Our culture is diet obsessed. Eighty percent of U.S. women are dissatisfied with their appearance and 89 percent want to lose weight. As a nation, we spend more than $50 billion on diet products each year.

Fifty percent of women are on a diet and 10 percent of dieters progress to partial or full eating disorders. How can we determine when a diet has gone too far? Remuda Ranch Programs for Eating Disorders, the nation's leading and largest inpatient treatment center for women and girls with anorexia and bulimia, offers advice on when to get help.

"A diet has gone too far when the restrictive calorie level or limited foods on the diet lead to episodes of binge eating; a diet has gone too far when a person purges calories by self-induced vomiting," said Juliet Zuercher, registered dietitian and the director of nutrition services at Remuda Ranch. "If these binging and purging behaviors increase to multiple times per week, for three months or more, that's considered a full-blown eating disorder."

If dieters experience weight loss and think a little is good, but a lot would be better, they are on a slippery slope. When weight reaches below 85 percent of what is normal for their body, and they are obsessed with their body image and exercise, and, if women, they miss three menstrual cycles in a row, that's a clear warning sign that an eating disorder is present. Even lesser combinations of these symptoms can mean an eating disorder.

"The key is not to diet. Instead, listen to your body, eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full," adds Zuercher. "We don't believe in putting labels on food. All food is fine when you keep in mind balance, moderation and variety."

Balance means that most of the time you eat because you're hungry and use food as fuel for your body. It also means that sometimes you eat when the food appeals to you or when it's appropriate in a social setting. There are both physiological and psychological factors in our food choices. With balance both factors are honored.

It's important to choose foods from a variety of sources. The USDA MyPyramid provides a structure for determining the number of servings from each food group that will provide the best variety. Eat different foods every day.

Moderation also matters, and is the health principle most often violated by Americans. "Portion size is key," said Zuercher. "Just because you're given a large portion doesn't mean you have to eat it all, take some home for later. Consult the MyPyramid guidelines for examples of serving sizes until you can gauge an appropriate serving size for yourself by listening to your body."

Remuda Ranch also suggests drinking plenty of water -- eight 8-ounce glasses of water is a good daily average. The center recommends three meals per day and one to three snacks a day. The idea that snacking between meals is bad is a thing of the past. By eating every two to four hours, you prevent your body from getting overly hungry, which could cause overeating later. The body uses the fuel from food very efficiently when eating smaller amounts more frequently throughout the day.

"Fad diets and yo-yo weight patterns only make your body work harder to maintain homeostasis," adds Zuercher. "Weight fluctuations may increase your body's 'set point' -- the weight at which your body wants to stay. The bottom line for health is to eat normally, exercise moderately and let your body weigh what it wants."

Remuda Ranch recommends educating oneself about eating disorders. If behavior patterns are becoming harmful and negatively affecting one's life, it's important to seek help because effective treatments for eating disorders are available.

About Remuda Ranch Programs for Eating Disorders

Remuda Ranch is a caring place for women and girls who are suffering from eating disorders and related issues. Remuda Treatment Programs offer Christian inpatient and residential treatment for women and girls of all faiths suffering from an eating disorder. Each patient is treated by a multi- disciplinary team including a Psychiatric and a Primary Care Provider, Registered Dietitian, Masters Level therapist, Psychologist and Registered Nurse. The professional staff equips each patient with the right tools to live a healthy, productive life. For more information, call 1-800-445-1900 or visit http://www.remudaranch.com.

Remuda Ranch Programs for Eating Disorders