Dieting: gateway drug to madness

Possibly the most important fact for parents to know when coping with a child's eating disorder:

"symptoms once thought to be primary features of anorexia nervosa are actually symptoms of starvation"

"dramatic increase in food preoccupations...declines in interest in sex and activity...dawdle for almost two hours after a meal which previously they would have consumed in a matter of minutes...Cookbooks, menus, and information bulletins on food production became intensely interesting ...hoarding even extended to non-food-related items...caught between conflicting desires to gulp their food down ravenously and consume it slowly...weird and distasteful concoctions...planning as to how they would handle their day's allotment of food...consumption of coffee and tea increased...gum chewing became excessive ...binge eating followed by self-reproach...self-deprecatory, expressing disgust and self-criticism...increased hunger immediately following a large meal...Depression...Mood swings ...Irritability and frequent outbursts of anger...anxiety ..."

Think this is only for people living on 500 calories a day? No. All it takes is a diet: "precisely the level of caloric deficit used to define "conservative" treatments for obesity "


  1. Laura, I really appreciate that you get the connection between eating disorders and standard treatments for obesity.

    I attended a lecture a few weeks ago (to my medical school class) about eating disorders. In one lecture, the physician speaking managed to tell us both that ED's are very serious and that, of course, we need to encourage teens that are "overweight" to be losing weight. Sigh. It always amazes me that people don't believe these two ideas to be conflicting.

  2. Laura, This article is great and to the point. I've e-mailed the link to people. I've read the Minnesota Starvation study, but this is more to the point. Do you have links to WHO information on refeeding refuges? There must be a ton of information we can glean from people experienced with mass refeeding.

  3. Charteuse, I'm so glad that people are starting to make that connection. I guess we're just going to have to keep bringing it up until it becomes standard.

    Lisa, I don't have that, but I think you are right - if you find it I'd love to see it!

  4. Maybe the studies of mass refugees and famine victims are more difficult to draw conclusions from because those poor people have usually suffered horrendous trauma, like civil war, violence, and death of loved ones. So it's hard to tell whether their mood and behavior is affected by the starvation or by the other circumstances. What makes Keys' Minnesota study so compelling is that he selected for his study the individuals who tested as the most psychologically stable and he provided them with an otherwise comfortable life in the U of Minnesota dorms with lots of amenities, EXCEPT enough food. It seems pretty clear that it was the semi-starvation that caused the mood and behavior disorders.


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