Eating Disorder Pro Radio Show – The Epidemic of Obesity & Escalation of Eating Disorders

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In this episode we discussed: The Epidemic of Obesity & Escalation of Eating Disorders

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Maji and Mongo: How Maji Gets Mongo Off the Couch

Full Text Transcript

Good Evening! Welcome to Eating Disorder Pro. I’m Dr. Renae Norton and I’ll be your host. This is our very first blog talk radio show. Our debut. Our maiden voyage, as it were. So I’m sure there’ll be some mistakes, a few dead silences, accidental hang-ups. Just don’t change that channel. Because we have good content show here and something worth hearing if you are struggling with disordered eating.

Our topic this evening is going to be the connection between obesity and eating disorders in the U.S. So if you have been struggling with an eating disorder, if you’ve been in and out of treatment, and nothing works, you’re still bingeing, purging or restricting you’ve come to the right place. Maybe you are on that roller coaster that many of us have been on of losing and gaining weight, and you can’t figure out what you are doing wrong. You’ve come to the right place. Maybe you have a child that can’t stop eating, or maybe you have a child that is terrified of food. Whatever the problem, if it has to do with eating, you are right where you should be!

So log on, tune in and call in. The number, by the way, is 646-378-0494.

I think it’s probably a good idea to start with a little bit about me. I’m a clinical psychologist with a specialty in family treatment and neuropsychology. I’ve been in practice for the last 25 years and have specialized in the treatment of eating disorders almost exclusively for the past ten years. I’d appreciate if you’d visit my website at

Be sure to check out my latest book called “How Maji Gets Mongo Off the Couch!”. It is the first of a series of books for children designed to interest them in a healthier lifestyle. Maji, who is a very healthy little dog, meets Mongo and takes him under his wing. When they meet Maji is very active and Mongo is pretty much a couch potato. Maji patiently gets Mongo to move out of his comfort zone and off the couch. Eventually Mongo finds the healthy part of himself and the two have great adventures together. Check it out by going to my website.

As far as the content for this evening’s show, much of it is result of research that I am doing for another more serious book, coming out in the Fall called “Cycles of Shame”. “Cycles of Shame” looks at the epidemic of obesity that we have in the United States, the expanding eating disorder population, and the role that food, or more specifically, food addiction plays in both problems. That’s right, I said ‘food addiction’. Our foods in the United States are polluted with MSG, GMO’s (or genetically modified ingredients) neurotoxins, obesogens, carcinogens and allergens. And they are killing us! Perhaps you think that I’m exaggerating? Consider a few statistics –

  • Obesity is epidemic in the US and has reversed a 20-year trend of longer life expectancy especially for today’s children.
  • If the present rate of obesity continues, the entire population will be obese by the year 2030.
  • Likewise, eating disorders such as anorexia are growing reaching new segments of the population, primarily younger children (sometimes cases with children that are only 6 years of age), middle-aged women and many more men. It used to be that only about 5% of the eating disorder population was men, this has moved up recently to about 10%. I think it’s actually continuing to move. The important thing about these new groups is they were relatively unaffected by eating disorders in the past. It’s very significant that they are getting worse.

So, how do we compare to other developed nations?

One thing to think about is whether this is just us or whether this is something that is happening around the world. In fact, it really is mostly just us. Other countries are getting fatter, eating disorders are pretty much a phenomenon of the United States. They are a phenomenon of other countries, but only when they become westernized or in other words, start eating our food.

What’s happening in our country that’s different than in other countries, is that our food is essentially polluted and its taking a terrible toll on the populous.

The United States life expectancy is 42nd in the world, lagging behind almost all other developed nations. In the 1990’s the U.S. was in 11th place. That’s a tremendous difference, a huge difference

Infant Mortality – In 1960, the U.S. had the 12th lowest infant mortality rate in the world. In 2008 we were in 34th place. One of the variables that significantly impacts infant mortality rates is the nutritional status of the mother during pregnancy.

Health Care – It isn’t that we are ignoring health care. We pay more for it than any other country in the world. In the United States, we spend on average $6,714. This is more than twice the average for individuals in any other country, unfortunately. A sizeable portion of the overall health care spending in the U.S. is directly or indirectly related to obesity and its many complications.

So, what is causing this? Why is this happening in the United States and not in other countries? Part of the problem is definitely our culture. Pop culture plays a significant role. There are several factors that may be contributing to these problems. Pop culture weighs in by glamorizing extreme thinness, while simultaneously promoting excessive, often gluttonous eating.

Most people who overeat assume that they are entirely at fault. To begin with, they ignore the fact that our culture puts a lot of pressure on them. We are also bombarded with advertisements extolling the virtues of foods that are actually extremely dangerous. We are not clued in that the foods are dangerous. We are pretty much clueless when it comes to the safety of or food supply. It’s sort of a cultural myth that “the government protects us from dangerous substances”, because of that we assume that it’s our fault that there is something wrong with us. “Maybe it’s my metabolism, maybe I’m just lazy”.

The self-blame and shame that follows drive yo-yo dieting, bingeing followed by purging, and restricting followed by overeating or bingeing. That puts us in a frame of mind that makes the problem significantly worse. The behaviors that we’re talking about and the pressures people in the United States are under are the opposite of reality.

Despite the fact that scientists and public interest groups point to the escalation of toxic additives in the U.S. food supply as a major contributing factor in our declining health, the warnings go unheeded.

We have a tendency to “blame the victim”. So, what this refers to is that the individual with the problem is often blamed for having the problem. This is really unfortunate because it’s very difficult for someone who is blamed for the problem (especially if they accept the blame) to solve the problem under these circumstances. The upshot of “blaming the victim” is that those seeking treatment for obesity and eating disorders are often stigmatized, the may be disenfranchised, managed care may cost them.

In the industry today, it’s not uncommon for people that are obese to be excluded from their managed care policies. Perhaps they are excluded for anything that has to do with their obesity or weight problem. This is definitely “blaming the victim” and disenfranchising people who need help. By disenfranchising, their condition gets worse and expenses go up.

We really have a problem with affordable or available treatment, of course this increases relapse rates. Often, the anorexic patient is allowed one inpatient stay. After that, if she needs residential care again, she pays for it out of pocket. A month of residential stay can cost as much as $30,000, that’s usually prohibitive for most families.

The misplaced blame that “it’s the way we eat” makes it very difficult to find real solutions to the problems that people have today.

Another problem, another thing that is part of our culture is that treatment ignores or is often ignorant of the role of safe nutrition. In general, most of the treatment we get in this country is for the symptoms. Often treatment incorporates pharmaceutical remedies, some of which make the symptoms even worse.

In a nutshell, treatment does not recognize the role that food additives play in obesity and eating disorders. They damage parts of the endocrine system that are responsible for healthy weight management.

Because treatment uses in incorrect underlying assumption, the focus is always on the relative amounts of food; the number of calories, or the relative amounts of fat, carbs and protein. It rarely looks at the quality of the food that we should be looking at. That frame of reference often prevents people from actually recovering from their eating disorders. A good example would be: if you suffer from anorexia and you are in a residential treatment program, it’s very possible that the food that you would eat during the refeeding phase has so many toxins, obesogens, allergens and sweeteners that they actually do more damage than good. Likewise, for people that are dieting, the severe reduction in calories during the diet impacts your metabolism in a way that is suppressed, getting slower and slower. This results in “normal” eating causing rapid weight gain.

In future programs, we’ll be talking about what happens to the endocrine system depending on the types of food we are eating and what the endocrine system does. It actually tries to do many adaptive things that are actually maladaptive.

There are also “new” eating disorders on the horizon that are very troublesome. The one that worries me most that I’ve been seeing the most of in my private practice is a combination of anorexia and bulimia, known as bulimarexia. Bulimarexia is very troubling because if there is such thing as the “best of both worlds” it’s the “worst of both worlds”. The complications of bulimarexia are significant and often life threatening, more so than anorexia. Anorexia is currently the most life threatening emotional disorder one can have. Bulimarexia, which again is not on the radar of most practitioners, is popping up frequently. We don’t really seem to know what to do with it, how it is happening, why it is happening, let alone know how to help people overcome it or recover. I think there is a direct link between bulimarexia and the food that we are eating in this country presently.

Finally, last but not least, in terms of how our culture plays in these problems there is very little applied research. In the research that is available, it’s very unclear that certain food additives damage parts of the brain responsible for weight management. However, the very obvious indicators that there is a problem are being ignored. There is very little research demonstrating the safety of GMOs, yet in the United States you can barely buy a food that doesn’t have a genetically modified ingredient. But, that’s another show for the future. We’ll be talk about what that means, how it impacts obesity, how it impacts eating disorders. So stay tuned for that one.

The main problem , or saddest thing, is what is happening right now to children in the country, they pay the biggest price. There is an epidemic of obesity among U.S. children. It is not uncommon today for a child to leave the pediatrician’s office with a diagnosis of Type II Diabetes, high blood pressure, a heart condition or joint deterioration. These diseases, are things our grandparents used to get. Right?

It’s crazy what we are seeing with little children. We have the fattest children in the world. We are the only country in the world right now that has obese infants. If you want to know, it’s because food additives target children’s foods. Just as an example, I have a can of Gerber Goodstart baby formula. Let me read some of the ingredients. Ok, the first one is “corn maltodextrin”. First of all, it’s GMO. Second of all, it’s MSG. “Vegetable Oil”, we have “palm” (that’s good), “soy” (that’s bad), “coconut” (that’s good), “safflower” and “sunflower” (those are both bad). Then we have “enzymatically hydrolyzed soy protein isolate”, that’s MSG. Then we have “sucrose”, that’s not good. We finally get to a relatively “good” ingredient; we have some “calcium” here, but only 2%. What we’re talking about here is that out of the first ten ingredients or so, seven or eight of them are either GM or some form of MSG. MSG is a neurotoxin; GMOs cause all kinds of endocrine problems including obesity.

We have some major problems when it comes to the foods we are feeding our children. The result is they are the first generation in many, many years to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. They are the fattest children in the world, they are tied only with Scotland.

So what is causing this mess? A list of things we’ll be talking about in the future are:

  • Food Addiction
  • GMOs
  • MSG and the impact it has on obesity
  • Healthy vs Unhealthy Fats
  • Grass-fed animal protein versus grain-fed animal protein.

Be sure to catch us when we are reviewing these topics. The call-in number tonight is 646-378-0494.

For this evening, suffice it to say, the missing link for many is the role that food additives play. Most Americans assume that foods in the U.S. are safe. WRONG! We have been led to believe that we are the problem and that the reason we are having all of these problems is that we are lazy, or glutinous or uninterested in being healthy. WRONG! Finally we believe that our children are spoiled which is why they fall on the floor frothing at the mouth when they don’t get Chicken McNuggets. WRONG AGAIN!

For the past 40 years, there has been an escalation of substances known for their neuro-toxic, obesogenic, diabetic, carcinogenic, addictive and allergic impact added to the American food supply for the simple reason that these things increase profits for the food industry. Scientists convincingly demonstrate that these additives damage the systems that regulate appetite, fat storage and weight gain or weight loss.

The fact is that they are highly addictive, they cause food cravings, binge eating, food obsessions, weight gain, weight loss, allergies and some of the worst chronic illnesses of our time. The problem is that they are everywhere!

Food additives and/or GMO ingredients are found in 95% of processed foods in the U.S. A processed food is any food that comes in a bottle, box, bag, can, carton or shrink-wrap, as well as the vast majority of deli and restaurant foods. So, pretty much everything we are eating, unless we are eating a fruit or vegetable, frying up a chicken breast, or maybe having some fish. Dangerous additives are more common, and found in higher quantities in children’s foods. This is a serious problem for our future generations.

The problem is that most people don’t know what they are, let alone how dangerous they are. And then there is the issue of finding foods without them. It’s tricky; however it’s really worth it. When you do find the foods that don’t have food additives in them, you are going to discover some amazing things. First of all, the foods are absolutely delicious. What you will discover is that it’s very easy to maintain the correct weight. How can that be?

  • For one thing, when you are eating foods that are not toxic, your blood sugar levels will stabilize. This means it will be hard to gain weight; unless you are anorexic, in which case your weight gain will be slow and steady.
  • Your cravings will disappear, since you will be extinguishing the food addictions you have developed unknowingly.
  • Your allergies will improve or go away.
  • For those of you who think you are gluten intolerant (and so many people today do), you may discover that you are not, that you are allergic to GMO’s or herbicides and insecticides. It’s interesting, I have a patient that was certain that she was gluten-intolerant. She went to Italy, where there are no GMOs. She ate the pasta and the bread (because she was in Italy) and had no allergic reactions whatsoever. Likewise, I have many patients that thinking they have dairy allergies. When I turn them onto whole milk that is from an A2 casein grassfed or pastured cow, they have no allergic reaction. What’s more delicious than a glass of whole milk, or whipped cream that you can put blueberries in? One of my obese patients (who has lost well over 100 pounds at this point) said that the most significant, positive thing about this approach was the fact that he was able to eat homemade whipped cream and strawberries every night before bed.
  • Your immune system will improve because it will no longer be under attack.

I have patients that come in today that are bulimarexic or anorexic that are losing their teeth, are having kidney failure and losing their hair. In the last 2 years, on three different occasions, I’ve had patients with no teeth. In one case, it wasn’t even possible for her to have implants because she had no jaw left. I also have patients at a very young age that have such severe osteoporosis that they suffer from kyphosis. That isn’t something that any one should experience anyone should experience. The reason they are experiencing these things at such a young age is because not only are they anorexic, but the foods they do eat are loaded with dangerous food additives, one of which is a sweetener.

For those of you that are guzzling down those diet soft drinks, you really need to find some substitutes. If you go to my website (, you will find a lot of really good suggestions in handouts and articles on my blog. One drink, for example, that I think is exceptionally good is a drink by a company called “Q”. There’s a “Q Cola” a “Q Gingerale” and, for those of you who like a good vodka and tonic, there’s “Q Tonic” and it’s excellent. They only have 16 grams of carbohydrates.

What impact does obesity have on us? We know for the adult there is depression, reduced earning power, infertility and isolation are common among adults who are obese. It’s very difficult if not impossible for people to travel, very difficult for the morbidly obese to go to restaurants and to the movies. But what about individuals who have been obese since they were 3 or 4, and end up with Type II Diabetes by the time they are 10 or 11? What are the developmental issues at risk for such individuals? What are the implications for our society? Where does this leave us in comparison to other countries in the world that aren’t having these problems?

What impact are we seeing with eating disorders? Eating disorders also take a toll on life expectancy. For example, females between the ages of 15 and 24 who suffer from anorexia have the highest mortality rate for that age range. Studies have also shown that the risk for early death is twice as high for anorexic’s that purge.

Presently, the prevalence of purging anorexics or bulimarexics is on the rise. That particular type of eating disorder is a perfect example of what happens when you take someone who is afraid of eating and expose her to foods that are addictive. She can’t resist the impulse to eat these addictive foods. Unfortunately, she often learns to eat them when she is in a residential treatment center. Once this happens, she is at her wit’s end to know what to do and ends up purging. These are the patients I see with such horrendous complications; liver failure, cirrhosis of the liver, kidney failure, calcium problems (bones shattering, being unable to keep their teeth in their mouth) and endless horrible things like that. This new disorder appears to be driven by food addictions and/or intense food cravings, both of which have increased with the increase in food additives that we see in the American diet.

There seems to be a connection between the variables driving the epidemic of obesity, the changing demographics of eating disorders, and the escalating medical complications in both populations. Just as an example (aside from the fact that we are being subjected to food additives that are extremely dangerous), another connection is being obese as a child puts one at greater risk for being anorexic, or bulimarexic, later in life.

Today 17% of U.S. children between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese according the Center for Disease Control, that’s a scary scenario. By implication many more children may be at risk for developing an eating disorder in the future. A history of childhood obesity also makes recovery less likely for those suffering from anorexia or bulimarexia. They tend to be much more frightened of the refeeding process and has a much higher likelihood of relapse.

Not only is the general public unaware of the impact that food additives may be having on their health or the health of their children, especially when it comes to disordered eating, but practitioners also appear to be fairly in the dark. This is unacceptable. Americans can’t help that they are basically being sold a bill of goods about the safety of our foods. Practitioners should have a higher standard to meet.

There is research documenting the role that food additives are having on weight regulatory systems in the body, yet this connection is not yet on the radar of a lot of practitioners, which may help to explain why recovery rates for obesity and eating disorders are so low. It’s really not uncommon today, if you have anorexia, to have your physician or if you end in the ER to have the physician to ask you a question like “Why are you doing this to yourself?” This tends to be experienced as very judging for most people in that situation, it’s just not helpful.

What are the recovery rates for these problems? Not great. For example, recovery rates across treatment modalities for those with anorexia and bulimia are only about 50% at best. They drop to 30% for treatment that relies primarily upon residential care. For those who are obese, or overweight, the failure rate is even higher, in as much as 95% percent of all those who try to lose weight by dieting alone fail. Finally, when one considers that yo-yo dieting is a significant risk factor for developing an ED and that approximately 41% of the U.S. population is on a diet at any given time; the outlook is dismal at best.

Why is this happening here and not in other countries? In a nutshell other countries regulate these additives or prohibit them altogether. The pollution of the American food supply is a silent but deadly problem. It is also comes at a high cost.

It is silent because the American public buys products assumed to be safe that are anything but safe. The average citizen is simply not aware that Citric Acid, Malted Barley, or Natural Flavorings are neurotoxins.

Likewise, most people assume that buying a food that is certified “organic” is safe. But organic foods are not necessarily safe, in as much as the FDA allows unsafe additives to be put into the vast majority of processed foods, including those that are “organic.”

If you want to be sure that your food is safe, it must say 100% organic. If it doesn’t, it’s not necessarily safe. It if says “USDA Certified Organic”, it will be 95% safe, but can still contain 5% GMO ingredients, MSG and other unhealthy additives. If it says it is made with “organic ingredients” it doesn’t mean anything; it could have anything in it. We have to be very careful, and that’s the point. Why do we have to be careful? Why do we have to mistrust a label? The reason is simple: If we don’t mistrust the label we are likely putting ourselves in danger.

The pollution of our food supply is deadly because it results in decreased life expectancy, premature infant mortality, and the mortal complications of ED’s and obesity. The toxification of the U.S. food supply is costly because it contributes to the increased incidence of the most costly diseases of our time, including obesity and its complications, various types of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

These problems have long-term implications, as the largest and most profitable market targeted for dangerous food additives is children’s food, beginning with infant formula. Not surprisingly, childhood obesity in the U.S. is epidemic, beginning with obese infants. This is a first in our history and does not occur in other countries.

There are a number of things that you can do to protect yourself; you can find help for what to do on our website. There are also other organizations that are watching out for you, those are watch-out groups. It would be very helpful and worth your while for you to search these out if you haven’t already. Again, we have a list of resources and places you can find good information that you can trust.

[Caller Question] I have a question. I was wondering what is more dangerous: anorexia, bulimia or obesity?

[Dr. Norton] That’s a very good question. Let’s take obesity first. Most people don’t die from obesity; they die from the complications of obesity. I guess I could say that about anorexia as well and also about bulimia. This is a very good question because the answer is changing. It used to be that you didn’t start to become obese until middle age, and then you might die from some of the complications like heart disease, perhaps type II diabetes. However, with obesity beginning in childhood and infancy we don’t really know what it’s going to do. We know that it has lowered life expectancy of children presently for the first time in several decades. At this point, I would have to pick obesity as being the most dangerous. I can tell you that since bulimarexia doesn’t really have a diagnosis; we aren’t really tracking it, but at some point I’m sure we will. At that point, I am thinking it’s going to be viewed as a more lethal disorder. So, I’m not sure if I really answered your question.

[Call dropped]

Please tune in next Tuesday at 7 pm. We’ll be doing some show notes, of course. We’ll make sure you have access to those. Please visit, and be sure to check out the ‘Maji and Mongo’ book. Please look for ‘Cycles of Shame’ that will be coming out in the Fall. Thank you very much to those of you that joined us tonight.

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