Eating disorders

Most of us were taught unhealthy eating habits from childhood. Mine was: you can’t leave the table until you finish your plate. This naturally led to a precarious relationship with food. Consequently, it’s taken me years to cultivate one that’s more stable.

Eating disorders are very much a part of Western culture. I suspect it’s because we live in a contradiction when it comes to beauty standards and lifestyle. Although eating disorders aren’t exclusive to the West, studies have shown that the West has influenced them.

Society has conditioned us to aim for thin as a beauty standard. But we conveniently gloss over the ways in which so many people lose weight. Here’s a hint, it’s not always through nutrition and exercise.

“What is that one habit you got from your parents. Mine: Love eating Chicken”

Learned behavior

Our parents feed us from the time we’re born until we’re old enough to feed ourselves. By the time we have moved from point A to point B, our parents have shaped our eating habits. They control when we eat, how much we eat and what we eat.

From their responses we learn what prompts them to react to our dietary needs and wants. Whether or not they encourage us to eat healthy foods shapes our relationship with food.

So too does their reaction to us eating only until we’re full, or us wanting to choose when we eat. The level of autonomy we’re permitted within our diet also shape our perspective.

We also learn a lot about our relationship with food from observation. We notice how our parents eat, what they eat and when they eat. If the relationship our parents has with food is unhealthy, we internalize this and are susceptible to mirroring these behaviors.

“Our perceptions of health are massively manipulated- during childhood through our eating habits and parents’ knowledge around food, to then attempting to see clarity through the onslaught of SO much rubbish around weight loss and healthy eating.”

Eating disorders around the world

Children as young as eight can develop an eating disorder. However, it is more common for them to develop during teen years an early adulthood.

There was an interesting study in Japan done during the 1970s. You might be surprised to learn that eating disorders rose steadily over the following thirty years. Sadly, this is a trend that has continued to present day and also been observed in many other non-Western countries.

“Prevalence rates in Western countries for anorexia nervosa ranged from 0.1% to 5.7% in female subjects. Rates for bulimia nervosa ranged from 0% to 2.1% in males and from 0.3% to 7.3% in female subjects in Western countries.

Prevalence rates in non-Western countries for bulimia nervosa ranged from 0.46% to 3.2% in female subjects. Studies of eating attitudes indicate abnormal eating attitudes in non-Western countries have been gradually increasing.”

There does not seem to be any cultural connection to eating disorders. However, research has shown that they can be linked to Western ideologies like beauty, fashion. And Western media such as television and social media. They can also be linked to urbanization and industrialization.

“I used to be skinny shamed by my parents so I started eating a lot. So when I start to be nearly overweight (not overweight, but slightly) they start fat shaming me and now that eating is starting to be my habit.. DAMN AT WHAT WEIGHT DO YOU WANT ME TO BE”

The Next Step

You’re entitled to food and it’s important that you know that. You don’t have to earn it and you don’t have to explain why you’re consuming it. To anyone.

Eat when you’re hungry, you’re body knows what it needs. If we spent more time listening to our body and less time listening to media, we would all be a lot healthier and happier. ⠀

I’d love to know…

What’s your favorite meal? Paint me a word picture about why you love it!

“And once you form the habit of eating quick and cheap stuff, are you going to get out of your comfort zone as an adult? Particularly if you’re in the same financial situation your parents were in?”