When was the last time you sat down in front of a delicious slice of chocolate cake and only felt excited to eat it? No shame or guilt, just excitement?
We’ve been inundated with diet after diet for so many generations that it can be hard to see a common pattern in our eating. That pattern is disordered eating.
First, I think it’s important to differentiate between disordered eating and eating disorders. Disordered eating is a term we use to describe an unhealthy eating pattern, like constant dieting or restrictive eating. It can also include binge eating, chronic weight fluctuations, and feeling guilt or shame associated with eating. This is a description of an eating pattern, not a diagnosis.
Eating disorders are more extreme forms of disordered eating, and they fall under diagnosable conditions like anorexia nervosa and bulimia.
It’s much easier to spot an eating disorder, but many people deal with the stress of disordered eating in their day-to-day life but don’t fall under the specific criteria for a diagnosis. Research suggests that up to 50% of us deal with some sort of problematic or disordered eating at some point in our lives.
With a new fad diet hitting the news every few months, it’s no wonder that so many of us have disordered eating patterns. So, how can we tell the difference between eating a healthy diet and disordered eating?
Disordered Eating vs. Healthy Eating
Disordered eating can sometimes be hard to recognize. What looks like healthy eating or following the latest nutrition tips can be signs of disordered eating for one person but not for another. The difference is our self-talk—what’s going on in our head when we make food decisions.
When you make a food choice, are you doing it out of pleasure or guilt? Out of fear of gaining weight or because it’s a food you enjoy? Are you replacing meals with supplements or enjoying meals you love?
You might be thinking… it sounds like all diets are disordered eating. Ya, they kinda are, but they don’t have to be. Following a diet plan can sometimes bring on feelings of deprivation and this is a sign to watch for. Feeling deprived can trigger a guilty binge for most of us—it’s human nature.
A healthy diet doesn’t need to deprive you of anything you enjoy, it’s about balance. By adding healthy food into your diet first, you squish out a lot of the convenience foods that your body doesn’t really like anyway.
The best part—you can eat anything you’d like… and a common side effect of this way of eating is you miss fruits and veggies any time you overindulge in processed or convenience food. This makes it super easy to fall right back into your healthy way of eating.
Disordered Eating Symptoms to Watch Out For
If you recognize a few of these symptoms, reach out to a trained nutritionist or counsellor to help you disengage them. You’ll notice that many of these are common in today’s dieting culture:
- Being preoccupied with weight, food, dieting, or carbs (in the past, fat)
- Being preoccupied with your body image or size
- Significantly restricting calories or replacing meals with supplements
- Not wanting to eat with friends or family
- Significant fluctuations in weight
Preventing and Managing Disordered Eating
Disordered eating isn’t a life sentence, it’s a set of habits that are no longer serving you. Create new habits that feed and fuel your body in a healthy way.
Moving away from disordered eating patterns can be very difficult, so please reach out for help if needed. The daily strain of worrying about food restrictions and exercise, and the guilt around any indulgences, can add up to a lot of stress. Releasing these unhelpful habits can be difficult but it’s possible!
Avoid all fad and crash diets
If a way of eating restricts macronutrients (low carb, low fat, etc.), or replaces entire meals with supplements (like a bar or shake), these are signs of a fad diet or a crash diet. These diets can leave you feeling deprived and can instigate a binge eating cycle. Stick with a more inclusive diet filled with whole food.
Find an activity you love
If you detest the gym, don’t go! Find another type of movement you enjoy more. Maybe it’s a hike, a fun fitness class, or yoga. Don’t force yourself into an exercise routine you don’t enjoy.
Watch your inner voice
What do you think when you look in the mirror? Or try on bathing suits? Our dieting culture has created many mean voices in our head that miss the beauty we all share. If your inner voice is critical, can you find something you love about yourself to quiet that voice? Our bodies are pretty darn amazing and beautiful exactly the way they are. Don’t let our culture decide what’s beautiful to you.
Give your scale the boot
Weighing yourself every day can be hard on your self-esteem. Our self-worth isn’t measured by a scale, but it can feel that way. Don’t let a bit of water weight affect how you feel about yourself. Instead, look at how your clothes fit as a guide, or only weigh yourself once a month.
Eating can be pleasurable and healthy, without being restrictive. You can enjoy the food you love inside a healthy way of life; it is possible. Don’t let our cultural ideals steal the beauty that’s already there, inside and out.
Lisa Kilgour, rhn is one of Nature’s Fare Markets’ Registered Holistic Nutritionists. She is Board Certified in Practical Holistic Nutrition and provides free half hour one-on-one nutrition consultations in our stores. Check out the appointment schedule on page four and book your free appointment in-store today or online at naturesfare.com.
Learn more: lisakilgour.com