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Disordered eating

What is disordered eating?

It is common to hear someone mention he or she was bad for having had a doughnut, or to hear loved ones mention they need to go to the gym for an extra hour the next day to work off a big meal. Who knows, you may even be the one saying these things. Currently, in our culture, this is more common than not and sadly has become socially acceptable.

Food shaming, which is negative food talk directed at other people or at oneself, breeds hostility toward food and a culture in which disordered eating is slowly becoming the norm. This is exacerbated by the recent rise in healthy or clean eating. This type of resentment towards food can cause something called disordered eating. Many eating behaviours have become mainstream as of late, such as the gluten-free diet, veganism, or the Paleo diet. This is not to say that anyone who follows these rigid food rules has an eating disorder, though they are at higher risk of developing one. The social acceptability of these diets also makes eating disorders more difficult to detect in those who do struggle with them.

Orthorexia is an eating disorder characterized by an obsession with clean eating and the accompanying extreme diet restrictions.

The National Eating Disorders Association reports that approximately 35% of normal dieters develop a pattern of pathological dieting. Other research suggests that up to 50 percent of the population demonstrate problematic or disordered relationships with food, body, and exercise. Individuals with eating disorders exhibit disordered eating, but not all disordered eaters can be diagnosed with a full-blown eating disorder.

Disordered eating is an epidemic in our culture. It is easy to develop an unhealthy relationship with food when it is made out to be the enemy. Food then turns into something to be feared or develops the allure of the forbidden fruit, paving the way for disordered food behaviors.

So, how can you differentiate between an eating disorder and disordered eating?

Symptoms of disordered eating may include behaviour commonly associated with eating disorders, such as food restriction, binge eating, purging via self induced vomiting or excessive exercise, and use of diet pills and/ or laxatives. However, disordered eating might also include:

Self-worth based highly, or even exclusively, on body shape and weight.

A disturbance in the way one experiences their body, i.e., a person who falls in a healthy weight range but continues to feel that they are overweight.

Excessive or rigid exercise routine.

Obsessive calorie counting.

Anxiety about certain foods or food groups.

A rigid approach to eating, such as only eating certain foods, inflexible meal times, refusal to eat in restaurants or outside of one’s own home

People who turn to disordered eating often do so to cope with uncomfortable emotions. They might begin focusing on weight and calorie intake to distract themselves from other areas of their lives in which they feel inadequate, or with the idea that reaching their goal weight will finally make them happy.

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