Tag Archive for diet

What’s Less Isn’t Always More

Eating disorders affect over 30 million Americans…200,000 of these are in the state of MN.

The Emily Program Foundation shares a number of statistics, like the one above, demonstrating the profound impact that eating disorders have on people. The Foundation has also shared the most common behavior that will lead to an eating disorder is dieting. 25% of American men and 45% of American women are on a diet on any given day. There is nothing wrong with wanting to eat nutritionally or consume a healthy proportion. However, it turns dangerous, fatal at times, when this goal becomes a fixation to lose weight, feeding into a $40 billion dollar industry that tells people they are not enough. Articles like 50 Things Your Doctor Wishes You Knew About Losing Weight from Reader’s Digest neglects the fact that everyone is different, and weight is not always directly correlated with health.

This article perpetuates a negative view of being “overweight”, clearly emphasizing the number on a scale, rather than focusing on how a person can be healthy regardless of weight. Remember, dieting is the most common behavior to lead to an eating disorder, and one of the main focuses within the article is dieting. One slide actually claims dieting is more important than exercise, which ignores the necessity of a holistic approach to sustaining one’s health; especially when exercise will give you those feel-good endorphins, while dieting might lead to feeling crummy about yourself and your relationship with food.

The article shouldn’t have to focus on weight loss and maintenance to offer ways to be healthier. In fact, it mentions a number of beneficial habits to maintaining a healthy mind and body. For instance:

  • Eating routinely and not skipping meals for one big meal
  • Getting your thyroid checked (it’s important to get regular checkups as a precaution for more serious health problems regardless of weight)
  • Getting enough sleep and exercise
  • Remembering it’s about progress not perfection.

Only once did the article allude to unhealthy dieting leading to eating disorders, saying that deprivation leads to binging.

While the intention was most likely to promote good health, the article’s focus on weight in controlling one’s lifestyle to lose it isn’t necessarily helpful or healthy either, particularly for those who struggle with personal insecurities. For those of you reading, think about what it means to be healthy. Keep in mind that weight isn’t always indicative of healthy habits, and it especially does not reflect the beauty of an individual. What is more important than weight or dieting, is how you feel! So be sure to get lots of sleep, exercise, eat well, and surround yourself with supportive friends and articles.

#foodforthought: Disordered Eating Disguised as Healthy

By an anonymous Foundation volunteer

Eating disorders and disordered eating come in all shapes, sizes, and guises. Individuals who say they’ve never known an individual with an eating disorder may not realize that they actually have. For example, bulimia goes undetected quite often because many who suffer from this disorder tend to have a normal weight. In addition, many individuals (in my experience) do not even realize that the behaviors of binge eating, may also be a full-blown eating disorder.

One type of disordered eating — not yet categorized as an eating disorder — that was coined by Dr. Steven Bratman in 1997 — and has recently become more prevalent — is orthorexia nervosa: “a fixation with healthy eating, to the point where it becomes a crippling compulsion, described as ‘a disease disguised as a virtue’¹.”

This disorder — like other eating disorders — is also greatly impacted by the media. Not only are we constantly bombarded by images of thin women and men — we are also bombarded by ads and marketing for “clean” eating. I just googled clean eating and the webpages and blogs seem to go on forever. Not only that, but “Instagram has 26 million posts with a clean eating hashtag.”

While there is nothing wrong with eating the types of foods that eating ‘clean’ promotes, it can become unhealthy when an individual starts to cut out food groups entirely. Heavily restricting and only eating a few types of foods, actually can create malnourishment- even though the misconception is they are eating healthy or ‘clean.’

For example, individuals who decide to completely cut out animal products may become iron deficient or anemic. There is nothing wrong with that lifestyle choice, but one has to be extremely mindful of their diet (and possibly take an iron supplement). Also, individuals who decide to cut out all grains may be missing out on insoluble fiber and a variety of B vitamins, and may need to find the nutrients in something else.

“One of the problems with orthorexia is that in some ways it is more socially acceptable than other disorders. Stand in any gym locker room and you can overhear a woman admit she allowed herself a piece of fruit that day, or a man bemoan messing up his macros.”

Another danger of orthorexia is the obsessing that happens in the mind when we say this food is “good” and this food is “bad”. It starts to distort thinking and can end up leading to other disordered eating or eating disorders.

Carrie Armstrong, a London-based author and TV personality said she became orthorexic that “left her unable to walk.” She became obsessed with what she put in her mouth, cutting out most foods. In the end before seeking help, her hair was falling out and her teeth were crumbling because of the lack of nutrients her body was getting.

What does healthy eating really mean?
How about a hashtag of #eatwell or #foodvariety


¹Bratman, Steven.  Health Food Junkie.  Yoga Journal 1997; 


The Complexity of Health

By Lorrie Bouley.

Recently in the media, buzzwords have been thrown around calling the new stomach-draining device, AspireAssist “medical bulimia,” and “automatic bulimia machine.” This demonstrates a huge misunderstanding of both the psychiatric illness Bulimia Nervosa and the challenges that come from losing complexity-is-worrisome-casey-kotasweight when one lives with morbid obesity.

Bulimia has specific behaviors and traits: self-induced vomiting, a feeling of being out of control, guilt and shame. The illness has detrimental effects from compensatory behaviors. Frequent episodes of forceful vomiting can damage the digestive system due to electrolyte and chemical imbalances caused by dehydration and loss of potassium and sodium from the body. While the concept of this new obesity treatment seems like it is similar to compensating the calories one takes, it prevents several health consequences that can be extremely harmful to the body.

First, the FDA requires a screening to be done on patients to determine whether or not the patient has struggled with bulimia or eating disorders in the past because the device could enable their eating disorder or encourage disordered eating habits. ApsireAssist is not intended to be used for those who are moderately overweight. It is designed for those who live with morbid obesity, with a BMI of 35-55 and in patients who have not been successful losing weight from non-surgical therapies. The device is placed near the top of the stomach, meaning very little stomach acid will be removed during draining. Also, it is impossible to completely empty the stomach from the tube, it only allows the patient to drain up to 30% of the calories from a meal.

In addition to using the device, the patient receives lifestyle therapy at the same time, including nutrition and exercise counseling. There is value in not only learning what to eat, but how to eat. Clinical trials show that most participants demonstrated a decrease in their average portion sizes, perhaps because they must chew more carefully, as food could possibly become lodged in the tube.

There are risks to all actions we take. A person living with morbid obesity and who has attempted countless times to lose weight, is at risk to possibly be diagnosed with or worsen other issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure and other major health concerns. Allowing patients with morbid obesity the option to choose an approach that may come with side effects is their choice, and it shows to be effective and less invasive than gastric bypass surgery, the only other technical solution that has been effective.

Gastric bypass surgery is an inpatient procedure and can take up to 3 weeks in recovery, whereas AspireAssist is done through an outpatient visit in about 15-20 minutes and does not permanently alter your anatomy like bypass surgeries thus far. There are benefits to keeping the stomach intact – it aids absorption of vital nutrients, which the tube can provide. Though the device aims to be used long-term, patients may choose to remove the tube anytime, which is similar to the 15-20-minute placement procedure. Patients are typically told of these risks to determine if this is the right approach — there is no one way to treat obesity, just like there is no one way to treat an eating disorder.

Before jumping to conclusions and assuming the worst of new medical advances to treat obesity, we need to inform ourselves about the outcomes. There are still questions that need to be asked, and we need to focus on the patient’s overall health after completing the therapy. How often did they feel shame or guilt in using this device? Was there any? Did they receive the appropriate support they needed from health care providers? Nevertheless, both obesity and eating disorders have their challenges when recovering. It’s not as simple as eat more or eat less, and as a society we need to learn how to understand both illnesses and support both fights, in a healthy way.

Taking Food Off Moral Grounds

By Angie Michel

It’s as if we order morality off a menu: We choose between “good” and “bad” foods, “clean” and “indulgent” entrées, and “guilt-free” and “sinful” desserts. We attach moral value to eating so routinely that we even label ourselves “naughty” when we order burgers instead of salads and “treat” ourselves to French fries instead of fruit. Only when we excuse ourselves for “cheat days,” it seems, do we give our bodies what they truly crave.

A recent example of this moralized labeling of food appears in an advertisement for thinkThin High-Protein Bars, found in the May 2016 issue of SELF magazine. The ad pairs an image of the energy bar with a message that relieves consumers from food shame. “Guilt free. Unless you steal one,” it reads, implying, of course, that consumers may enjoy these sugar-free, high-protein bars without any guilt.

Despite what the advertisement suggests, thinkThin’s bars aren’t inherently “good” in ways that other foods are “bad.” You see, food is neither good nor bad. We feel bad eating certain foods only because our cultural mindset is bad—unhealthy, dangerous, and wrong.

Food with sugar is not bad. Ditto to food with fat and food with calories. Even if these foods were bad, they couldn’t make us—the living, breathing, surviving-on-food people we are—bad. Contrary to common lore, we are so much more than what we eat.

Food, on the other hand, is just food. From donuts to ice cream to apples to kale, food across the nutritional spectrum is fuel. It’s energy, as basic as the air we breathe and the water we drink. Let’s rid our language of labels that attach moral meaning to our plates. Let’s recognize that food has social, cultural, and emotional value, yes—but no moral value.

Food is food. Let’s not give it more power than it deserves.

“thinkThin.” SELF Magazine, May 2016.

What Is Beauty? Campaign – TCA

The student-led project titled “What is Beauty?” is a partnership opportunity for schools to team up with The Emily Program Foundation to redefine beauty. What Is Beauty is a student-led campaign supported by The Emily Program Foundation staff and the school and focuses on the promotion of the importance of internal beauty and raises awareness of the dangers of focusing on external beauty. The campaign works to change the conversation about beauty and address the significance of internal beauty over external beauty. By raising awareness about issues such as eating disorders, self-image, peer pressure, and self-confidence by implementing ideas (found in the curriculum), real beauty may be defined. Our hope is to have students look at each other without judgment, to have continuing discussions about beauty, and be able to communicate with friends or family who might be struggling with body image and eating disorders.

Students from Twin Cities Academy participated in this campaign over the Spring 2016 Semester, raising the question of beauty with their high school peers. The Sophmores and Juniors at Twin Cities Academy engage in a service learning project of their choosing, splitting up into groups based on their interests. Fourteen teens chose the “What Is Beauty?” campaign, partnering with the Foundation.

The students created videos, posters, and ribbons, implementing projects to engage their peers and challenge day-to-day activities and behaviors that may result in negative body image.

Twin Cities Academy What Is Beauty? projects:

Objectively looking at magazines



Picturing how they see beauty


Developing social media pages for What Is Beauty?


“Take What You Need” boxes. The boxes are filled with inspirational quotes, thoughts, and actions


“Take What You Need” flyers


Define Beauty “selfie” board


Sticky-notes posted on the lockers, walls, and bathroom mirrors


Campaign ribbons


Student Interviews

For more information on the What Is Beauty? project, and to start a campaign in your school, please contact Emily Monson.