This article dispels common misconceptions about weight loss, nutrition, vomiting, and the use of laxatives. These misconceptions can be harmful to mental and physical health, as they are often associated with eating disorders and diets.
It takes effort to combat these beliefs, as they are deeply ingrained and can hinder progress during therapy. Additionally, these misconceptions are not based on any scientific evidence, but rather on subjective experiences.
Myth #1: Eating is an automatic process, and we have no control over it
This is not true. Every time we put food in our mouth, we are actually making a decision, “I can eat this now.” And every time we choose not to eat something, like the second piece of cake, we are also making a decision, “I won’t eat this now.” These decision-making processes are based on various reasons, such as “I deserve this,” “it’s healthy/unhealthy,” “it’s part of my diet plan,” “it’s impolite to refuse,” or “I should save it for later.” To understand these decisions, some people may just need to observe themselves and ask “Why am I eating this now?” Others may need to keep a food diary and record why they ate each item.
Bouts of overeating can be caused by:
• Physical reasons, such as hunger. If you’re not hungry, you won’t eat everything in the fridge. Everyone needs different amounts of food, and this amount may vary throughout the day. Your body doesn’t follow your commands, so if you suddenly decide that you only need 1200 calories a day, your body may not cooperate.
• Psychological reasons, such as anger, boredom, frustration, discomfort, and even fun and comfort.
So, what can you control?
• Decision-making, when there are valid reasons behind it • Physical hunger • Proper processing of emotions that may lead to overeating.
Myth #2: You can control your diet with restrictions
Let’s reflect on this for a moment: when you first started experiencing an eating disorder or going on a diet, was it easy for you to set and enforce limits? Most likely, your answer was “Yes, it was easy!”
Starting a diet is straightforward, but what happens next? As the disorder or diet continued, did maintaining restrictions and control become easier or more difficult? More difficult, right?
Do you know why this happens? This is a common effect of dieting- initially, there’s a burst of energy focused on finding food, making restrictions easy to set and enforce. However, as time goes on, the body begins to resist this way of life. It wants to eat, it doesn’t want to starve. The body revolts against your decisions, making it increasingly challenging to set dietary restrictions and maintain control. The very behavior that seems to “give you control over eating” actually reduces control in the long run.
Also, prior to the onset of an eating disorder or going on a diet, when you were eating normally, did you ever lose control over your diet like you do now? Most likely, your answer would be “No, I didn’t think much about my nutrition” or “Maybe just on a few special occasions, like a friend’s wedding, but not regularly.”
How can it be argued that “such behavior gives control”?
It’s important to note that if you loosen restrictions, the first time you feel hunger may be intense- this is your body conserving resources for the next diet. This is a normal process and will pass, but it significantly reduces the risk of developing bulimia.
Myth #3: Vomiting as a Method to Avoid Weight Gain
Research shows that after inducing vomiting, about 1200 calories still remain in the body, regardless of the amount of overeating, whether it was 1500 or 3500 calories. Vomiting cannot fully cleanse the body of what has been consumed.
Despite vomiting, the body continues to expect food to be digested, which results in a high level of insulin in the blood. This leads to a drop in blood sugar levels and increased hunger, leading to the next binge.
Additionally, many people with bulimia are still overweight or gaining weight, rendering the act of vomiting ineffective.
Myth #4: Laxatives as a Method to Avoid Weight Gain
Where do laxatives work in the digestive tract? And where does the food absorption process occur? The food absorption process begins in the stomach and ends in the small intestine. Most laxatives only work in the large intestine, when everything is almost digested. While there are some laxatives that act on the small intestine, they are extremely unhealthy and should only be used under medical supervision.
Studies show that the level of digested calories after taking laxatives drops by only 10%. What is mostly lost is water and electrolytes, not calories. The loss of electrolytes can cause dehydration.
Myth #5: Vomiting and laxatives aren’t really that bad for your health
While it is true that vomiting can help remove harmful substances from the body in case of food poisoning, regular vomiting is a cause for concern and requires medical attention. The same applies to the use of laxatives. People often think that the harm caused by these actions is limited to mineral and electrolyte imbalances, but this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Long-term effects of regular vomiting and laxative use can have far-reaching and irreversible consequences, including cardiovascular disease, chronic edema, dental and gum problems, digestive issues, urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, laxative dependency, fatigue, irritability, depression, and the need for expensive psychotherapeutic treatment.
It is important to understand that these health problems can develop slowly over time and have lasting impacts. Adults have the right to make choices about their health, but it is crucial to be informed about the potential consequences of these actions.
Myth #6: Don’t eat before bedtime – you’ll gain weight because the body doesn’t burn calories while you sleep
This myth is not entirely true. Weight gain is a result of consuming more calories than needed over an extended period, not just during one single night. While you sleep, your body still needs energy for vital processes like the circulation of blood, brain activity, and digestive function. In fact, it’s recommended to have a small and nutritious snack before bedtime to fuel your body.
Myth #7: Carbohydrates and fats make people fat and should therefore be avoided
This belief has been a popular myth for many years, but it’s not entirely accurate. The real culprit of weight gain is consuming too many calories, regardless of whether they come from carbohydrates, fats, or proteins. The body requires all three macronutrients in a balanced amount for optimal health and weight management. Beauty standards are constantly changing, and it’s important to be aware of external factors that may influence your beliefs about food and nutrition.