Summary of main points.
• Obsession with dieting and weight control can lead to eating disorders.
• There is no evidence that educational efforts to reduce obesity increase eating disorders in a community.
• The main eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia.
• These exist in about 1-10 per cent of the female population. Anorexia and bulimia are currently not common in males though they certainly occur.
• Disordered eating patterns for bulking, as in body building, are more characteristic of males.
• Eating disorders as a side effect must be considered in any fat loss programming.
Any discussion of weight control or fat loss programs would not be complete without a consideration of eating disorders. These may be an inevitable consequence of the idea that we can sculpt our bodies and ‘will’ our minds to accomplish any ideal without any apparent downside. The move towards a ‘perfect’ body is exacerbated by images portrayed in the media and by careers or professions, such as gymnastics and dancing, where an extremely slim or lean physique is required. However, whilst an unrealistic body ideal is a trigger for eating disorders, there is no evidence that initiatives to reduce obesity in the community per se, have this effect. Eating disorders have been reported in the literature for hundreds of years, well before the time of the modern obsession with weight.
The two main disorders to be considered here are anorexia nervosa, and bulimia. Because these are specialty areas of study, the discussion here is necessarily brief and directed towards the practical implications for fat loss leaders working with clients who may manifest these problems.