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If you suffer from an eating disorder now or have in the past, please email Joanna for a free telephone consultation.


Eating Disorder Recovery
Joanna Poppink, MFT
Eating Disorder Recovery Psychotherapist
serving Arizona, California, Florida, Oregon and Utah.
All appointments are virtual.

I just got an invitation on Facebook from someone I believe may be innocent, naive and unaware of the dangers of fasting and the impact her invitation could have on people with eating disorders or who are vulnerable to develop an eating disorder.  She invited me and others to join her in a three day vegetable and fruit fast saying that it would be a way to lose weight and would give health benefits as well. Do you see the dangers in this invitation?

Fasting is not a healthful way of losing weight.  It sets up famine conditions for the body which can backfire severely. Also, going into fasting, famine, starvation conditions can produce an altered sense of consciousness that is associated with power, control, freedom, lightness and a distorted sense of reality created by starved brain cells. This is an open invitation to anorexia and is devastating to someone already caught by anorexia.

Brain cells, deprived of adequate nourishment, struggle to function and create cognitive distortions.  That produces a distorted perception of reality.  False reasoning based on brain cell function gone awry results in decisions geared to supporting perceptual distortions. So the normally weighted or skinny person see "fat" in the mirror or feels "fat" when she ca pinch her drooping skin. She can even feel and see bones pressing against her skin and perceive her skeletal structure as fat.  She can also take another approach and consider the more vivid appearance of her bones as a badge of honor proving her power and control over the approach of fat on her body. She considers any comments from others about their concern for her unhealthy appearance an attack and a threat to a way of life she believes is superior to any other.  She just wishes other people understood that and stopped worrying about her or attempting to interfere with her life.

Medical conditions might necessitate a fast of some kind, but that would be supervised by your doctor. The goal of the fast is not to lose weight but to maximize the effectiveness of a procedure.  Spiritual situations might call for a fast of some kind but that would be done within the framework and support of your spiritual community.  The focus is not on weight loss or maintaining the fast.  The focus is on specific spiritual goals and practices to achieve those goals within the community.  Plus, from what I understand, most spiritual communities exempt children and people with medical vulnerabilities from fasting practices.

The invitation to join a community fast can be a relief for a person who is unknowingly on the verge of an eating disorder.  The fast gives her support and company plus actual guidelines and specific suggestions for quick weight loss. She feels an eagerness to join in, and to her delight, she enjoys the experience.  She feels the high that accompanies the deprivation.  That high can be addictive, even highly addictive to the vulnerable personality.

Once she begins fasting the deprivation can take on a momentum of its own.  The less she eats the more ethereal and powerful she feels.  She will restrict more.  The "three day" aspect of the fast is lost.  For example, she will go "just one more day longer" and see what it's like if she cuts out fruit and sticks to vegetables only.  Then the vegetables get sorted by caloric content so eventually she's eating a few celery sticks cut up in tiny pieces, and even feeling guilt or shame about eating that. The "just one more day" thinking ends, and she is in a permanent starvation mode.

For the person who already is enmeshed in an eating disorder, the fasting invitation gives her support and company in her eating disorder lifestyle.Within the fasting group are people who will encourage her rather than be critical of her dwindling health and size.  No one in this fasting group may consider themselves pro ana or pro mia.  They may condemn people who support eating disorders while they are oblivious to what they are doing themselves.

I long for the day when I will see invitations on Facebook to join a mindful eating or intuitive eating group based on principles that create a healthy mind and body. Are you now or have you even been in a pro ana or pro mia community.  If you want recovery from your eating disorder, please share your experiences with us.

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