In our culture there is an obsession with size and weight, diet and exercise–the pervasiveness of disordered eating is astounding. with up to 50% of the population suffering from disordered relationships with food, body, and exercise.
“Normal eating” refers to the attitude a person holds in their relationship with food, rather than the type or amount of food they eat. On the other hand, eating is said to be disordered when a person arbitrarily decides when they are hungry or full, regardless of how they are feeling; weighs themselves constantly; or drinks non-caloric drinks to keep from feeling hungry. Eating is disordered if a person meticulously plans each meal long into the future, counts calories and weighs foods, follows an excessively strict diet or cuts certain foods from their diet claiming health or ethical reasons, when the real motivation is weight loss.
According to a recent study from the University of Helsinki, Finland, disordered eating among young adults has long-term effects on their health. Disordered eating among 24-year-old women and men was an indicator of higher body weight, larger waist circumference and lower psychological wellbeing as well as a lower self-evaluation of general health both at age 24 and ten years later.
Signs and Symptoms of Disordered Eating
Symptoms of disordered eating may include behavior commonly associated with eating disorders, such as food restriction, binge eating etc.
Additional Disordered eating symptoms are:
- Self worth or self esteem based highly or even exclusively on body shape and weight
- A disturbance in the way one experiences their body i.e. a person who falls in a healthy weight range, but continues to feel that they are overweight
- Excessive or rigid exercise routine
- Obsessive calorie counting
- Anxiety about certain foods or food groups
- Misusing laxatives or diurectics
- Fasting or chronic restrained eating
A rigid approach to eating, such as only eating certain foods, inflexible meal times, refusal to eat in restaurants or outside of one’s own home
Preventing and Managing Disordered Eating
Here are some things you can do to prevent or manage disordered eating:
- Avoid fad or crash diet–many diets are both too restrictive in terms of both quantity and variety. This can cause a feeling of deprivation and possibly lead to binge eating. It is healthier to adopt a more inclusive meal plan in which all foods are incorporated in moderation.
- Set healthy limits on exercise and focus on physical activities that are enjoyable. For example, it’s preferable to take a yoga class instead of staying on the elliptical machine until you burn a certain number of calories.
- Stop negative body talk--be mindful of overly critical talk about yourself or your body.
- Throw away the scale–people with disordered eating often weight themselves daily or multiple times per day.
It is normal to eat more on some days, less on others or eat some foods just because they taste good. Have a positive attitude towards food & not label foods with judgement words such as “good”, “bad”, “clean”. Over-eat occasionally is permitted accompanied with, under-eating at times.
Don’t forget to treat food and eating as one small part of a balanced life.