By: Judy Davie - The Food Coach
The other day one of my friends was given the most devastating news - her 16 year old daughter's heart rate was dangerously slow and she was to be admitted to hospital with a gastric tube, constant monitoring and a further 4 - 6 weeks in an adolescent ward to refeed. She, like so many young girls, suffers from anorexia. Not that it came as a great surprise, over the past 2 years her daughter has gone from obsessively eating healthy foods (a condition called orthorexia), to obsessively exercising and finally where she stopped eating altogether. And now my friend is reeling, tormented over whether she could have prevented this, was it her fault, and all that sort of stuff that every mother feels when something goes wrong with the kids. Try to normalise food, don't think of foods as being good and bad, special or otherwise.
Is it social media, peer pressure, the pressure to do well in everything? Let's leave that to the experts, what I care about is how to stop other young girls falling into the same mental hole.
People talk about having a healthy relationship with food and from what I have read, that's when you never worry about your weight, or go on a diet, weigh yourself regularly, feel guilty about what you eat or when you eat something that may be : -
high in fat OR high in bad fat OR high in carbohydrates OR contain carbohydrates at night OR contain added sugar anytime OR contain animal foods OR contain dairy OR be considered junk food OR highly processed OR was eaten outside the 8-hour window OR was eaten on a day when calories were meant to be restricted.
That long list was straight off the top of my head and I suspect most of us have worried about at least one of those things as some time or other.
Is it any wonder most people, particularly women, have an unhealthy relationship with food, to a greater or lesser extent?
Social media and viral marketing are powerful. Just an hour ago I watched a You Tube video on how to make vegan ice-creams which looked delicious. My practical self-recognises that the ingredients will cost a fortune, the calories will be the same if not more than regular ice-cream and regardless of how much cacao, cashews, maple syrup and coconut it contains, it is not health food. The less practical side thinks it looks and sounds delicious and possibly there's a little part of me that wants to be convinced that it's healthy.
Through social media, You Tube, magazines and even by our friends we are continually being influenced, sold to, convinced that one way is better than another.
I asked my 92 years old mother-in-law whether she knew anyone when she was younger who'd had anorexia, but she hadn't.
"Back in my day you had meat, three veg and a pudding and that's what you had" she said "We didn't have the choice there is today. I bought all the groceries from the end of the road and carried them home, and people weren't worried about how they looked in the latest fashion. They didn't read as many magazines"..
Times have indeed changed but I must say I do think there's great merit in the "eat what you're given "approach with much less dialogue about what people will and won't eat.
There's also merit in shopping at your local greengrocer where over 80% of what you buy is fresh natural food, and at your local fish shop and butchers for the same reason.
I realise the issue of anorexia is complex but there are some things we can do:
Try to stick to a fresh diet because you can't go wrong when you do.
Enforce the "eat what you're given" approach with your kids at home and avoid endless conversations about food, health and diets in front of them.
Shop at your local greengrocers, fish shop and butchers.