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Manchester, Greater Manchester, United Kingdom, 2006/08/21 - Whilst emphasizing that serious Eating Disorders remain worrying and dangerous, a prominent weight issues research organization is worried that too many problem dieters and eaters are now too hastily pushed in to definitive Eating Disorders status.
Problem eaters and dieters may too readily be placed into medical categorizations, limiting abilities to self-help and recover.
A leading weight-control organization believes that exaggerated claims about the extent of eating disorders are contributing to the general obesity crisis.
The Weight Foundation says that whilst major eating disorders remain dangerous and distressing, over-zealous diagnoses are fanning the flames of food distress.
And the charity insists that much more emphasis needs to be placed on researching dieting, which it argues is a significantly under-recognized epidemic.
Founder Malcolm Evans identifies the growing number of predictions that 30-50% of women will experience an eating disorder some time within their lifetime.
“This is what is called 'pathologizing' - the categorization of problems or conditions into disease. Once issues become concretized like this, the focus of remedy changes. It goes from being voluntary habit change to becoming treatment by third parties,” he says.
“I do not for one minute believe that up to half of women will suffer an eating disorder. However what I believe matters not at all; if people expect themselves to be at risk, then risk automatically increases.”
Until recently, definitions of eating disorders have generally comprised Anorexia and Bulimia. Whilst there are various references to self-starvation, particularly in young women, going back in to antiquity, it was not until the latter part of the 19th Century that a medical typology of Anorexia was first constructed. Bulimia was first formally noted at the end of the 1970's.
The research community is now provisionally exploring 'Binge Eating Disorder' to capture the notion of repeated and out of control overeating. BED as a concept is ring-fenced with a considerable array of necessary behaviors, anxieties and obsessions to differentiate it from lesser overeating.
Despite the cautious progress of researchers in testing the boundaries of eating disorders, Evans is convinced that a less-sophisticated eating disorders bandwagon is creating a disruptive and destructive momentum.
“Individual issues of self-image anxieties, overeating, continual dieting and obesity concerns are being conflated into broader quasi-medical conditions.
“This is not to downplay for one minute the dangers and distress caused by full-blown eating disorders, including serious binge eating. However people can exercise a far greater control over what is personal and cultural than they can over what is becoming to be seen as endemic and medical,” comments the 46 year old social entrepreneur from Manchester, England.
The Weight Foundation is researching the causes and culture of long-term dieting. It believes that dieting, for many people, has become a way of life largely divorced from any useful connexion with weight-loss and weight-control.
“The more the eating disorder zealots push too many people down the road of disease labeling, the lower the chances for lots of them of maintaining a natural and relaxed relationship with food,” says Evans.
- The Hardcore Dieting Index is a dieting behavior self-test freely available on the organization's website. It is designed to promote self-knowledge and, therefore, the ability to intervene decisively on any problem areas.