I’ve recently seen a number of clients for nutrition counseling without an “official” eating disorder diagnosis but something was going on with their food, exercise, and body image. They don’t have a clinical eating disorder but they don’t feel like they have a healthy, “normal” relationship with food.
I call this “in between” area disordered eating which can mean different definitions to different people.
How do you know if you have disordered eating?
“I don’t have an official eating disorder, but…” Unfortunately this statement is true for a growing number of people in today’s food and body-obsessed culture. Many “dieting” behaviors are normalized and the obsession with diet foods and excessive exercise is praised.
So is it really a big deal if you skip meals, follow Keto, or count macros? Is it a problem if you exercise for 2 hours every day? I think it truly depends on your personal thoughts, feelings, and emotions related to food, exercise, and body image.
If your self worth is tied to being a “clean eater” you might want to take a deeper look into your relationship with food. What would happen if you skip workouts for a whole week? What would happen if you eat out every meal on vacation for a long weekend? How would you feel if you overeat ice cream in the middle of the day?
Obsessing over food and body has a way of narrowing the lens of our lives. A disordered relationship with food results in isolation, increased fears about eating, rigid thinking patterns, and is often motivated by a desire to manage anxiety or stress. This outlook on food can feel punishing to many people.
On the other hand, positive nutrition promotes health, which is inclusive of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. It endorses flexibility and enjoyment of food and centers movement around feeling good and connecting to your body. A positive relationship with food and body supports living a balanced, happy and healthy life.It widens the lens and connects us with all of the amazing things life has to offer regardless of body shape and size.
A good question to ask yourself is, “is my relationship to food and exercise having a positive or negative impact on my life?”
We want to participate in behaviors that enhance our health and wellbeing and help us live the life we want to live. It’s important to recognize that someone with “disordered eating” patterns is doing harm to their body while someone else with the exact same eating pattern could have a healthy relationship with food.
My favorite example of this is gluten! Many people in my life have either celiac disease or gluten intolerance, where they cannot eat gluten without feeling horrible. These people cut out gluten and have a healthy relationship to food. On the other hand, I know other people in my life that have tried to be gluten-free to lose weight, falling into the “restriction, feel hungry, binge, feel guilty, repeat” cycle. These people have disordered eating and would benefit from working on their relationship with food.
There are a bunch of online quizzes about assessing for eating disorders so feel free to google if you’re curious. But I will give you the best question to ask yourself (taught to me by one of my dietitian supervisors Jessica Setnick): Does your eating change when you are alone?
If the answer is yes, do some more digging into your relationship with food. If you need help from Eat With Knowledge, contact us to book an appointment!
Jennifer is a Registered Dietitian and the owner of Eat With Knowledge in Nyack, NY. She is on a mission to help people heal from diets, and find peace and balance with their food choices. She leads a team of dietitians who support the philosophy, “Feel Fabulous about Food!”