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Dr. Susan Albers

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Cowboys Have Eating Disorders Too

Posted: 11/11/09 02:36 PM ET

Did you ever wonder if your tendency to mindlessly overeat was just annoying or an actual problem? If so, don't feel bad. In our culture, it is sometimes difficult to determine. You often look to your weight as a diagnostic tool to say whether you are unhealthy or healthy. But, as a guest on Dr. Oz's TV show learned, your weight is only one piece of the puzzle. A doctor can help you look a little closer to what is going on inside your body.

"Rocco" was a guest on the Dr. Oz show last week (See the video clip). This 53-year-old man took a 28 day challenge that transformed him from a meat eating cowboy to a vegan. What was most impressive was not that he became a vegan per say, but the ability to dramatically change his life and health in less than one month. You can literally reverse some of the damage done to your body just by changing what you eat. Food (or the right foods) can sometimes be medicinal.

What convinced him to give up his former meat eating lifestyle? Rocco wasn't just overweight. He was diabetic and in 97th percentile for plaque in his arteries. This means that only 3 percent of the population in his age group have more plaque in their arteries. Dr. Oz told Rocco that he has the heart of an 85-year-old man. At this rate, he would not have much time left to get to know his grandchildren. From the outside, you'd never guess that this energetic, cheerful man was self-destructing on the inside.

In one month, he lost 6 inches from his waist, his blood sugar was in a normal range and his acid reflux was gone. (Click here for the stats). While these results look dramatic and seductive due to the rapidness, consider that Rocco had two world renowned doctors monitoring his health and a team of professionals to guide him. Too rapid of weight loss can be unhealthy in itself if it is not monitored.

There is an important aspect that likely added to Rocco's success. Rocco stated that he felt very cared about and well coached by Dr. Roizen, a wellness physician and friend of Dr. Oz. We could venture to say that Rocco just didn't get a new meal plan. These doctors also helped him to be more mindful of his health and psychological relationship to food. Rocco learned that his eating was similar to an addiction to alcohol. He appeared to change his approach to eating with this in mind. In other words, changing your diet isn't likely to be successful unless you truly understand the emotional components behind the overeating.

Rocco is a good role model, particularly for men. He stated on the show several times, "I have an eating disorder." Yes. Men have eating disorders too. This cowboy, who rides horses and wears a hat, wasn't ashamed to admit that overeating is more than just annoying. It was a major problem that was jeopardizing his health. Hopefully, other men take his lead. Unfortunately, men are sometimes an underserved population. Rocco stated, "I have an eating disorder and no one is out there to save fat guys." Men deserve to live longer and healthier lives. Thank you Dr. Oz for reminding everyone that men struggle with eating disorders too.

The most common eating disorder men struggle with is binge eating disorder. Although binge eating disorder is not an official diagnostic criteria, it affects approximately eight million men and women. This eating issue accounts for three times the number of those diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia together according the Binge Eating Disorder Association website. Everyone overeats now and then but this is different. In general, people who struggle with binge eating disorder eat large quantities of food frequently and compulsively despite wanting to stop and not feeling hungry. This behavior can prompt a lot of shame or embarrassment. If this sounds like you, see the Binge Eating Disorder Association website for more information and the signs and symptoms.

A vegan lifestyle probably isn't going to work for everyone. Rocco was optimistic, impressed with the results and committed to keep going. Time will tell if Rocco can keep up this dramatic lifestyle change. We are cheering him on!

Want to change your life too but don't know how to begin? Start by being more mindful of the things you mindlessly overeat. Work on eating more mindfully (http://www.eatingmindfully.com). Mindful eating is being aware of why and how you eat. Are you a boredom eater? Crave carbs for comfort? Eat fast food too often due to the convenience? Or, instead of cutting something out of your diet, focus on adding something healthy like an extra fruit, a home cooked healthy meal or a healthy snack (See Dr. Oz's website for some suggestions). Consider whether you have any patterns you would like to address. If you think your eating is problematic, like Rocco, talk to your doctor or contact a professional who can help at http://www.edreferral.com.

By the author of the new book, 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food and Eating Mindfully
Dr. Susan Albers is a clinical psychologist. Her work has been featured in O, the Oprah Magazine, Self, Natural Health, Parenting and Shape Magazine. www.eatingmindfully.com