Disordered Eating A Gateway to an Eating Disorder
Disordered eating includes many of the behaviors we see in eating disorders, and they are often the gateway to a full-blown eating disorder. Disordered eating behaviors include dieting, which is often used as an excuse to stop eating certain foods or limiting caloric intake to dangerously low numbers — no, it is never healthy to eat a mere 500 calories a day, no matter what the trend says.
Some indications of disordered eating may include:
- Fasting or chronic, restrained eating
- Restricting major food groups (eg., no carbs)
- Misuse of diuretics and/or laxatives
Some new trends can also be potentially harmful to someone struggling with disordered eating or an eating disorder and may include:
- A sudden claim to vegetarianism or veganism (It’s easy to restrict when everywhere you go has food you “can’t” eat.)
- Juicing (It’s one thing to juice as a way to encourage an increase in veggies and fruits in your diet, it’s another to limit all of your food intake to juice for extended periods of time.)
Please know that choosing to juice your veggies or eat a vegetarian or vegan diet is not a bad thing. All of these things are healthy for you in moderation or as part of a healthy lifestyle. However, for someone struggling with unhealthy body image and issues around eating, a sudden change in eating habits, even when they seem healthy, may also represent the idea that limiting or restricting certain foods will ultimately make someone a better person or thinner than they are.
Disordered eating often occurs when one is under stress or fatigued. There are many who feed (or starve) their feelings. That, in and of itself, is disordered eating behavior. I would say one of the primary differences between disordered eating and an eating disorder is the fact that disordered eating is often periodic.
The fact is, eating disorders and disordered eating are complex, mental health issues that are often life-threatening. They are disruptive and devastating to those effected by them. They should never be considered a fad, or way of life or something to achieve. I find that disordered eating is often an eating disorder in training. I don’t take this lightly, and neither should you. If you notice your loved one struggling with food, be gentle but firm in your approach. The struggle is real, and it is something fiercely defended when one is locked in the negative cycle disordered eating behavior.
Anorexia Nervosa has four primary symptoms:
- Resistance to maintaining body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height.
- Intense fear of weight gain or being fat, even though underweight.
- Disturbance in the experience of body weight or shape, undue influence of weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of low body weight.
- Loss of menstrual periods in girls and women post-puberty.
Bulimia Nervosa has three primary symptoms:
- Regular intake of large amounts of food accompanied by a sense of loss of control over eating behavior.
- Regular use of inappropriate compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting, laxative or diuretic abuse, fasting, and/or obsessive or compulsive exercise.
- Extreme concern with body weight and shape.
Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by:
- Frequent episodes of eating large quantities of food in short periods of time.
- Feeling out of control over eating behavior during the episode.
- Feeling depressed, guilty, or disgusted by the behavior.
- There are also several behavioral indicators of BED including eating when not hungry, eating alone because of embarrassment over quantities consumed, eating until uncomfortably full.
Examples of ED-NOS
- Menstruation is still occurring despite meeting all other criteria for anorexia nervosa.
- All conditions are present to qualify for anorexia nervosa except the individual’s current weight is in the normal range or above.
- Purging or other compensatory behaviors are occurring at a frequency less than the strict criteria for bulimia nervosa
- Purging without Binging—sometimes known as purging disorder
- Chewing and spitting out large amounts of food but not swallowing