Archive for the ‘dieting’ Category

MANOREXIA

August 24, 2012

Our new issue of GQ magazine arrived today. The magazine comes in my fiancée’s name, however we both enjoy the subscription. While I generally skip over the articles about sports and cars, I do enjoy the monthly glimpse into the male universe. What are they being told to wear, read, eat, and listen to? Why are there 20 variations of the same brown loafer in my front closet? The answers are in this magazine. Plus the ads are much more arousing and don’t illicit the same self-loathing as those in women’s magazines. Read: gorgeous men, often in states of undress. But I digress. When I picked up the new issue, I immediately noticed the coverline: “SPECIAL REPORT: WHY MEN ARE BECOMING ANOREXICS”. While there have been several reports indicating that the number of men with eating disorders has been on the rise, I was surprised to see this article in a major men’s magazine. How big is this issue?

 

In the last few years I have observed some subtle changes in the behaviour of men in general towards food. It seems more men are drinking diet soft drinks. I hear more men ordering “skinny” drinks at Starbucks (hold the whip!) or putting artificial sweeteners in their drinks. A lot of my male friends choose salad instead of fries as their side dish. At the last wedding attended, my fiancée and I were seated at a table with four male firefighters. These men were young, thin and appeared to be in good shape. Yet for some reason all four of them were on the low-carb “Southbeach Diet”. I watched with fascination as they removed the single crouton from the soup course, refused the pasta salad, and carefully removed the layer of breading from the fish. I decided not to mention that the 12 vodka sodas they each downed contained carbohydrates. I figured they would throw them up imminently. At another dinner I attended, a male guest questioned why both potatoes and rice were served: “Who serves 2 carbs??” In a female, this behaviour would likely not have even raised an eyebrow. In these cases I found it bizarre and off-putting. Yet I wouldn’t have suspected any of these men to have an eating disorder until I read this article.

 

As a woman recovering from an eating disorder I know that the triggers for anorexia and bulimia are complicated. However it has been shown that the pressures placed on women to conform to the media and societal ideal of perfection can certainly be a contributing factor. There was a time when this was a concern of women almost exclusively. In The Beauty Myth first published in 1990 Naomi Wolf writes of women’s magazines:

“Since self-hatred artificially inflates the demand and the price, the overall message to women from their magazines must remain…negative not positive. Hence the hectoring tone that no other magazines use to address adults with money in their pockets: do’s and dont’s that scold, insinuate, and condescend. The same tone in a men’s magazine-do invest in tax-free bonds; don’t vote Republican-is unthinkable.”

And:

“Unfortunately, the beauty backlash is spread and reinforced by the cycles of self-hatred provoked in women by the advertisements, photo features, and beauty copy in the glossies. These make up the beauty index, which women scan as anxiously as men scan stock reports.”

20 years later, the content of men’s magazines very closely imitates that of most women’s publications. Magazines such as GQ, Details, Maxim and Nylon Man have numerous sartorial recommendations for the stylish modern man, reinforced by photo spreads of young, fit male models. Articles detail what’s new in the worlds of technology, music, art and books, and ensure men feel sufficiently mediocre if these prizes are not acquired. Advertisements convey the quintessential male specimen, lean men in slim-cut clothing or topless displaying bulging pectoral, abdominal, and bicep muscles. Most months feature diet and fitness advice to help men look more like the sculpted, photoshopped gods gracing the glossy pages. If looking at an Armani underwear ad featuring David Beckham is the male equivalent of women having to look at a Victoria’s Secret ad featuring Giselle Bundchen then I have no problem grasping the concept of male eating disorders.

 

The article in GQ magazine reports some surprising statistics. The author, Nathaniel Penn, reports that 20% of anorexics are men, or to put it in perspective for those that aren’t great at math 1 in 5. This is up from 5% (1 in 20) only 10 years ago, and the number is increasing. It appears that men develop eating disorders for the same reasons as women. So why has there been such an increase in the number of cases? A person can be predisposed to developing an eating disorder but never actually develop the disease because they never experience a trigger. Is it simply that, as discussed above, western culture has evolved to a point where men are facing many of the same societal pressures that women have faced for decade? This is likely only a part of it.

 

An article in Details magazine published November 2011 titled “America’s New Male Body Obsession” showcased 40 images that changed the way men viewed their bodies. These images are meant to illustrate how the male ideal has changed over the last several years as well as how much more focused men have become on their physiques. Included are: Mark Wahlberg’s notorious Calvin Klein ad, Brad Pitt’s very toned body in Fight Club, Mark Jacob’s remarkable weight loss, Daniel Craig, the author of The Ultimate New York Diet, a bottle of Michelob Light beer, a picture of body wax, etc. Looking at People Magazine’s Sexiest Men list, essentially all of the men topping the list had a lean, athletic physique and are very well groomed: Ryan Gosling, Justin Theroux, Chris Evans, and the winner Bradley Cooper to name a few. Topping the music charts are songs by Fun, Maroon 5, Neon Trees and Owl City, indie and alternative musicians who insist on looking like starving artists no matter how successful they get, in skintight size 27 jeans and American Apparel deep V’s. The media and entertainment industries are screaming to men that 0% body fat and a 6-pack are essential for health and happiness. And apparently they are listening.

 

In a March 24th 2012 article on CNN.com Michael Addis, a professor of psychology at Clark University noted “male college students in his classes have changed and adapted to shifting cultural norms. In recent years, more of them spend time in the gym, focus on their appearance and monitor body mass.” He says “As women gain more financial power in society, men are expected to bring more to the table…In addition to being financially successful, they need to be well-groomed, in good shape, emotionally skilled in relationships and the emphasis on looking good is just part of the bigger package…” So a threat to male masculinity is motivating men to adopt behaviors traditionally attributed to women such as dieting and excessive exercise? Not according to some psychologists who believe men are actually trying to look more masculine by developing an obsession with muscle definition and fitness.

 

Clearly the reasons men develop eating disorders can be multifold and will be different for each person. Unfortunately, in males the disease often goes undiagnosed, at least until the patient is very ill, because doctors often won’t suspect anorexia in a male patient. Also, men are less likely to seek help due to the stigma of the disease, and the belief that it is primarily a female disease. As a result men on average will suffer with the disease longer than females, an average of 8 years. Many treatment facilities don’t admit male patients. These factors combined can be deadly, since according to the article in GQ as well as several other sources, the mortality rate of anorexia is up to 10%.

 

Most women know what it’s like to struggle with our body image. Therefore we may be in an opportune position to recognize if a man in our life is struggling with some of the same issues. It may be easier for him to talk to someone who can be empathetic rather than his male friends who he may feel aren’t experiencing the same pressures and insecurities. And the next time you find yourself worrying about what a man thinks of you, remember, he’s probably worrying about the same thing. So give yourself a break and give him one too. Nobody’s perfect.

 

 

The Incredible Shrinking Brides!

June 22, 2012

Tommy Europe and Nadeen Boman of ‘Bulging Brides’ on Slice Network
Source:tvlistings.zap2it.com

A couple of years ago I was addicted to the show ‘Bulging Brides’ on the Slice channel. The show follows women as they struggle to  lose weight in order to fit into their wedding dress, which they have purchased one to several sizes too small, apparently as a type of sadistic motivation to push themselves towards some perceived bridal ideal. Pushed to their physical breaking point by ex-CFL football player turned personal trainer Tommy Europe and starving after having their kitchens robbed of all comfort food by the show’s nutritionist these women are so determined to walk down the aisle in said dress that they are willing to miss social functions, get up at the crack of dawn to exercise, give up precious sugary sweets, and put up with being berated by Mr. Europe for (stupidly) breaking any of the endless rules (on camera). Most of them eventually do squeeze themselves into the prized dress, often just barely, leaving me feeling nostalgic for a nice Bratwurst and also pondering the tensile strength of satin and chiffon.

Just a few more inches and the dress should zip up!!
Source:fitnessmagazine.com

The show eventually got tedious to watch, and I haven’t seen an episode since, although the website indicates it is still airing new episodes.  Other shows of the same genre have also popped up, ‘Bridal Bootcamp’ and ‘Shedding for the Wedding’ come to mind, which similarly target the extra pounds holding women back from being the perfect bride on their special day. While most women do not document their journey on TV, it is certainly not unusual for women to obsess about their appearance as their wedding approaches. We live in a society where as little girls we are raised to believe that this day is supposed to be the most important of our lives. I know more than a few women who spent more time with their personal trainers than their fiancees in the weeks before their weddings. Strapless dresses mean shoulders need toning, tight bodices require a chiseled waist. Donning a bikini on the honeymoon? A whole body transformation is in order. Currently a bride-to-be myself I made a promise to myself that I would not give into the madness. I have already ordered my wedding dress. I did a novel thing and ordered it in my size, though the salesgirl was kind enough to point out that the bust would need to be taken in substantially. Likely the hips too. Apparently dresses are generally sewn in an hourglass shape and not straight up and down as I seem to be built. My wedding is in the winter, directly after the holiday season. It would show a high degree of self-loathing if I were to attempt any type of diet and/or exercise plan during this time ripe with merriment and excess. One thing I have learned after struggling to overcome an eating disorder is that allowing how you look and how much you weigh to define how you feel and your sense of accomplishment and believing others will judge you solely on these superficial traits will leave you constantly striving for an unachievable ideal that grows more distant as you get closer to it. I would love more toned shoulders for my lovely strapless dress, but I know myself well enough to know it’s a slippery slope down from there to obsession and I don’t have time to train for a Ms. Female Bodybuilder of the Year competition right now, what with a wedding to plan and all. So I’ll just stick to my regular routine and look like me on my wedding day, with a different hairdo and a beautiful gown. That I can zip up.

With enough time and body oil I feel I could definitely give Kim Chizevsky a run for her money!
Source:www.do-while.com

The Wonderfully Spun Wizardry of Dr. Oz

June 6, 2012
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Source:getthebigpicture.com

As a pharmacist, I die a little bit inside every time I hear the question “Do you have (insert Product X here)? I saw it on Dr. Oz…” As I work and have a social life, and also a fair amount of love and respect for myself, I don’t watch Dr. Oz, and therefore have usually not heard of said wonder product. The herbal, nutraceutical, aruvedic and homeopathic market is growing quickly and it is virtually impossible to keep up with every product being marketed. Not to mention that most of these alternative health care products are not well studied, and have unknown actions, side effects and drug interactions. Products that claim to have “science” and “clinical studies” proving their effectiveness may have small scale experiments or very small, often biased studies paid for by the marketing company in their favor. That being said, if a product is considered a “nutraceutical” it does not need to go through the rigorous clinical trial process that drugs do in order to be marketed. A lot of people don’t consider the possible harm these products can cause, assuming that because a product is “natural” it must be “safe”. Has nobody told you not to eat wild berries in the woods because they are poisonous and can kill you? Some wild mushrooms can also be fatal if ingested, while some are used as illicit drugs for their hallucinogenic properties. The list goes on. In fact, many of the western medicines we have today are derived from “natural” or plant medicines. Asprin or ASA is derived from Willow Bark, and in large amounts can cause gastric ulceration, metabolic acidosis and death. A commonly used class of chemotherapy agents, the taxanes, are also derived from plant structures. These agents are extremely toxic. Digoxin, a powerful medication for heart failure, from the digitalis leaf. This is not to say that it is never appropriate to recommend herbal products to patients. Many are well studied and useful in certain situations. However it is important to consider each individual’s medical conditions, medications, and what they are treating, weighing the benefits and risks for each person based on their particular situation. Health care professionals have an ethical responsibility to put patients first above all else. This is why it angers me that the good Dr. Oz is touting the benefits of these “safe” natural products to millions of impressionable and trusting people watching his show every day. And it really pisses me off that I have to clean up his mess.

First of all, who the hell is Dr. Oz? Even the name sounds fake. In fact, he is a real doctor. The problem is, he is a cardiothoracic surgeon. Meaning, his expertise lies in the operating room. He is not an expert in nutrition, herbal remedies, exercise, microbiology, dermatology, homeopathy, diabetes, obesity etc. However, if you watch his show you would believe he knows everything there is to know about health. He gives tips on everything from vaccinations to weight loss and nutrition to diabetes.Of course, he always has a panel of experts on board to back him up. These “experts” often have something to gain from advocating the point of the day. For example, a recent show discussing the fad HCG diet featured the doctor responsible for the recent resurgence of the diet’s popularity and who has published numerous recent studies supporting the diet. Advocating this diet which consists of starving by eating a mere 600 calories a day (the average is about 2000) and receiving expensive daily shots of the hormone HCG (the pregnancy hormone) will of course gain her patients, notoriety, and money. This does not change the fact that the data supporting the diet is very weak and the diet is dangerous.

For the good of the public and the clarity of my conscience I would like to draw attention to a few of the good doctor’s most recent and most dangerous claims:

1) Raspberry Ketone:
Claim: Raspberry Ketone is great for weight loss and has no side effects

Fact: Raspberry ketone is structurally related to synephrine (a stimulant) and capsaicin. As a stimulant, it has been associated with heart palpitations and shakiness. Syneophrine and norepinephrine, as well as ephedrine, similar stimulants, have been associated with increased blood pressure, heart rate, heart palpitations, chest pain, and cardiac arrest. Ephedrine has been restricted in Canada to use as a nasal decongestant.
There is some evidence that it helps rats lose weight. There is not enough evidence in humans yet.
This medication can significantly decrease INR and require a larger dose of warfarin and require much more frequent monitoring of levels. However there is an unpredictable effect.

2)African Mango
Claim: It’s a wonder pill that will make you lose tons of weight without changing a thing in your life.
Fact:Yes, the African Mango group loss some weigh over the placebo group in a small study. However, they also consumed fewer calories Quite a lot fewer calories. Hmm. I wonder why they lost weight. Apparently the African Mango acts like a fiber making you feel full. Eat more fiber. This has been in every nutritional guideline for years. Take heed people!!

3)7-Keto
Claim:A natural byproduct of the DHEA hormone we naturally produce that helps keep us young and regulates our metabolic rate. After the age of 30 this drops, slowing metabolism and causing weight gain. 7-Keto stimulates the thyroid to increase your resting metabolic rate causing weight loss, less fat, more muscle and a smaller belly, especially with diet and exercise.
Fact: Some preliminary evidence of a decrease in body weight and fat in obese females but more evidence is needed. Decreased hemoglobin in some patients. Also has been associated with an increase in T3 hormone in some patients. Could be a concern for people with overactive thyroid, heart disease or uncontrolled blood pressure.

4)Forskolin
Claim: Helps promote breakdown of stored fats in fat cells. May also release fatty acids from fat tissue. Results in loss of body fat and theoretically increased lean body mass.
Fact: This is a potentially dangerous herb for many people. There is some evidence for its use in asthma and congestive cardiomyopathy, but no statistically significant clinical evidence of efficacy for weight loss. It can cause decreased blood pressure and flushing. There are many significant drug interactions. It can also interact with many other herbs such as anise, arnica, capsicum, chamomile, clove, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, ginseng, horseradish, licorice, red clover, tumeric, causing risk of bleeding or serious decrease in blood pressure. Any patients on anticoagulant or antiplatelet drugs, calcium channel blockers or nitrates should not take this herb. For patients on warfarin, INR may be increased if forskolin is used. Anyone with a bleeding disorder should not take this herb. Anyone with a heart condition should not use this herb. It should be stopped 2 weeks before any surgery to prevent serious bleeding.
This sounds really scary? Is it really worth it to lose a couple of pounds?

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Source:www.bcrt.ca

We live in a society that has been taught that everything can be cured with a pill. This is the combined fault of doctors, drug companies through marketing and advertising, retailers, and probably even pharmacist. But it is also the fault of patients. It is each person’s own responsibility to take ownership of their own health. There has been a big push towards an empowerment model of health care, that is one where the patient is a partner in their own health, and is an active voice in the decision making process with respect to how they are going to prevent and treat their medical conditions. In order to make informed decisions, people need to have knowledge. Shows like Dr. Oz give the facade that people are making healthy lifestyle choices for themselves, but really they are being manipulated by someone who is often spewing misinformation under the guise of health promotion. What needs to happen is that people need to look into what is right for them, consult other sources, and not assume that everything they hear on TV is gospel. If something sounds too miraculous to be true, it likely is. Weight loss is still only possible with diet and/or exercise. You won’t get abs without sit-ups. This is why I will never have any. And Dr. Oz will only go away if everyone stops watching him.

I’ll have the vegan burger, hold the gluten. Oh, and no carbs.

April 19, 2012

Source:www.liesyoungwomenbelieve.com

It is hockey playoff season which, depending on how my team fares, will likely mean more dining out while watching them squash the competition. While sports bars and chain restaurant lounges with big screen TVs aren’t exactly fine dining establishments, I am still often overwhelmed by the number of options on their menus. Just yesterday a group of 4 of us went to a neighborhood establishment to watch the game. No one had eaten, and we were all famished. Being the responsible adults that we are (and not college frat boys), we decided to forgo the usual pub fare of chicken wings and nachos in favor of ‘real meals’. That being said, after several minutes spent perusing the menu, all 4 of us ordered burgers and fries.

Dining out for many is a treat, a chance to indulge. But for many of us, it has become commonplace. We go to restaurants when we don’t want to cook, when we want to have foods we can’t make at home, to socialize with friends, for special occasions or sometimes ‘just because’. Eating out has increased dramatically. In 1970, people spent 25% of their food budget on foods prepared outside the home. Today that number is almost 50%. As people eat more and more foods from restaurants, fast food establishments and even grocery store delis, it has become increasingly important to them as consumers that the food they purchase be wholesome and healthy. There has been tremendous pressure placed on the fast food and restaurant industry to improve the standards of their ingredients and cooking techniques and to offer people choices more compliant with their healthier lifestyle choices. Similarly, in recent years certain diets and lifestyles have become commonplace, such as vegetarianism/veganism, low carbohydrate and gluten-free and there has been a big push for restaurants to comply. Books such as the Skinny Bitch series advocating a vegan diet and several other diet plans, websites and celebrities demonizing carbohydrates and gluten have driven the demand for new and specialized restaurants, putting pressure on existing ones to change their focus and broaden their scope.

But has it gone too far? It’s almost gotten to the point where one can barely decide on an entrée at a restaurant without feeling menu guilt. You feel like the artery clogging steak, steak, but the chicken has that little “healthy choice label” beside it. How can ignore your health?? And for every dish that is delicious just as it is, there is a healthy adaptation that can (i.e.should) be made that will impair the taste but somehow benefit you. Any sandwich on the menu can be made with a gluten free bun. (Because gluten is the devil) Or you can get no bun at all, and they will just bring the patty wrapped in lettuce! (Because carbs are the devil) Fries can be substituted for a salad with any sandwich. You can get vegan cheese on your nachos instead of regular cheese. The waitress can just walk your meal in front of you so you can smell it without actually eating any of it, thus saving you the unnecessary calories.

Don’t get me wrong. I realize people have intolerances/preferences/allergies. I think it’s great that restaurants can work around them. But when I order a burger, I don’t want the waitress to ask me if I want the gluten free bun, and if I want a salad with that. No, b@#*h! I want a regular bun, and bring me my damn fries. Extra ketchup.

Have You Met Your Mark?

April 14, 2012

Source: healthkicker.com

Today I am having a fat day. I am bloated and puffy. I have PMS. I have a pimple. I am overly reactive and emotional. When I looked in the mirror this morning, I was all stomach and thighs, and my arms jiggled like Jell-O in my sleeveless shirt. I tried to pull on my most form-fitting jeans, but it felt like the waistband was pushing against my belly causing flesh to form a roll over the top so I opted instead for shorts with an elastic waist. I went for a walk in the sun to clear my head. I have had these thoughts before. At one time I would have let them consume me, setting the tone for the entire day and resulting in self-destructive rituals. Today I have finally found the will to put them in perspective and push them out of my mind. I am no longer a prisoner to my eating disorder.

Many women I know have “fat days”. Days when body image is lower than usual, and you feel like you are a giant in a sea of pixies. Such feelings can be brought on by any number of things; Emotional issues, hormones, guilt from overindulging in food, etc. Whatever the case, these thoughts can significantly affect a woman’s mindset and negatively affect her day to day life. Some women avoid social interactions, romantic situations, or even work when they feel they are less than attractive. The sad part is, in most cases the problem is purely psychological. A woman may feel extremely different physically from one day to the next when in fact she has not changed at all. The only difference is in her perspective. If there are any physical changes, they are usually slight, and have to do with things like salt or water retention. A person can gain or lose a few pounds in 24 hours simply due to water gain or loss.

Many women I know have certain articles of clothing that they consider markers of fat gain and loss. A common example most people are familiar with is their “skinny jeans”. If a woman can fit into her skinny jeans then she is at her own  ideal weight. If she cannot, she has a goal: to lose enough weight to fit into the skinny jeans. Conversely, a lot of women have “fat pants”. When a woman feels she has gained weight, has eaten too much, or in general when self-confidence is low, the fat pants come out.

Right now, I don’t know my exact weight. At one point in my life, I could have told you my weight to the decimal place on any given day. When I was a teenager and I first recovered from my eating disorder, I stopped weighing myself entirely. I knew that if I started to focus on numbers on a scale again, it would be difficult for me to stop. At a vintage sale one day in university I bought several items of clothing. I tried nothing on because there were no change rooms. One of the pieces was a pair of shorts, which I learned when I got home was a child’s or youth size. For some unknown reason I did not get rid of these. When I had a relapse of my eating disorder a few years ago and lost a significant amount of weight, I had no scale and therefore did not start weighing myself right away. This was one reason I was able to remain in denial about my eating disorder. But at one point, I found and put on this pair of children’s shorts and discovered that they almost fit me. From that point on, these shorts became my marker for weight loss. Eventually they fit me perfectly, and at one point even became too loose. No one besides myself has ever seen these shorts on me. I have never worn them outside of my bedroom. It wasn’t until I went to counseling that I found out this was a common practice for women with eating disorders, to use clothing items as markers. I guess this is an extreme and more destructive form of the ‘skinny jeans’ idea. I have long since parted with the shorts and the desire to be the size of a child. But I still find myself averse to clothing that is of a rigid material or too tight in the waist as I know I will constantly be gauging whether it was tighter or looser the last time I wore it. I work on myself every day, but I know it will probably be a lifelong battle. My plan of assault is to try to be open and honest and ask for help if I need it. I have found it is a lot easier to stay healthy when you can admit you aren’t perfect. I am having a fat day. But I feel better already, and tomorrow will be better still.

I fit into children's shorts at this point in my life. I thought I was fat.