Eating Disorders and Weight Issues - Nenah Sylver

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Eating Disorders
and Weight Issues


Fat is still a feminist issue. However, while it is true that being overweight is symptomatic of how our society treats women—and no woman should ever be maligned because she is overweight—it is also true that a healthy body is generally able to gravitate to a comfortable and healthy weight.

Problems around food can stem from primarily psychological or physiological causes, although there is certainly an overlap. The solar plexus contains mood-altering chemical receptor sites identical to those in the brain, indicating that moodiness can be felt in the gut as well as in the brain. (Hence the phrase, "gut feelings.") Filling the stomach with food focuses the body’s attention on diverting blood flow, digestive enzymes, and other hormones to the digestion process, which can temporarily distract us from feelings of loneliness, pain, loss and fear. Conversely, if the digestion is weak or the hormonal system is unbalanced, the person may tend to overeat, instinctively seeking the nutrients that are missing. The body being starved of nutrients is like the psyche being starved of love. Depression and overeating have a mutually causal relationship.

The Standard American Diet (SAD) of refined carbohydrates, sugars, chemicals, and processed foods (such as luncheon meats and artificially hydrogenated oils) directly contributes to eating disorders. One does not have to visit a Third World country in the midst of famine to view the effects of malnutrition. The lack of proper nutrients is a major contributor to immune dysfunction and chronic, degenerative diseases right here in America. Overweight people, and those with eating disorders, are desperately in need of a healthy balanced diet. Despite appearances, a fat person is literally starving.

Eating disorders as they are defined initially stem from a distinctly emotional cause. A woman with anorexia fears gaining weight, so she scarcely eats—even though she might be as thin as a toothpick. The pop singer Karen Carpenter died of anorexia. She starved to death because she was malnourished. Someone with bulimia will gorge herself on food, then make herself throw up before the food is digested so she won’t get fat. However, there is also a biochemical component to bulimia. Vomiting causes the brain to secrete endorphins, the "feel-good" hormone of the body. People who become addicted to throwing up may suffer from an inability to produce enough of the hormone.

From a psychological standpoint, the fear of being too fat is distinctly related to being female in this culture. Recent studies show that by fourth grade, about one-half of the girls are concerned about being overweight. Women, feeling pressured to be skinny, believe, "If I don’t have a perfect body, then I’m worthless." Never mind that throughout history, what is considered beautiful for women has changed—or that a couple of centuries ago, voluptuous full-figured women were considered sexy and thin women were regarded as undesirable. As long as a woman’s sense of herself depends on external standards of how she appears, rather than her internal feelings of well-being and pleasure, she will continue to be a slave to not only to eating difficulties but also to depression, cosmetics, and uncomfortable clothing.

It is common for girls who are sexually abused to develop eating disorders. One woman I knew who as a child was forced to perform fellatio on her father, grew up with food issues. She particularly loathed to drink water because it reminded her of swallowing her father’s semen. Body-oriented psychotherapy was necessary to help her overcome her negative visceral reactions. Not all eating issues stem from physical violation. A woman who was not sexually abused may still feel so emotionally violated that she wants to disappear. To some women, becoming thinner and thinner means disappearing; and becoming anorexic, bulimic, or compulsively dieting seems like a good way to accomplish this.

The majority of women who do not have an eating disorder per se are nonetheless fearful about eating too much food and gaining weight. The cultural pressure on women to be beautiful must be recognized as a social, rather than a personal, problem. The emotional fallout from that pressure must be managed. And loving attention must be paid to eating high quality, non-synthetic foods that truly nourish the body.


Specific Related Health Condition

  • Low Functioning or Sluggish Thyroid (Hypothyroidism). The thyroid gland regulates metabolism, the rate at which food is absorbed and utilized. A surprisingly high number of women suffer from a sluggish metabolism. Iodine is a major food of the thyroid gland. People who live inland suffer higher rates of hypothyroidism than those who live near the seashore, probably because there is more opportunity to obtain fresh, iodine-rich seafood near the coast.

  • Restorative Strategies: A medical doctor can order tests to determine thyroid function. You can also do this yourself: For two weeks, take your underarm temperature before rising. 98.6° F is normal, but in the morning the temperature for folks without thyroid problems is lower than that. However, if your temperature is substantially lower (some practitioners say by four-tenths of a degree), you need thyroid support. Do not ignore this problem! Most people take prescription thyroid medicine for hypothyroidism, although some alternative holistic methods do exist. Eat more ocean fish and kelp, which are rich in iodine. Eliminate gluten from the diet, which not only can cause intestinal damage, but cause the body to attack its own thyroid gland. Because a low functioning thyroid invariably causes depression, psychotherapy, hypnosis, meditation, and exercise can play an important role in maintaining an even mood. This is not an easy condition for holistic providers to treat, so look into as many solutions as possible.  

  • Malnutrition. This is bound to occur with all weight and eating problem. Malnutrition indicates more than a lack of the proper foods, it can also be the inability of the system to absorb and distribute the nutrients.

  • Restorative Strategies: If you suffer severe malnutrition, such as serious underweight or overweight, bloating, excessive fatigue, digestive disturbances, etc., consult a qualified health care practitioner immediately. You need supervised dietary intervention. Also see "Dietary Support."

  • Candida Albicans and other Fungal/Yeast Infections. Often, weight problems coexist with digestive disturbances. Digestive disturbances can be due to unbalanced nutrition (for instance, from too many sugars and starches), or to antibiotics, which kill the beneficial intestinal flora, which in turn encourages indigenous fugal and yeast forms to proliferate. Fungus feeds on sugar. The more it reproduces, the more it needs to eat, and the more it needs to eat, the more it causes the person to crave sugar and overeat.

  • Restorative Strategies: Go on a high protein diet and avoid sugars and refined carbohydrates. (See "Dietary Support" and "Balancing Blood Sugar Levels." The food plan for candida and hypoglycemia is almost identical.) Stay away from even complex (whole) carbohydrates until the yeast has decreased. Eliminate gluten from the diet, which can cause intestinal damage (and even autoimmune disorders) and contribute to the proliferation of Candida. You may initially become hungrier as the yeast dies, but once it is out of your system you will feel relief. Take a supplement of acidophilus, bulgaricus and other friendly flora, available from the health food store. A naturopath or herbalist will be able to suggest herbs to combat the fungal overgrowth. Allopathic drugs should be used only as a last resort.

  • Tooth Decay. In many bulimics, the acid from the stomach, which is regurgitated along with the food, corrodes the tooth enamel and causes cavities and gum problems.

  • Restorative Strategies: Brush often and make sure to take proper care of the teeth. Baking soda as a mouth rinse and as a tooth powder will help alkalize the mouth and counter the effects of acids. Use toothpaste that is free of chemicals, dyes, sweeteners and detergents. See a dentist for regular checkups.

  • Mental and Emotional Problems. Although this article deals chiefly with physical conditions, eating disorders carry such a strong emotional component that it was necessary to include this reminder.

  • Restorative Strategies: Psychotherapy, preferably body-oriented. Depression can also be caused by nutritional deficiencies. Two of the most common are Niacin (Vitamin B-3, in its niacin rather than niacinimide form) and amino acids. Many people with blood sugar disorders and mood swings have larger requirements than usual of niacin. Amino acids, which are more easily assimilable in their raw state than in protein foods (which must be broken down by the body), help build and repair tissue and improve the digestion as well as contribute to a more balanced outlook.


For much more detailed information
on what has been discussed here,
including a wide variety of other
health-related topics, see
The Rife Handbook of Frequency Therapy
by this author.

Also read the Thyroid Section excerpt
from Chapter 5 (the Frequency Directory).



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