Almost every person I have talked to has experienced some form of disordered eating. Women, men, young, old, skinny, fat, muscular, or flabby. We all experience it to a degree. My personal experience with disordered eating came in the form of anorexia, including spending time in a hospital and many years working with a dietitian and therapist. Not everyone gets to this point, but you can still experience the behaviors and they can still affect your life.
What is disordered eating? Is it starving yourself? Is it overeating? Is it purging? Is it binging?
The short answer is: Yes.
It’s all of the above. Disordered eating is any form of abnormal eating, the severity of which can lead to an eating disorder.
Abnormal eating could include any of the following:
- Obsessively counting calories. And I’m not talking the healthy form of this habit where you are flexible and eat when you are hungry. I’m talking the OCD-type of planning where if something does not go as planned, you experience intense anxiety.
- Purging. This isn’t just throwing up your food (although that is an extreme form of purging). This could be running 15 miles after an ice cream cone. Again, I’m not referring to the healthy practice of working out after a weekend of drinking. Purging is planned and if it cannot be completed, anxiety ensues.
- Planning meals to the point of perfection. You are unable to be flexible with meal times or exact ingredients. For example, you plan to have a salad for dinner but a bunch of your friends invite you out to sushi last minute. Instead of being able to go with the flow, you either don’t go, eat very little at sushi, hide your food to make it look like you are eating, or purge in someway afterword. Either way, you are not having fun with your friends.
- Starving yourself for a desired period of time. This usually is followed by some form of binging on junk food and another period of starvation or purging.
- Feeling like you have to always finish your food. You eat everything on your plate even if you are full to the point of pain. Also included here is the inability to say “no” to food. If someone offers you a cookie, you have to say yes, and you have to eat it, regardless of if you want it or not.
Have you experienced any of the above? I know I have, and I still do. There is nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t mean you have an eating disorder. It doesn’t mean you need to seek help immediately (although if it is severe and affecting your everyday life, please talk to someone).
Nevertheless, the first step in changing a behavior is identifying that behavior. You must become aware of when you are engaging an abnormal eating pattern so that you can use tools to alter your perspective.
Now that we have covered how to recognize signs of disordered eating, next we will cover disordered body image, and lastly we will discover the tools that can help us to overcome these behaviors so that we can love ourselves and our bodies. Because we are more than the number on the scale or the amount of calories that we eat.
Questions? Thoughts? Reach out!