What is "Disordered Eating?"

disordered eating

Most people have heard of the more common eating disorders like Bulimia, Anorexia and Binge Eating Disorder.  What you may not realize is that millions more Americans struggle with food without rising to the level of a full blown eating disorder.

This is what disordered eating is.

It’s the gray area between normal, intuitive eating and an eating disorder.

Here are some ways to know that you might have some distorted thinking or disordered tendencies regarding food.

  • You create rules like “I will only have one bite” and then beat yourself up when you break your self-imposed rule.

  • It’s struggling mightily at a restaurant to find something that you’re willing to spend calories on.

  • It’s being preoccupied with food, weight, calories and/or food groups. 

  • It’s missing out on events and social engagements to avoid eating unhealthy or fattening foods.

  • It’s never allowing yourself to ever have certain foods like fat, carbs, even processed foods out of fear of weight gain, resulting in a binge or feeling out of control.

  • It’s obsessively reading every food label and never really feeling confident or relaxed around food.

  • It’s when you break down and eat something you deem questionable, don’t enjoy it, and then compensate for it by over-exercising, skipping meals or restricting calories the next day, or simply giving up in despair and bingeing.

  • You eat alone, often at night when everyone else is asleep.

I could go on and on but you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.  

You don’t need to have a diagnosed binge eating disorder to have a very difficult relationship with food.  There are even people who binge and purge yet still do not rise to the level of a DSM diagnosed Bulimia.

But, make no mistake.  Disordered eating is prevalent, alarming and can cause great shame and anxiety.  

By the way, you cannot look at someone’s appearance and necessarily have any idea who struggles with food.  

Someone can be naturally very thin and not eat a lot and NOT have anorexia.

You can encounter larger people who have a very healthy and balanced relationship with food.

Making assumptions about one’s eating habits based on someone’s outward appearance is troubling and can even be dangerous.

Our society tends to normalize aggressive tactics for manipulating our weight or appetite. Whether it's the latest pill promising to curb your appetite or the latest diet fad which requires you to only eat at 2:02 pm and only freshly mowed grass - the message is loud and clear: 

  1. You cannot trust yourself to eat healthy on your own!

  2. You MUST, at the very least in public, agree to and try to lose weight 

  3. Or run the risk of being ridiculed, abandoned or ostracized!


What I focus on in my work:

I focus on the space in between an eating disorder and food freedom.  We’re all on a spectrum. We’re influenced by food and health trends, media, old beliefs and myths about eating and so much more.  

There are even times today where I hesitate before eating an avocado or a handful of nuts and seeds because I had always been told they were too fattening to eat.  An avocado!! I’m sorry, but avocados and grapes and sweet potatoes never made me gain weight. These are the very foods that help us feel satisfied and give us natural energy.

This piece is not to belittle or downgrade diagnosed eating disorders and those in recovery for very serious eating issues in any way.

It’s to bring awareness to the fact that you can have very real eating issues and it still not rise to the level of a diagnosed illness.  And that, no matter where you are on the spectrum - if you feel scared, confused, hopeless or preoccupied about food and/or your weight - it’s OK to seek help.

Set up a free 1/2 hour “are we a good fit” session. I’ll help you determine where on that spectrum you might be and an an action plan to support you, regardless if we end up working together.

Book your free session here.