When talking about eating disorders, there is an assumption that anyone who fits the diagnostic criteria for any of them is actually suffering from one. This is not always the case though, as some people may feel uncomfortable with the term “eating disorder” because they think it too broad.
There are several types of disordered eating. Some examples include:
Binge eating – where you eat more food than normal, but still don’t make up the amount in calories that your body requires
– where you eat more food than normal, but still don’t make up the amount in calories that your body requires Emotional eating – where you eat to satisfy feelings such as stress or grief
– where you eat to satisfy feelings such as stress or grief Compensatory behaviors – these can be done to compensate for other problems in your life (e.g. smoking to deal with anxiety)
Some of these things may seem harmless, but when repeated enough they can lead to overnutrition or obesity. And while overweightness and obesity are risk factors for many health conditions, they also increase your risk of developing diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing unless you also have an eating disorder. Because individuals with eating disorders often suffer from malnutrition and/or weight loss, they can develop secondary complications such as low blood glucose or lipodystrophy.
Causes of disordered eating
There are several factors that can contribute to someone developing an eating disorder. Some of these include: stress, anxiety, depression, relationship issues, low self-esteem, socialization, genetics, and trauma.
Stress is a very common cause for eating disorders. When you put yourself under a lot of pressure, like with school or work, your body responds by thinking it needs more food to make up for the stress.
Anxiety and depression can also play a role in creating an eating disorder. If you feel stressed out, hungry, or tired, then you may start to eat more than usual.
If you suffer from anxiety or depression, talking about your feelings will help. This could mean talking to someone you know who has an eating disorder, getting help for your mental health condition, or both.
Relationship problems can sometimes result in emotional eating. If your partner doesn’t seem to appreciate what a good cook you are, then you might find that you donwload all their meals for them!
Low self-confidence can influence how much you weigh and how you perceive your weight. Setting goals to lose weight and keeping track of your diet can be a way to fix this problem.
Having a close friend or family member with an eating disorder can be hard. It can create additional stress for you as well as questions about whether or not they will recover.
Symptoms of disordered eating
There are several signs that indicate you may be engaging in unhealthy dieting behaviors. Some of these symptoms go beyond foods and include activities or situations involved with food, as well as changes to how you feel about yourself due to your weight.
Symptoms of disordered eating can include any of the following:
Thin obsession with calories (foods vs. drinks)
Tolerance to higher calorie diets, even though you’re not trying to lose weight
Self-starvation or limited eating habits
Chronic thinking about food, what you will eat, and why you cannot like so many people who love food
Drinking large amounts of water to keep up with hunger cues because you don’t want to eat anything
Scrutiny of your body shape and desire for less apparent fat
Numerous trips to the mirror to check out your waistline
Becoming very preoccupied with your weight and efforts to reduce it
Withdrawal from friends and family over their perceived lack of interest in you and your weight loss attempts
Legal self-harm such as taking excessive amounts of pills or alcohol to cause vomiting or diarrhea and then feeling bad for doing this
If you recognize some of these symptoms in yourself, try to acknowledge that you might need help before it gets worse.
There is professional help available for those who struggle with disordered eating.
Treatment for disordered eating
While not every person who experiences compulsive dieting or excessive exercise is suffering from anorexia, other types of eating disorders are clearly linked to this disorder.
People with chronic dieting often develop thoughts about death or suicide. This link between restrictive diets and suicidal tendencies has been well-documented in both clinical populations and general population groups.
In fact, some experts believe that limiting food intake can contribute to suicidal thinking and behaviors. Because people with eating disorders frequently feel inadequate due to their body shape or weight, they may perceive death by starvation as an acceptable way out of their problems.
Furthermore, because individuals with eating disorders tend to focus on calorie consumption rather than nutrient quality, it can promote feelings of guilt or responsibility when you eat foods that aren’t completely “healthy.”
This could make you feel like you must be deliberately making yourself sick by eating something high in fat or sugar.
Helpful tips for those with eating disorders
Changing your diet is a good start to improving your health if you feel that your weight or shape is not considered appropriate for your body type. But what actually constitutes an eating disorder depends largely upon the individual defining it for themselves, and how they relate to food.
Certain behaviors are common signs of someone who has an unhealthy relationship with food, but them only making their problems worse. It is important to be aware of this so you can help prevent these issues from escalating.
It is totally normal to feel stressed about life changes such as having children or moving house. However, when stress becomes too much, self-care needs to take priority over work.
Making healthy lifestyle changes could include trying to reduce alcohol intake, limiting sugar and carbs, exercising every day, and sleeping well. All of these play a part in overall wellness and quality of life.
Helpful tips for those around those with eating disorders
It is important to be aware of red flags when trying to help someone who has an eating disorder. If you are ever confronted with one, take time to talk about other things before bringing up food.
It can be tricky figuring out what behaviors indicate if someone does have an eating disorder. Some people may go through weight loss or gain due to health reasons, but if they seem obsessed with their body shape or weight then that could be another clue.
People with eating disorders will often deny they have a problem and try to explain away why they feel hungry or desire to eat more than usual.
Treating anyone suffering from mental illness can be difficult at times, so it’s best to look past the appearance of these symptoms and focus on overall wellness.
Speak to a mental health professional
While there is no formal diagnosis of eating disorders that are acknowledged by most doctors, you do need to see someone for it to be confirmed. Because this condition can develop rapidly, it may not be identified until symptoms worsen or new behaviors are observed.
Making an appointment with your doctor or psychiatrist will allow them to conduct some necessary tests as well as perform a complete physical examination. They may ask about your diet, exercise habits, mood changes, thoughts surrounding food, urges to eat more than what nature provides, and stressors in your life.
It is important to remember that although people who suffer from disordered eating behavior may seem outwardly healthy, they still require help and understanding of the disease. There is hope for recovery and wellness if individuals seek appropriate treatment early.
Do not try to lose weight
Dieting is often characterized as trying to eat less of something or take away a part of the diet that will help you feel better or look more like your favorite pictures of food. This is not healthy for long term eating habits nor should it be practiced when you are hungry- the both of these can set off an unconscious cycle in people who develop relationships with foods.
Many people gain weight due to hunger, genetics, hormones, and/or stress. Having an occasional treatis okay but if you find yourself wanting more and more of the same thing every day this may be a warning sign that you need to address other factors in your life.
Diet programs that tell you to just watch what you eat and exercise is a waste of time for several reasons. One being that most people are hungry some of the time so even though they might have “eaten enough” they still could be starving physically. Another reason is that the average person gains weight due to hormonal changes and physiological reactions to things such as sleep, activity, and nutrition.
A third reason is that the concept of calorie restriction has shown to be very difficult once mental distractions occur like thinking about what you will eat next week or planning a party around the fact that there are not many calories in this fruit. All of these effects make it hard to maintain a sensible diet beyond a few days at a time.
Another major factor in developing disordered eating patterns is exposure to body shape ideals.
Eat more often
There are many theories about what causes eating disorders, including genetics, early life experiences, hormones, environment, low self-esteem, and stress.
Some researchers believe that when children experience weight gain or loss as a child, they develop feelings of inadequacy due to their own internalized beliefs about body shape. This can cause them to feel insecure about their own bodies and make comparisons with other kids’ shapes.
For example, if you grow up in a family where everyone else around you has lots of muscles and little fat, then it may be difficult for you to understand how someone could not like their own muscle tone and have an eating disorder.
This is called implicit bias. It happens when people subconsciously think something false about another person or group.
It’s very common to worry about your size, but there’s a difference between having an average (or even small) waist and wanting to lose weight because you want to look better or be happier with yourself.
That’s normal weight concern, which most adults will sometimes have, but thinking about yourself in terms of numbers and dieting isn’t. If you ever feel anxious or uncomfortable in your own skin, maybe try looking into why this is for you and see if any helpful information comes up.