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Reducing Your Risk of Eating Disorders

Having healthy attitudes toward food and your body can help prevent you from developing an eating disorder.
The following steps can help you develop such healthy attitudes:

Maintain a Healthy Weight and Body Image

Work on developing and maintaining a healthy and realistic body image and weight. During the times when you feel fat, ask yourself if your life would really be much different if you were underweight. Would you automatically be more successful, popular, and loved? Realize that the things you want to achieve in life have little to do with being underweight and more to do with setting and achieving realistic goals. Remember that being thin does not equal being happy.

Maintain a Rational Approach to Dieting, Food, and Exercise

Do not diet, even if you need to lose weight. Rather, you need a meal plan that gives you adequate nutrition for health and normal growth. You can work toward a healthy weight by limiting your intake of high fat foods, sugar, and refined carbohydrates. You should also eat whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and protein. If you need help planning your diet, a registered dietitian or nutritionist can help.
Also, make sure you get regular, but not excessive, exercise. This can help you maintain a healthy weight. 30-60 minutes of exercise 3-5 days a week is sufficient.

Know and Avoid Triggers

Certain situations can trigger disordered eating behavior. Do not let yourself get too hungry and don’t deprive yourself of good-tasting food. Feelings of deprivation can lead to cravings and food binges. If you crave a certain high-fat, high-calorie food, it’s okay to have it occasionally.
There are probably certain foods and situations that tempt you to overeat. Keep these foods out of the house and stay away from tempting situations as much as possible. If you tend to overeat at buffets, for example, stay away from them.
Emotions, such as fear, anger, sadness, and even happiness, can be powerful triggers for food binges. Pay attention to your feelings and how you may turn to food to deal with them. Find other ways of dealing with strong emotions, such as talking with a friend or therapist or writing in a journal.

Receive Treatment, as Necessary

Talk to your doctor if:
  • Your eating feels out of control
  • You think your desire for thinness may be getting out of control
  • You think you may be developing an eating disorder

Work on Building a Meaningful, Fulfilling, and Satisfying Life

Rather than focusing on food and weight for fulfillment, spend time building a meaningful, satisfying life. This involves developing feelings of competence and self-esteem by discovering and using your talents. Work on appreciating and enjoying your abilities without having to do everything perfectly. Develop some hobbies and do things that are fun and pleasurable. Join some clubs and groups with people who share common interests. Work on developing healthy relationships.

Develop Effective Coping Skills

Stressful life events can trigger eating disorders in susceptible people or trigger a relapse in those who have recovered. You can control self-induced stress by developing a more realistic self-image and expectations. This can be achieved through counseling and learning how to take charge of the things you can control, such as your attitude and ability to make healthy choices.
Various relaxation techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing, progressive relaxation, yoga, and biofeedback, can also help you cope with stress. These techniques increase your awareness of tension in your body and help release it through exercises that quiet your mind and relax your muscles. Regular pleasurable activities can help you relieve stress as well.

References

Devlin MJ, Goldfein JA, et al. Cognitive behavioral therapy and fluoxetine as adjuncts to group behavioral therapy for binge eating disorder. Obes Res. 2005;13:1077-1088.

Keel PK, Dorer DJ, et al. Postremission predictors of relapse in women with eating disorders. Am J Psychiatry. 2005;162:2263-2268.

Palmer B. Come the revolution: Revisiting the management of anorexia nervosa. Adv Psychiatric Treatment. 2006;12:5-12.

Pratt BM, Woolfenden SR. Interventions for preventing eating disorders in children and adolescents. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002;(2):CD002891.

Preventing eating disorders. Perfect illusions: Eating disorders and the family. PBS website. Available at: http://www.pbs.org/perfectillusions/eatingdisorders/preventing.html. Accessed July 11, 2013.

Yager J, Devlin MJ, et al. Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Eating Disorders. 3rd ed. American Psychiatric Association; 2006. Available at: http://www.guideline.gov/content.aspx?id=9318. Accessed July 11, 2013.

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