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Dieting mothers have anorexic daughters, study suggests

Posted Oct 30 2009 11:00pm
Dieting mothers have anorexic daughters, study suggests...

Okay, I should not take the bait on this, but since I subscribe to a lot of news-feed services this "study" keeps landing in my inbox with a trail of increasingly offensive headlines.

I am painfully aware that families often get their information about healthcare issues from articles like these, and worse still that these types of pieces are what help form public opinion and mother-in-law conversations and the tsk tsk over coffee among one's friends when one is not there.

So, I'll take the bait.

This is not a "study." This is a poll of magazine readers. Polls are not science, they are not representative of the population; they tell you something about the market of that magazine.

Correlation is not causation. Both moms and their daughters are under similar and related pressures to diet.

The culture of dieting runs in families and social groups.

Eating disorders run in families - one's risk is 50-80% determined genetically.

Dieting is not the same as eating disorders.

Why do I expend so much energy trying to refute this kind of thing? Am I just hellbent on defending parents no matter what? Have I no sensitivity to the toxicity of a dieting environment and the influence of mothers on their daughters?

I spend energy on this because I AGREE that no one should be dieting, that some parents are terrible role models, and that an environment of dieting and body hatred is toxic. The question is whether an eating disorder is a sign of those things - and I would argue that an eating disorder is not a sign of anything except a predisposition to respond to dietary restriction/energy imbalance with a self-perpetuating mental illness.

When we admonish moms for dieting - something that our entire society is actively and delightedly and almost religiously ENCOURAGING - because it causes eating disorders we make two mistakes. One is that an ED diagnosis becomes a witch hunt for the bad influences in one's life when there is no evidence whatsoever that this helps prevent or treat an eating disorder: none. The second mistake is in mistaking dieting for an eating disorder.

Dieting is a choice, but the eating disorder that may be activated by a diet is not. None of us should be choosing dieting, in my opinion. Dieting is well-known to be futile, unhealthy, depressing, and sucks the life and fun out of life and our relationship with our body. Using food to change our bodies, our appearance, or our emotions is an inherently unhealthy activity whether or not you have the genes and biology to become horribly mentally ill as a result.

Moms need to be freed from the overwhelming pressure to diet and feel aesthetically inadequate, period. Moms need help learning and learning to model loving their bodies and their appetites and their biology - as do dads. Eating disorders cause horrible suffering for a small percentage of the population, which we then go on to blame on being too influenced by toxic surroundings - a horrible injustice. But dieting and our body-hating food-phobic culture hurts us ALL, and it needs to be stopped for its own sake.

I fear it is futile to rant like this, though. Even my friends and family don't get it. But thank goodness for blogging, it lets me say it anyway.

In parting, I'll leave you with the sidebar articles to the piece above - which tell you more about the reality of the blame-mommy-for-dieting-tell-mommy-to-diet culture we live in:

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