Food messages may backfire

Food messages may backfire

Jean Gottlieb

(NC)—Food was rarely a major topic of conversation when I was growing up. It was simply a given – sometimes scrumptious, sometimes mundane, always there in adequate quantities.

Today, wherever one turns, food and eating is front and centre; TV programs are built around the 'how to'; billboards tell us 'what to' – all suggesting a marriage of concern about health and self-indulgence.

“Eating has become a major preoccupation for many,” says Merryl Bear, director of the National Eating Disorder Information Centre, “We're constantly being told how and what to eat. The language of health and morality has been co-opted to sway our eating attitudes.”

Messages of 'good' and 'bad' food are now so strongly tied to moral behaviour, that children increasingly see themselves as either good or bad if they consume these items, says Bear, leading to increasing disordered eating amongst children and teens.

Many individuals will restrict their eating during the day in order to be able to 'splurge' at a special dinner, or over-exercise to 'make room' for more calories.

“It's counter-productive, since restriction leads to bingeing,” says Bear.

More than one in four girls in Ontario between 12 and 18 years old are engaged in harmful eating and weight management practices, in the belief that losing weight will lead to greater social success, according to recent research.

“With so many different eating trends, it's becoming increasingly difficult to tease out whether eating behaviours are normal or a sign that food is being used to manipulate feelings,” says Lisa Hoffman, a Toronto-based dietician and eating disorder expert.

If you suspect that food and weight management is significantly interfering with your ability to work, play and socialize, contact your doctor or the National Eating Disorder Information Centre to check it out.

Stephen Hall

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