As a health professional, I am asked health-related questions all the time. A common question is “what is the fastest way to lose weight?”
I joke, “starve yourself.”
I’ll have you know that I can be sarcastic when appropriate and if they don’t ask me if that’s healthy, I will make it a point and follow up to my response with, “It is also the most unhealthy and dangerous way to lose weight.”
I should also tell you that women like to ask this question more than men. It seems that the pursuit of beauty is a life long journey. But why do women devote so much of their time to achieving a figure that is pleasing to the male eye without considering the risks? It seems they are well aware of the simplest, fastest, and most effective way to lose weight. They are also completely oblivious to the health risks and/or they just don’t care.
I have heard real stories of women who will starve themselves to win cash prizes from weight loss competitions, to look “better” for a photo shoot, or even to fit into an outfit for ONE night out of the whole year! These are just 3 of many reasons why women feel the need to deprive themselves of food in order to quickly alter their appearance.
The one industry known most for this behavior is the fashion industry. Back in November of ’08, the death of an Israeli fashion model whose weight had dropped below 60 lbs was chilling even in a world that prizes rail-thin models as an ideal of feminine chic.
An important question to answer is where does the influence come from? Is it a genetic disorder or a cultural/social disorder? Do women realize that this method of weight loss resembles anorexia nervosa (AN)?
I found a blog response to the question “Why Do Women Starve Themselves?”:
“I used to fully agree with you, but about a year a go, my ideal body changed. I believe the reason why I, along with other eating disorder sufferers, (I’m bulimic, 4’11 and my crazy brain isn’t gonna let me stop losing wieght until I’m at atleast 85 pounds.) I do it because being “curvy” all my life has lead to problems. When I was 10 I was sexually abused. Most of this focusing around my breasts -- had I been thin, I wouldn’t have had breasts at that age. I was racially picked on for years. I’m not hairy, but they would call me names such as monkey because of my weight. Now, not only do I feel less ugly when I hop on the scales and I weigh less, but I feel like I’m less of an ape and therefore more attractive. Hope this answered your question. It’s such a pain looking in the mirror and never being satisfied with what you see, and most of the time it isn’t because you think curvy girls are ugly. It’s because you think you’re ugly (most women suffer from some form of body dysmorphia) and aspiring to a “perfect” body, is sometimes the only thing that keeps me sane.”
Follow the link to read more about the psyche behind AN.
A genetic disorder can be difficult to recognize because your brain will not accept reality. Are you “skinny” but see yourself as “fat”? Do you see yourself as “fat” but see those with anorexia as “thin”? If you answered yes to either of these questions you possess symptoms of AN. Other symptoms include the tendency to restrict eating and have odd food choices, yet also have an obsessive interest in diet and ingredients of recipes. Those with AN often exercise compulsively, are anhedonic and ascetic, and find little in life rewarding other than the pursuit of thinness. If you recognize these symptoms in yourself of others, seek medical advice for help and further prevention.
A cultural/social disorder can also be difficult because you are constantly influenced by the ideal from your society. I found a blog response to this question. Lisa writes;
“Walk into any clothing store selling female clothes. Look at the mannequins. Look at their size. Look at the models. Society has dictated to women that: Being a size 0 is beautiful. Being skinny means you’re clean, and sexy, and what not. Being fat means you’re dumpy, ugly, dirty, and messy. It’s discrimination. Women try to impress other women because women like to gossip. Stereotypically women are the ones who are always talking about who is wearing what, who looks like they gained weight, who has flaby arms, who wore an ugly skirt…you get the picture. Overall most females tend to be very judgmental of other females…” Can you relate to this response?
Whatever the reason for starving to achieve rapid weight loss, I want people to consider the following;
It’s important for people, women in particular, to understand that this behavior of weight loss is damaging to your body and can eventually lead to death. You can be thin and HEALTHY rather than thin and unhealthy. Here is a list of the physiological effects:
- Skin and Hair: Poor circulation as a result to tissue loss and damage can result in skin discoloration. The hair on the head can become thin and fall out.
- Heart and Blood Vessels: Blood pressure can drop due to inadequate body fluid levels causing episodes of fainting, dizziness, and palpitations.
- Metabolism: Inadequate food intake decreases blood sugar levels and could increase cholesterol levels. Liver function declines as well as body temperature due to decreases fat and muscle tissue.
- Muscles and Bones: Decreased muscle strength and tissue particularly in larger muscle groups can occur. Bone protein loss and calcium deficiency can lead to osteoporosis and increased risk of stress fractures.
- Brain: Brain function can decrease affecting concentration and limiting common thought process. Depression is prevalent sapping motivation and energy.
- Kidneys: Possible development of kidney stones and frequent night urination.
- Gastro Intestinal System: bowel movement slows down causing constipation and even illness.
These effects are severe and should be known. It’s not worth your health to lose weight via starvation. Even if it’s only a “one time thing”. With the resources available these days there are no excuses to not get educated on how to take proper action to lose weight. Instead of the pursuit of weight loss, try the pursuit of a happy and healthy life.
For more information on how to incorporate health and fitness into your lifestyle, contact THE LAB.