Los Angeles…home of the trendy, superficial, and fit. Last week I was on vacation and spent the week back home in southern California. In preparation for my trip, I packed my most stylish outfits and made reservations for the most trendy, new restaurants in Hollywood. I spent the first day back with my boyfriend out in Beverly Hills and made a goal to have my favorite Sprinkles or Crumbs cupcakes. It wasn’t until I noticed the presence of tall, model-esque girls at my every turn that I changed my mind about indulging in decadent desserts. Later that night, my mood turned from excited and confident to irritable and self-conscious. I tried on the cute outfits I had packed and felt horrible when I looked in the mirror. I have a BMI in the normal range, yet I felt moderately obese compared to those girls. I was reminded of feelings growing up in southern CA at the age of 7, when I first began to diet and count calories. Now that I look back, I realize that I met criteria for a nonspecified eating disorder, considering that I lost significant amounts of weight eating only lettuce and water for weeks at a time. At the young age of 7, I believed I was fat even though my weight was considered normal.
Tormenting myself recently about not being 5’10” and a size 0 lasted only a few days. Overall, I feel happy about my temporary loss of self-esteem. I’ve treated a few patients with eating disorders and can’t help but relate my experiences to theirs. An estimated 1 to 2 million women in the United States meet criteria for bulimia nervosa; 500,000 women meet diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa. More males are also seeking treatment of eating disorders now compared to the 1980s. A number of factors (biological and psychological) are noted to be associated with the disorders, including preoccupations with a thin body and social pressures about weight.
I tell myself and my patients to eat healthy, but that it’s okay to give in to small indulgences (a small piece of dark chocolate after dinner, a cup of frozen yogurt for snack, etc) once in awhile. So, after a run through Santa Monica Blvd., I took my own advice and walked to Crumbs in Beverly Hills. I ate half of my lemon cupcake and felt both confident and guilt-free as I walked passed the skinny fashionistas on Rodeo Drive.