Do girls learn the difference between fullness and "feeling fat"?
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I have heard a disturbing but recurring topic lately that has been brought up by many teenage girls and young women. Many of them tell me, "If I eat, I have failed." I've heard girls say they put off every day for as long as possible because they believe, "If my stomach has something to eat, it will stick out and I'll look fat" or "If I eat, I won't". look as good as I do when I'm empty ”. They actually try to avoid eating it, especially in public, because when they have food in their stomach they believe that others will notice the difference right away. They believe that any feeling of fullness from within means that they will then appear "fat" from the outside. They believe that every time they eat something it will lead to weight gain.
This asked me why girls today internalize these beliefs. Why should girls believe that abundance is the same as being fat, and that all food makes you appear fat? While skewed beliefs about food fear and weight gain are common in people diagnosed with eating disorders, I was surprised to find them so explicitly expressed in teenagers and young women I work with (none of whom have an eating disorder) . . What could be going on in our culture that contributes to these beliefs? The pressure on women to be thin and beautiful is nothing new. Concern about how others rate their appearance has long been problematic. But what may be different today is that, in addition to past burdens, girls and young women are being bombarded with social messages that glorify extreme food restrictions and deprivation as a route to "health" and "fitness".
We know that teenage girls and young women are the top users of social media exposed to such ubiquitous messages. For example, influencers for the #fitspiration trend on Instagram claim to serve as inspiration for followers when they post pictures of their weight loss trips, "before" and "after" photos, carefully taken (and often edited) selfies to showcase sculpted bodies and Secrets not to eat and get an ideal shape. Unsurprisingly, recent research shows that viewing these images is related to negative body image.
While #fitspiration has been popular with girls for several years, these accounts also overlap and promote the more recent trends #IntermittentFasting, #Fasting, and #WaterFast. Most of us are familiar with intermittent fasting, a popular diet trend that many adults have subscribed to, with mixed results. The problem is that the "intermittent" part of the term has been ignored by many young women, leading to #fasting challenges. During a cursory Instagram search, I saw hundreds of posts stating how many consecutive hours users could fast. Just like some people post how many miles or minutes they have exercised that day, the trend now is how many hours you have fasted. There are apps and programs that will generate these contributions for you (e.g. "Total fasting time = 23 hours and 10 minutes!") That you can make available to the public. I've also seen #Waterfast challenges where influencers only drink water for up to 30 days with no food, and their reports have hundreds of comments encouraging them to stick to their goal of not eating.
What is the harm?
Extreme diets, also in the name of “health” and “fasting”, can still cause damage. When a teenage girl or young woman does not use enough energy to meet her nutritional needs, this deficit can lead to depression, fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. More importantly, however, diet is the strongest predictor of developing an eating disorder. Studies show that adolescents who follow extreme diets are 18 times more likely to develop an eating disorder than those who do not diet, and those who diet even at moderate levels are still 5 times more likely to develop an eating disorder1 & # 39; paying attention to knowing that these "health" trends are not harmless; In fact, they can lead to permanent physical and mental health problems.
How to help
- Help her investigate the accounts she follows. Do you follow reports of fasting or fitspiration, and what do these influencers teach you about extreme dieting, restricting or not eating for long periods, excessive exercise, and weight loss? Are they their extreme ideas about "health"? Are they promoting a balanced approach to food, weight, and shape, or are they promoting an ultra-thin ideal of beauty that is out of reach for most people?
- Find out the facts. Help adults working with girls and young women understand the difference between physical sensations of satiety or fullness and the experience of feeling fat. Help her know that the feeling she feels after eating is natural and temporary, but is in no way an indicator of weight gain. It has nothing to do with how it will look to others. To help break the link between physical sensations and unhelpful, invalid beliefs, ask some of the following questions: If your girlfriend has just eaten a large amount of food and is very full, can you tell by looking at her? Does one of your friends look bigger the moment you see them eat? Can you tell the difference in her body before and after eating?
- Help her change her self-talk. Help her internalize a new message: “If I feel full, it doesn't mean I'm fat. body can see that I have eaten or that I am full. The truth is that I need food for fuel in order to be able to do my best and think clearly. Good food leads to my success, not my failure. "