With his muscular physique, Ron Brown, author of The Body Fat Guide, doesn't exactly look like the kind of waif the public usually associates with anorexia. Yet, at the height of his preoccupation with physical fitness and sports, he was once one of the 10% of anorexics who are male.
"People would call me 'Skeletor' behind my back," says Brown. "I was actually proud of how I looked. I worked very hard at eating as little as possible while exercising as much as I could. I figured if diet and exercise was good, then more was better. My body image was so distorted that I didn't think I could ever get too thin. Years later I realized I had all the classic signs of anorexia."
Brown was able to recover by educating himself about the diet myths and misconceptions that trap people into obsessive weight loss. He claims the public believes many of the same myths that propel anorexic behavior. Unfortunately, the anorexic takes these mistaken beliefs to sometimes fatal lengths.
When asked to give an example of a weight-loss myth that can lead to anorexic behavior, Brown said, "The public often believes that getting thin or skinny is the same as getting lean. But, this is easily shown not to be the case when you examine changes in body composition that occur on prolonged crash diets. As you sacrifice muscle your percentage body fat goes up, not down!"
Brown is critical of many conventional treatments for anorexia. He refers to one study of 76 women with severe anorexia that found that, by the end of 10 years of treatment, less than one quarter were considered fully recovered, and 7% had died. "Anorexia is the leading cause of death among people seeking psychiatric help," says Brown.
"One psychologist who directs a treatment program told me they try to get their patients to forget about their weight", says Brown. "But that just pushes the problem under the rug. It doesn't teach the anorexic how to overcome diet myths and properly manage their weight, and it certainly doesn't prevent others from developing the same problem."
To those who insist on diagnosing anorexia as a mental disorder, Brown responds, "Some anorexics may be suffering with mental disorders, but it seems unfair to generally characterize all cases of anorexia as mental disorders simply because the people treating it may not always understand the logic behind the behavior. The therapists and councilors only need to look at their own misconceptions about dieting and weight loss to see how easy it is to be lead astray."
For more information, see Stop Anorexia Now!