This is going to be a quick post. Nothing groundbreaking here, but there are some I-don't-care-what-the-Latin-phrase-is debate tactics that creep into too many of the discussions on eating disorders from all sides. One such tactic is to accuse me, and others, of blaming the paleo diet or saying it causes eating disorders. I didn't do that.
You look in the mirror one day and don't like what you see. Where did this gut come from? Step on the scale, 10 lbs since a year ago! Yikes!! New Year's Resolution: Lose 10 lbs. The approach you choose is a standard one: Establish a calorie deficit of 500-1000 cal/day , mostly calorie counting but adding a 40 min-1 hr walk 5 days a week. Before you know it the pants are less snug, the belt tightened not just one but two notches. Feeling good ... looking good! Goal reached. Hey, maybe I'll look and feel even better if I lose 5 more pounds! Step on scale after a week. No loss. Another week. No loss. Still one more week. No loss.
Recheck the mirror. There's a roll here, I need to lose 5 more pounds. So you cut the calories even more by skipping breakfast and eating a ton of lettuce to feel full. The scale moves again and before you know it you're past the mark. People are still noticing your weight loss and congratulating you. You fit into clothes that you never thought you'd fit since high school.
Fueled with renewed motivation, you set your sights on the next 10 lb down mark. Now you're jogging an hour daily and fasting on days you don't jog. Your diet plan allows "healthy fats" from olive oil and nuts, but your calories are so low that these add too many calories for the "buck". You count out nuts and cut back on the oil. You cut up your food on your plate and move it around when you go out with friends to make it seem like you're eating more than you are. Why didn't you finish your steak? Oh it was overdone. What about your potatos? They're too salty (because you put it on them). Your best friend expresses some concern ...
I could go on. I won't. Many know how this continues because they've been there or they've watched others go there. Was it the diet's fault? The carbs? The gluten? The fat? Was there just too much exercise of the "wrong type"? No, and no. No, no, no, no.
But .... You knew there would be a but.
Let's say you're on a well staffed college cross country team. You've got trainers and a team dietitian. Returning from the off season, you work with them to lose the 10 lbs you've put on from partying a bit too much. You have weigh ins. When you run out of gas in training, they take notice. When you lose too much weight they work with you to adjust your diet. Etc. Not that this is perfect, but if your institution is staffed by responsible, properly trained and certified professionals, they are having none of your shenanigans.
You could find a personal trainer and nutritionist on your own. Again, any responsible, properly trained and certified professional will not encourage your course.
You could find all manner of irresponsible, untrained or dubiously credentialed "experts" who care about you only so long as you can help them make money, or give them yours. Join their online forums and support groups and sign up for their motivational newsletters. There anonymous people with dole out advice to other anonymous people with zero accountability (check the disclaimer!). Paleo cured you of XYZ-LMNOP? Great! You lost 1000 pounds in 10 days? Send in your success story!!
It didn't work? It fed into your disordered patterns? It perhaps even made you sicker in other ways such as "contracting" the mythical adrenal fatigue and low stomach acid? Well, then, in the immortal words of Robb Wolf: F*ck 'em. Done.
So does paleo cause ED? No. But, and I will expand upon this in the delayed Part II, the additional restrictions and outright promotion of practices that are classic coping mechanisms adopted by the eating disordered, make it more ripe for triggering.
When you tell people that certain foods are toxic or mismatched to our genes, cause diabetes, spike insulin ... phytates, lectins, etc. .... all manner of possibly real but mostly quacky conditions caused by grains, legumes or dairy. And yet you can't even get a simple definition of what paleo is while people are detoxing and fasting and eating fat by the spoonful in hopes of achieving ketotic euphoria.
But the kicker is when a diet guru and his flock seem incapable of seeing eating disorders when they present themselves in obvious fashion. Rather they largely supported them. That is a VERY serious problem. But don't call them out. They're too busy helping people.
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