Overeating and anorexia: Flip sides of the same coin

Published: Saturday, January 6, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 6, 2007 at 12:35 a.m.
I was left confused after reading your January 2 edition. I don't know whether I'm supposed to diet, just avoid being obese or simply make sure my BMI (body-mass index) is over 18 if I want to be a runway model.
The Sun published three articles in one edition about dieting and weight issues. It seems the media isn't quite sure what message to send either. As a health care provider in this field, I do not disagree with anything that was said in the articles. I was concerned, however, about the message each was sending, and the message the combination of the three was sending.
Dieting is dangerous, especially when it leads to what we refer to as "yo-yo" weight loss and gain. Turns out, that is harder on your body than just staying one weight, even if that weight is more than you'd like. And, yes, obesity is a problem in this country.
And, finally, it is also true that anorexia carries with it the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder, including depression. Here's how I break it down.
Calling to mind a bell curve of people's weight in this country, let's say the average weight is 150 pounds, including both genders, making it the center and highest point in the curve. So, about 90 percent of people fall within the bell curve and can lead relatively healthy lives.
If you take the last 10 percent and divide it by two for both sides of the curve, that leaves 5 percent on either end of the bell curve that, the research indicates, are at a higher risk for health and medical problems, and death due to being dangerously overweight or underweight.
In other words, if you are extremely overweight, or what health care providers refer to as "morbidly obese," then yes, food issues become health issues. Similarly, if you are on the other side of the curve and extremely underweight, or anorexic, food issues become health issues.
Otherwise, if you are in that 90 percent, or the majority of the bell curve, give or take a few percentage points, you can lead very healthy lives without the great health risks once thought to be associated particularly with being overweight.
Eating is healthy. Eating the right foods and maintaining an active, rather than sedentary, lifestyle is even healthier, regardless of the number that little thing called a scale says.
Beth-Anne Blue is a psychologist at the with the Eating Disorders Team at the University of Florida Student Health Care Center.

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