Weight problems and food addictions have become a national epidemic. At any given time, twenty five million Americans are seriously dieting. Only 1 out of every 200 dieters lose their weight and keep it off for a year or more. Although there are more diet programs and weight loss products than any other time in history, recent studies show that roughly sixty percent of adult Americans are overweight and one third are obese.

America’s obsession and preoccupation with food and body image is often a precursor to the development of an eating disorder. Statistics show that thirty-five percent of normal dieters progress into an eating disorder. Approximately eight million people in America have an eating disorder and eighty-six percent started by age twenty.

Why Diets Don’t Work
When you diet, you set yourself up to overeat because you subconsciously rebel over restricting your food. You are discounting your appetite, your internal guidance system. You no longer eat when you are hungry or stop when you are full. You let the external source, the diet, determine when, what, and how much to eat. You may no longer know what it feels like to be hungry or full.
Due to the food restrictions of the diet, your metabolism slows down. Your body thinks it is experiencing a famine; it is in starvation alert mode and is trying to store every calorie. Then you “slip” or eat normally. Your body then stores as much fat as it can because it thinks there may be another famine just around the corner. The result is that you gain weight with a vengeance, faster than before dieting.

The Truth about Disordered Eating
Disordered eating is using food, or the thoughts of food, weight, diet, or body image as a way to stuff down feelings. It is using food to escape thoughts, feelings, and emotions. It provides something to focus on rather than the internal discomfort. It is used as a way to relieve stress. After awhile it becomes a habit. We feel the discomfort and immediately reach for the food.

It can become an addiction. Many speak of an uncontrollable urge to eat. They can’t eat just one dessert, piece of bread, or fast food. They eat even when they know they are not hungry or they are trying to lose weight. They feel like they are hard-wired to eat.

The Many Faces of Eating Disorders
Eating disorders include a spectrum of manifestations and behaviors. Many people with eating disorders experiment with a wide variety of behaviors in order to control their weight. These behaviors may include compensatory methods such as yo-yo dieting, restricting, bingeing, purging, over-exercising, or abusing diet pills or laxatives.

Once in the addiction or disorder, it takes on a life of its own. You always think tomorrow will be different. “I’ll get control over this when I set my mind to it, or when I get to my ideal weight. As soon as I go on the next diet I’ll be able to stop this obsession.” It may take many years of trying to control this. All the while you are getting more and more entrenched in the eating disorder. The longer you are in disordered eating, the less chance for full recovery.

The Road to Recovery
With treatment sixty percent of people suffering from an eating disorder do recover. They are not consumed with thoughts of food, weight, and body size. They participate in life and have healthy relationships. Eating disorder recovery requires a team approach consisting of a physician, dietitian, therapist, and sometimes psychiatric medication.

Without treatment, twenty percent of people with eating disorders die, due to the complications or direct results of the disorder. It is the most lethal mental health diagnosis.

The other twenty percent of eating disorder clients spend their life in and out of treatment centers, hospitals, and therapists' offices. They live a life of quiet desperation. Sometimes their immediate family may not even know of their suffering. The shame and secretiveness of the disorder destroys their self-esteem. They never find a fulfilling, purposeful life. They live in bondage to their eating disorder.

It usually takes five to seven years to recover from an eating disorder. Unlike recovery from alcohol or drugs, food cannot be omitted from our life. Most eating disorder recovery includes setbacks into bingeing, restricting, over-exercising, and obsessively thinking about food, weight, and body size. Most will notice longer periods of remission between episodes until they reach a point where the recovery takes hold.

The best way to avoid all this pain and suffering is to get help before yo-yo dieting or emotional eating turns into an eating disorder.

Author's Bio: 

Rebecca Cooper, LMFT, LPCC, CEDS is the founder of Rebecca’s House Eating Disorder Treatment Programs™ and the author of Diets Don’t Work®, a structured program for disordered eating. She is an international speaker/lecturer and author of several published articles and has appeared on television and radio. You can get more information by calling 800-711-2062 or visit www.rebeccashouse.org.
For speaking engagements see www.rebeccacooper.com.