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Since I started modding over at BBR and FLR, one thing I’ve become uncomfortably aware of, is how “mainstream” disordered eating really is. 

I wrote about one manifestation of this phenomenon this morning, and – wouldn’t you know it - I just stumbled over another one.

A LEADING weight-loss plan is merely a “profiteering starvation diet” which could cause serious health problems, one of the country’s leading nutritionists has warned.

More than 100,000 people across the UK have signed up for the liquid-based LighterLife programme, which involves obese dieters consuming just 530 calories a day for three months at a time.

Professor Mike Lean, head of human nutrition at Glasgow University, claims the scheme takes advantage of vulnerable people and can lead to health difficulties.

But the company behind the scheme, which has annual turnover of £18m, insists it helps people to lose weight quickly and safely. LighterLife, which has franchises across Scotland, has devised a programme in which people who are three or more stone overweight consume nothing but its own range of powdered soups and shakes.

A 12-week supply of “foodpacks” costs around £720.

A 100,000 people – yikes!  And they’re each paying about $1320.00 USD…all for the privilege of starving in a supportive environment.

Now, some people might think - since it obviously ”works” for some people – that it’s a viable option.  Ya gotta do whatever it takes, ya know?  But IMHO, this sort of thing simply reinforces the dichotomy I wrote about this morning:

This is a perfect summary of the completely schizophrenic way we deal with the subject of food.  Food is anything but an enjoyable source of nutrition in this scenario.  Rather, it’s a “can’t-live-with-it/can’t-live-without-it” obsession that has a stranglehold on everyone’s psyche, and leaves people careening between the extremes of no-holds-barred gluttony and rigid, unyielding deprivation. 

This is the “deprivation” side of things…and the psychological/emotional costs were eloquently described by a blogger who signed up for the program:

I know that we all WANT to be thinner and look better, but to reinforce the feelings we have of not being worthy because we’re fat now, by showing a lady openly saying she was ashamed of herself, and thin people sitting in front of her nodding in agreement, is horrible.   It’s very contradictory to see that in the video, and then be asked about times people have made you feel bad because of your weight, and for the counsellor to then tell you to wipe those thoughts from your mind because you count, and you don’t need to feel bad about the person you are.

I was also concerned for one of the ladies who I go with.  3 of us car share, and today one of the ladies admitted that she’d eaten 3 pringles.  On the way home she was saying how relieved she was that she was still in ketosis and still lost weight even after having them.  She said she felt so disgusted with herself that she was spitting them out, and spent ages afterwards worrying and feeling guilty and disappointed with herself.  For 3 pringles.  For someone who has only moderately overeaten through occassional greed, and is not THAT overweight anyway, to suddenly be so terribly horrified by having put something so small in her mouth, and to feel so badly about it for so long afterwards – these are symptoms of eating disorders, and I really feel that whether intentional or not, this course actually encourages this behaviour in people who haven’t suffered with it before.

I understand that if you want to keep on top of your weight when you have lost it, that you will have to be vigilant, and make effort probably every day to recognise your feelings and keep control of them, but to actually instill in someone this sort of level of attention to something is akin to obsession, and therefore really not healthy.

I can’t help but agree.  The only difference between a program like this, and a clinical eating disorder is one of degree: it’s not taken to the level where it becomes physically incapacitating.  But I don’t see how a program that depends on disordered eating for its very success, can truly help participants get to a place where food can be viewed as an ally, rather than an enemy.

It’s obviously profitable, though.  Nice work if you can get it. :-(