Women contend with societal pressures that men simply do not. To say that women are judged by their appearance profoundly understates the case. While both genders are subjected to weight bias, women's plight in this regard is far more intense than men's.
Yet, we women do this to ourselves. Numerous studies have shown that, on average, men that women try to attract don't prefer the stick-thin shapes that women think they do. Attractiveness is much more complex than that. Still, the cultural norm in the U.S., at least among Caucasian women, is that looking "good" is looking skinny.
As a disastrous consequence, enormous pressure is placed on what women eat. The result, for many women caught in this vortex, is a never-ending battle with "bad" food. Small delights -- a creamy truffle, a wedge of fragrant cake, a fudgy cookie, even just a slice of bread -- become instruments of torture.
Notice how the words we use to describe yummy treats -- devilish, decadent, sinful, indulgent -- reek of this twisted perspective.
In my work with women who struggle with black and white thinking regarding food -- "healthy" food vs. "bad" food -- I am moved by the joylessness of this approach to eating. Food should be fun! While some observers admire the discipline of "careful" or "healthy" eaters, the emotional and physical toll that this obsession exacts on its victims is immeasurable.
What may be even more tragic than the physical and emotional toll is the way that "black and white" eating -- and the guilt and punishment and low self-esteem experienced when one "indulges" in "bad" food -- chips away at the energy and creativity that could be applied in so many useful ways. We live in a world full of problems that women are uniquely skilled to address. Freedom from food obsession unleashes the passion and creativity that women need to "give back."
The path to enlightened eating can be difficult. This is a critical part of my work -- helping women find their way through their unique sets of food issues to get to a happier place. Many times, other professionals must join in this process. Restoring balance and joy to eating can be a challenging endeavor. Yet, such work is immensely satisfying when the journey is successful.
And everyone wins.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power" which will take place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.