National Eating Disorder Week is a time to bring awareness to what eating disorders are, what they do, and the stories that people have about the trials and triumphs over their ED. But what if you don’t have an eating disorder? Are you automatically a “normal eater”? This is also an excellent time to highlight disordered eating and how falling anywhere on the spectrum from eating disorder to normal eater can have an immense impact on your life.

Disordered Eating: When to get help | Nutrition and Therapy | Woman looking sadly at a salad

What is Disordered Eating?

Disordered eating, unlike an eating disorder, is not a diagnosis but characteristics of eating that may have a negative emotional, social, or physical impact. Disordered eating lies along a spectrum in between normal eating and a clinical eating disorder.

Many times, disordered eating is masked as “normal” by the skewed standards that have been created in our society. Skipping meals, saving up calories, diet cycling, demonizing foods, “making up” for being bad by restricting calories or over-exercising are frequently thought of as health promoting, when in reality these behaviors are anything but healthy.

So, What is Normal Eating?

If those disordered behaviors aren’t actually normal eating, then you are likely wondering what normal eating even is. Ellen Satter says it best as she explains that normal eating is not just one thing, but many variables rolled into the patterns of your daily eating habits.

Eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full- most of the time. Enjoying healthful foods, but also enjoying treats. It could be eating 3 meals, 5 meals, or snacking during the day. It is trusting that you are not the sum of any one day, and that many days even out, giving your body what it needs. You can read Ellen Satter’s full What is Normal Eating? Post for an in-depth understanding of what normal eating could look like for you.

How is Disordered Eating Different From An Eating Disorder?

A clinical eating disorder, such as Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, Orthorexia, or Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified among others all have specific criteria that must be met. You can learn about each of these, their criteria and more on the National Eating Disorder Association website.

Disordered eating may not qualify under the strict guidelines of a diagnosable eating disorder, but if it is impacting your life in a negative way, it deserves attention.

Many people wait too long to seek help for disordered eating behaviors because they believe that they are not sick enough. This could not be further from fact. If your eating behaviors or your thoughts around food or your body are creating stress, any emotional or physical consequences, or causing you to feel anxiety or worry, then it is time to get help.

How Disordered Eating Can Be Harmful

From causing you to miss out on social events to tangible physical harm, any kind of disordered eating decreases your quality of living and takes energy and time away from the healthy and happy life you deserve to live.

Weight cycling is a common concern with disordered eating patterns. The chronic dieting that many people do is looked at as normal in our society, but the negative effects of chronic weight cycling can impact your health in many ways. Increasing your risk of chronic inflammation, an increase in baseline weight, and loss of muscle mass are all potential consequences of weight cycling.

Physical manifestations such as electrolyte imbalances from food restriction, intense exercise, or compensatory behaviors, low energy, and malnutrition are just a few potential effects of disordered eating.

Negative emotions, such as anxiety, stress, or depression may result from disordered eating. When thoughts of food or the act of eating induces these negative feelings, it is time to seek help, no matter how “normal” you feel it is in today’s culture. You deserve to enjoy food and to feel good about how you are taking care of your body and living your life. Disordered eating thoughts do not have to be your “normal”.

Nutrition Coaching and Disordered Eating

If you are wondering what your life would look like without obsessing over calories, worrying about what food you can eat or should eat, and to start truly respecting and caring for your body, send me an email, message me on instagram, shoot me a facebook message .

I would love to connect with you to help you reach your goals and feel good about the way you eat and feel about food!

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