NUTRITION HOTLINE: Dieting and Eating Disorders

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NUTRITION HOTLINE: Dieting and Eating Disorders

Q: Why has dieting been linked to causing eating disorders?

A: In many cases dieting is one of the triggering events for the onset of anorexia or bulimia. Researchers speculate this may occur because dieting can reduce the levels of serotonin in the brain, causing depression and appetite dysregulation (overeating or bingeing), two of the main eating disorder symptoms. Severe dieting and undernutrition also affect the brain and may increase tendencies toward obsessional thinking and compulsive behavior, contributing to the thinking, rituals and exercise that comprise anorexia nervosa. From a sociocultural viewpoint, the excessive focus on thinness and dieting in our society leads many children, teens, and adults to strive for an unhealthy body size through dieting. The unrealistic and anorexic body sizes portrayed by the media have led many people to think their natural body weight is too large, which fuels unnecessary and unhealthy weight loss for many people. In the United States, the diet industry continues to be a multibillion dollar industry, luring many people into repeated and unsuccessful attempts at dieting. The more you diet, the more at risk you are for developing an eating disorder.

by Diane Keddy, MS, RD
Reprinted with permission from Eating Disorders Recovery Today
Summer 2003 Volume 1, Number 5
©2003 Gürze Books

About the Author

Diane Keddy, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian with a private practice in Newport Beach, CA.

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