“13% of women over 50 engage in eating disorder behaviors.” - National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders
Weight gain at midlife can be as distressing as it is common, leaving many women searching for ways to shed the unwanted weight. But are a few extra pounds really worth the pain and suffering, or worse, risking a dangerous eating disorder? Wouldn’t it be better to make peace with our bodies and our food?
Jill talked with Julie Duffy Dillon, Registered Dietitian, Eating Disorder and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Specialist, and Food Behavior Expert, on how she’s partnering with people on their Food Peace journey. Julie is trained as a mental health counselor and supervises dietitians and other health professionals to use weight-inclusive and attuned-eating strategies.
Here’s what she told us:
What is the “food peace journey”? Julie says we’re “born knowing how to eat,” but somehow our natural set points for hunger and fullness have gotten confused as our culture’s definition of beauty have narrowed. How did that happen, and how do we get our original “default settings” back?
Why is it difficult for adults, including women over 40, to have a healthy relationship with food? Sixty percent of adult women engage in “pathological weight control,” Julie says, and feel guilty about eating or getting pleasure from food. Hear from Julie how our fat-phobic, youth-obsessed culture damages how we think about food and our bodies and how rejecting that cultural attitude becomes a radical act.
Julie talks about coaching women up from “diet rock bottom.” Acknowledging damaging cultural expectations, admitting our old ways of thinking and acting don’t work, deciding our own path to food peace – these help us realize we are the experts on our bodies, Julie says. And that allows us to reclaim our body’s natural cues. Learn how.
Don’t eat after sunset; stay under 1200 calories a day; don’t eat carbs, but clean your plate. We set a lot of rules for our eating that may or may not support good health. Julie goes into some of our many food rules and why so many of our “shoulds” … shouldn’t.
Many of us have gotten so far into disordered eating, we don’t recognize our own body cues anymore. Julie helps us reconnect with our needs, whether it’s a need for fuel or whether we’re actually trying to feed a “symbolic” hunger instead.
Why do we eat when we’re not hungry? Julie says there are lots of reasons to eat outside of physical hunger, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But if there’s more to the hunger, if there’s an underlying cause that needs to be addressed, then it might be time to find a Julie. Eating outside of hunger shouldn’t be shameful or an opportunity to judge someone, Julie says. She details questions to ask yourself when you think your hunger might be symbolic and unhealthy.
In Part 2, Jill and Julie talk about how we can be more conscious of our own eating, and how eating issues seem to disproportionally affect women in midlife. How do we know when our eating has become problematic, and what can we do about our approach to food?
Julie owns Birdhouse Nutrition Therapy, central North Carolina's premier source of eating disorder treatment and prevention. She also produces and hosts the weekly podcast, Love Food. Learn more at JulieDillonRD.com.