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October 19, 1998

Health risks of dieting will be discussed on October 22

By Jennifer McNulty

For more than 10 years, Dawn Atkins has been a leading activist speaking out against the multimillion dollar diet industry and its destructive impact on women. Atkins, a graduate of UCSC, will discuss her work and the health risks of dieting at a free public talk this Thursday, October 22, at 7 p.m. in the Red Room at College Eight.

During her talk, titled "Killing Us for Our Own Good: Dieting and Medical Misinformation," Atkins will discuss the physical and psychological harm promoted by the diet industry and will shed light on the "myths and lies about weight and dieting--for one thing, that it works!"

"There's a tremendous amount of manipulation of the statistics that are used by the diet industry regarding the so-called health risks of 'obesity,' and the health risks of dieting are downplayed," said Atkins, who established the Body Image Task Force in Santa Cruz and has discussed weight issues on Larry King Live, the Oprah Winfrey Show, and The Bradshaw Difference.

Among the risks of dieting are greater risk of heart failure and heart disease, said Atkins. "Research shows that people who yo-yo diet have a 70 percent greater chance of heart failure or heart disease than people who maintain a stable weight," she said. Other risks include gout, hair loss, greater risk of osteoporosis due to bone loss, and severe eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Weight-loss surgeries, such as gastrointestinal bypass and stomach stapling, carry a host of risks, she added. And for many women, weight is closely linked to issues of self-esteem.

"Most people who diet gain the weight back within two or three years, certainly within five years," said Atkins. "If dieting worked, the industry would be out of business."

Men are becoming increasingly concerned about their weight and are consequently experiencing the same negative self-esteem effects that women have been grappling with, added Atkins. "It's affecting more and more men," she said. "When I started doing this work in 1987, between 5 and 10 percent of people with diagnosed eating disorders were men. Now it's up to 20 percent, and those are just the diagnosed cases."

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