About 50 students on Tuesday learned from a nutrition expert how dieting can actually be a gateway to eating disorders.
“Diets send signals of starvation that jack up appetite and suppress metabolic function,” said Emily Cooper, M.D., who founded Seattle Performance Medicine. “Biological factors set the stage for binge eating and eating disorders.”
The panel in Eaton 112, called Balancing the Scales, featured three keynote speakers on eating disorders and standards of health and beauty.
Cooper, who has 20 years of experience in medicine, nutrition and exercise, said people could still be healthy even if they have a different body type than their peers.
“You can’t tell looking on the outside what’s on the inside,” Cooper said. “It’s what’s on the inside that’s important.”
Dr. Sibel Golden, a mental health counselor, discussed anorexia and current trends in diets and food.
“Gluten free has become a big thing,” Golden said. “It has descended on Seattle.”
Golden said doctors will sometimes tell their patients to go on a gluten-free diet to diagnose an allergy. However, Golden said gluten-free diets have become a new fad in eating healthy.
“We have to ask, ‘Does this make sense because this is the trend and what my friends are doing or because it makes me feel better?’ ” Golden said.
Golden also said people can push themselves to a breaking point trying to follow new health trends or conforming to a standard of beauty.
“We feel that we need to look or be a certain way,” she said.
Emily Rich is an SPU alumna who shared her struggles with eating disorders. She said she felt pressure to look perfect from an early age.
“I started dancing at 5 years old, and I was always watched,” she said. “I had to appear perfect and like I had it all together.”
When her parents got a divorce, Rich said she sought answers in a dieting book.
“My weight was the only thing that was constant,” she said. “I felt that I had failed to hold the family together and that the pressure to be perfect came back.”
Rich said she lost weight to gain her parents’ attention in hopes they would stop fighting and pay attention to her.
Rich said she started binging and purging. This culminated in a suicide attempt that her left in a coma for days. Rich said she was then able to put her life back together.
“I’m married now to a wonderful man, and I thank God that my life didn’t end that way,” she said.
“Eating disorders are not something to be proud of, but they aren’t something to be ashamed of, either,” Rich said. “It’s an illness and shouldn’t be glamorized.”