day, increasing to 50 mg or 70 mg (respectively) within three weeks. A fourth group took an inactive placebo pill.

Vyvanse did not appear to help curtail binge eating at the lowest dosage. But people taking the higher doses experienced a bigger drop in the number of days they binged each week compared with the placebo group, the researchers found.

Also, while only about one-fifth of those treated with a placebo were able to stay binge-free for a month, that figure was in excess of 42 percent and 50 percent among the 50- and 70-mg drug groups, respectively.

The study authors pointed out that their investigation remains ongoing, and their findings must be reconfirmed.

However, Suzanne Mazzeo, a professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., said medications may not be the best approach to treating binge-eating disorder.

“To my mind, psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavior therapy, is preferable as it aims to help patients develop the crucial skills they need to better handle all the triggers in our environment that may otherwise pull them into a cycle of excessive eating,” she said.

“Frankly, I would not think that any medication would be used as a first-line treatment for [binge-eating disorder] because medications always have side effects, sometimes severe,” Mazzeo explained.

Eating disorders specialist Dr. Douglas Klamp said a good drug for binge-eating disorder would be welcome. “But I would not yet use lisdexamfetamine [Vyvanse],” said Klamp, an internist in Scranton, Pa.

For one thing, Vyvanse is a “highly addictive” schedule II amphetamine that has generally been associated with a higher risk for heart attack and stroke, Klamp said.

“It did reduce binges after two months to a significant degree, and the average recipient lost about 10 pounds,” he noted. “On the other hand, 85 percent of drug recipients had some type of adverse reaction,” including insomnia, feeling jittery, elevated blood pressure and palpitations.

Klamp pointed out that one volunteer died from an amphetamine overdose, which the study authors did not attribute to the study drug because the patient was taking another amphetamine as well.

“The study drug very likely played some role in this death,” he said.

Klamp said he would not use Vyvanse for binge-eating disorder, “unless unbiased researchers did a study of at least six months duration showing continued effectiveness, a low rate of addiction, and very few life-threatening reactions.”

More information

For more on binge-eating disorder, visit the National Eating Disorder Association.