“Let’s get rid of this big secret,” she said. “Research shows us that all of these people going on diets are more likely to have higher weights in the long run than people that don’t diet, and they’re likely to have a slower metabolism.”
Those with disordered eating check their weight and body measurements often, and loathe gaining even the smallest amount of weight. In more serious cases, they may have body dysmorphia: seeing themselves in the mirror much differently than others see them. They binge eat, purge food and may develop an excessive exercise schedule.
“One of the most difficult symptoms, that pretty much anyone with any disordered eating has, is the rumination on food,” Sessamen said. “What am I going to eat next? Why did I just eat that? How many calories are in that? Do I need to work out? The thoughts are constant. That’s because when we put our body into a starvation mode, which we do through diets, or if someone has an eating disorder, it’s our body’s natural response to make us think about food because our body doesn’t want to be starved.”
The goal should be to eat intuitively, Sessamen said, focusing on nutrient-dense foods while limiting – but not excluding – treats like sweets, pizza, wings, beer or soda.
Exercise should aim for “movement that’s joyful,” not obsessive or reviled, she said. For Sessamen, that means yoga, a bit of strength training and “body positive” dance classes she takes online with fellow participants of all body types.