What’s the Cost of Comparing Ourselves to Others?

“In 1995, TV was first introduced to Fiji showing many imported US shows.
In 1998, only 3 years later, 11.9% of the teenage girls were hanging over
the toilet bowl with bulimia, a previously unknown behaviour”. 

– Susie Orbach, “Fat is a Feminist Issue”

I haven’t forgotten this shocking fact since I first read it many, many years ago.

Until teenage girls in Fiji started to compare their bodies with women on American television, the eating disorder bulimia nervosa didn’t exist in their country. As the unfavourable comparisons began, so did the mental health condition.

We live in a world where we’re invited to compare ourselves to others almost constantly.

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Expert Insight: Dieting and the Fear of Famine

“Our ancestors did not have a constant supply of food. When a large animal – a whale, a bison, a woolly mammoth or an elephant – was killed, everyone feasted, gorged… it might be weeks or months before another big kill, so large amounts had to be eaten quickly and then stored in the body for the times of scarcity that were sure to come.  

This is an ancient or atavistic memory that calls us to eat all we can now, even if we are not hungry, just in case there won’t be any food tomorrow… there is something deep in our primitive brain that still fears starvation, scarcity, famine.”

Jan Chozen Bays, “Mindful Eating”

Remember the panic-buying we witnessed when the Covid-19 crisis first hit?

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What Can Lockdown Teach Us About Binge Eating?

I want to start by expressing my heartfelt gratitude to all the medical professionals (both frontline and behind the scenes) currently working, at great personal risk, to care for the sick. I’d also like to thank all those carrying out essential services – collecting our rubbish, stacking the shelves, delivering our orders – for their hard work and dedication at such a difficult time.

Thank you. All of you.

The rest of us are playing our part by staying at home in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease. And it seems that some of us are struggling with the lockdown, while others are enjoying it.

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How Do You Soothe Yourself Without Food?

Back in my binge eating days, I’d often hear a soothing little voice in my ear.

If I was having a tough day at work, the voice would whisper: “it’s OK, pick up some food on your way home”. Like co-conspirators, the little voice and I would plan the binge I’d have later.

Planning was part of the bingeing ritual and looking forward to it helped me get through the day. I’d feel excited as I imagined all the food I was going to eat. All those “bad” and “naughty” things I felt I wasn’t allowed because I was firmly entrenched in the diet mentality.

But the little voice gave me permission. After all, it told me I was having a difficult day and food would make me feel better.

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How Do You Prove to Yourself That You Care?

Self-care – that old chestnut.  Right now, it feels like we can’t move for people telling us we should care about ourselves.

It’s great in theory, but what about in practice?

Many of us yearn for healthy self-esteem.  We think “if I lose weight that will make me feel better about myself” but, while it might make us feel better physically, it doesn’t increase how much we care about ourselves.

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Gentle Reminder: Be Sensitive to Yourself

You’re walking back from the shops one day when, out of the corner of your eye, you sense movement in a nearby alleyway.

As you approach, you realise it’s a little child, about 4 years old.  As she turns her face towards you, you see that she’s crying.  Her expression is a mix of anguish and fear.  She’s alone, save for a small teddy which she’s clutching with both hands.

You bend down in front of her.

Then, you reach into your shopping bag and remove a tube of Pringles, a packet of 12 doughnuts, a family pack of chocolate bars and a large tub of ice-cream.

“Eat these until you feel sick”, you tell her.

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