04/25/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Skinny on Eating Disorders

Since the release of How to Eat Like a Hot Chick two years ago, we've received tons of emails from readers asking for our advice about how to begin a healthier relationship with food. These questions have come from women who have tried every fad diet and failed, women who recognize that they are a little "weird" about food, women with full blown eating disorders, and all sorts of women in between. Since this is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, we decided to take the opportunity to share our thoughts on this painful and controversial subject that has made an impact on too many of our lives.

Eating disorders are much more common than you may think. In fact, we believe that many women - dare we even say most women - either suffer from one or have suffered from one at some point in their lives. Now before you freak out and scroll down to post a nasty comment, please hear us out. When many of us think of eating disorders, we either picture a rail thin, hospitalized woman or Tracey Gold hiding Tupperwares full of vomit in her closet, but the actual definition of an eating disorder is any severe disturbance in eating habits. This could mean obsessively counting calories, compulsively binge eating, or even just fearing food and seeing it as the enemy instead of the source of sustenance and pleasure that it should be.

It's no wonder that so many women (and many men, too) have disordered relationships with food. Our tabloid obsessed world worships the overly skinny, pokes fun at the fat, and constantly advertises unrealistic and unhealthy fad diets. There is no doubt that this contributes to the increasing number of eating disorders around the globe. Then there is the media's glorification of elective cosmetic surgeries, which makes young women believe that they must look like a Barbie doll in order to be attractive - that any ounce of fat, cellulite, sagging, or jiggle instantly makes them "less than" a girl who has paid thousands of dollars in order to become plastic. In this negative environment, it's no wonder that women are not only perplexed about what they should put into their bodies, but so many of them believe that they don't even deserve the comfort, nutrition and joy that food can (and should) provide.

This confusion about food and lack of self-worth can certainly lead to an eating disorder, and we think that women who have fallen into the diet trap of counting points, limiting themselves to two shakes a day and a sensible dinner, or fearing the carbs in a banana need to stop before this behavior spirals downward into a full blown eating disorder. The more time you spend cutting out certain foods or replacing meals with fake foods, the harder it will be to avoid feeling guilt, confusion, and shame when you finally try to enter into a healthy relationship with food and decide to start eating healthy, whole foods. Our advice to women like this is to stop the cycle now, before you lose years of your life to counting calories and correlating them to minutes on the treadmill or to feeling so guilty for indulging that you begin overindulging due to a lack of self worth. You are meant to have an appetite; it is not something you should have to suppress. You need to eat healthy foods that fuel your beautiful body, and you deserve to enjoy your food without feeling the slightest bit guilty.

Of course if you have a severe eating disorder we hope you will seek professional medical help, but we also hope that those of you who are walking the fine line between an eating disorder and just being a little messed up about food will use National Eating Disorder Awareness Week as an opportunity to get your food issues under control now, before they get any worse. It doesn't take long for behavior that seems harmless to become really damaging, so stop the fad diets, trash the new diet pill that the Kardashians are advertising, and instead start eating like the confident, beautiful, healthy woman you were born to be.