THE EATING DISORDERS: When Food Becomes Heroin

March 17, 2013

The Birth of  an Eating Disorder

It’s December and school is out for winter vacation. For one fortunate eleven year old girl, life doesn’t get better than this. In just two more days her family is escaping the Chicago winter and heading to the sunshine state for a vacation. In anticipation she has packed her suitcase since Thanksgiving. In her excitement, the girl dons her first ever two piece bathing suit and comes to the family dinner table where her fifteen year old sister says, “I hope you are not wearing that bathing suit in public”. Until this very moment, this little girl never paid much attention to her body. To her it was nothing more than the vehicle that transported her on, what to this very moment, was a fun and carefree journey; but the journey, in an instant, was commandeered by the luster of her vehicle which, according to her older sister who she idolizes, is lacking.

For the first time in her eleven years, the girl focuses on her physical imperfections to the virtual exclusion of everything else. “How did I get this way?” she will ask herself repeatedly, and only one answer resounds in her adolescent mind; food did this to me! With her enemy identified, her combat strategy is intuitive; evasive action. As the weeks pass, the girl is able to go for longer periods of time without eating and she is certain that she is on the path to victory, until she is ambushed by an invisible enemy called addiction. One day after school the girl comes home to the aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. Forgoing food since the previous evening, the girl decides she deserves a reward and determines she will allow herself one cookie. Rewarding indeed! Immediately after unconsciously consuming her fourteenth cookie, every one of her 40-trillion previously starving cells experiences a collective euphoria; and just as immediately, she experiences an overwhelming psychological sense of defeat, guilt and self-loathing. However, this only serves to renew her vigor upon her return to the battle. For this, now unfortunate, girl food has become heroin. She cycles between self-starvation, binging, defeat and self-loathing. The major difference however, is that food, far from being a toxic substance, is the only source on Earth from which the girl derives the energy to effectively live her life. Further down the road, distressed over her failure at evasive action, the girl adds a new battle strategy; expelling the enemy.

The message is this; sticks and stones may break bones, but names definitely hurt children; and they can be the essential ingredient in a recipe for disaster, otherwise known as an eating disorder. When we are communicating with our children about their health and wellbeing it is incumbent upon us to be mindful of this strong link between their body image and their risk for developing an eating disorder.

End

Mitchell R. Weisberg, MD

Founder/CEO and Personal Physician at

Optimal Performance MD

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2 Responses to “THE EATING DISORDERS: When Food Becomes Heroin”

  1. Howard felix said

    I am glad to see you blogging all the time. I appreciate your insights and wisdom.

  2. Eileen Towb said

    This story is so true. Even now I try to tell my daughter that she doesn’t need to eat something and she says I’m being mean, but I’m just trying to save her from what I went through as a pre-teen with kids calling me names and making fun of me. Even now it’s very hard to lose the weight and I have to lose the weight because I have chronic back problems and they will not go away. So far I have lost 25 lbs and I plan to lose more, but I worry for my daughter who will be 11 on April 2. Any suggestions?

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