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Experts say New Year's fitness resolutions can be triggering for those with an eating disorder

Posted at 7:24 PM, Jan 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-08 17:51:46-05

After the holidays, we all gain a few extra pounds from the turkey and dressing. But then the new year rolls around, and many will hit the gyms as a part of New Year's resolutions to work off the holiday weight.

“Not only is all the emphasis on how you look, but all the advertising and the pressures and all of the messaging that gets put out there about fixing yourself, the perfectionism around food and bodies... It just gets magnified,” said Dr. Allison Chase, PhD, Regional Clinical Director, Eating Recovery Center.

With an increase in advertising for gyms and more individuals posting about their fitness journeys, this can be a trigger for many who struggle with eating disorders.

“You don’t have to say, "I can't post that. I am going to hurt somebody." But you might be mindful of how you post it and what you say and not making it look like that it came overnight or easy or that everything is better now that I look this way,” said Dr. Sam Fiala, Professor of Psychology at Texas A&M Central Texas.

Eating disorders typically begin as small and unnoticeable, but then grow into a major health problem.

Studies have shown that eating disorders typically develop in college age or young adults after puberty, but in an age of social media, more cases are beginning to develop even earlier.

“It’s kinda in that puberty phase that humans bodies are changing, and they begin to become more self aware and self focused. Little kids don’t really care. But we do see, even more today then we did 20 to 30 years ago, body dissatisfaction in pre-pubertal children,” said Dr. Fiala.

“What we really know about them is they are really a mental health disorder. We have all these physical complications, but they are a mental health disorder and we talk about them in more terms of being mismanaged emotions. So that underlying emotional piece that is going on, and food is being used to handle all the discomfort around it,” said Dr. Chase.

Dr. Chase and Dr. Fiala say while it's great to encourage and compliment others, be careful and try to not to compliment an individual's appearance. Instead, compliment them on accomplishing a goal or a hard workout at the gym.