Defining disordered eating and eating disorders
Disordered eating refers to actions that limit options, restrict food intake, inflict discomfort, provide the experience of not having control, or elicit unpleasant feelings like guilt or shame. While people with disordered eating may not entirely obsess about their food, they typically experience high anxiety related to it. They could relentlessly work out at the gym, excessively track their daily caloric intake, or shun social gatherings that entail eating.
Definition of an eating disorder is irregular eating patterns that harm your health and function. Extreme anxiety, overeating, body weight, and body image are frequent indicators of eating disorders. The diagnosis of an eating problem can result from various reasons, including genetic, biochemical, environmental, and social factors. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder are the three most prevalent eating disorders.
Disordered eating vs eating disorders
The degree and severity of the symptoms are the characteristic distinctions between eating disorders and disordered eating. Many of the same behaviours witnessed in eating disorders are also present in disordered eating; however, they occur less frequently or to a lesser degree. Here are the symptoms of both conditions:
- Obsessive thoughts about food
- Disproportionate worries about calorie intake
- Considerable fluctuations in body weight
- Obsessive beliefs associated with physique and body weight
- Dysfunctional life due to calculating calories, binge eating, purging, or exercising.
- Eating for motives other than sustenance or appetite
- Eating to manage stress or challenging emotions
- Engaging in diets, binge eating, and purging frequently
- Dodging certain meals
- Consuming only particular foods.
There are a few significant differences between eating disorders and disordered eating. Disordered eaters may or may not meet the diagnostic standards for an eating disorder. Additionally, they might not have the same extreme anxiety about gaining weight typical of a person with an eating disorder.
The severity of disordered eating and eating disorders
Eating disorders can harm your nervous, digestive, cardiovascular, and hormonal systems, as well as your skin, hair, kidneys, and blood cells. And even though there is no professionally diagnosis of disordered eating habits as eating disorders, they are severe and can negatively influence your health.
Bone deterioration, digestive problems, exhaustion, headaches, low blood pressure, difficulties concentrating, increased anxiety, depression, and social isolation are possible consequences of disordered eating. It’s critical to recognise this condition’s early warning symptoms and seek help as soon as possible because it can develop into an eating disorder. In terms of severity, disordered eating behaviours are unquestionably less severe than eating disorders.
Symptoms of disordered eating and eating disorders
Disordered eating shares many of the same symptoms as eating disorders, but these behaviours do not meet the criteria for an eating disorder diagnosis since they are less extreme. Some of the symptoms of both conditions include:
- Avoiding specific food groups
- Binge eating
- Calorie restraint or excessive dieting
- Fluctuations in body weight
- Eating due to boredom
- Eating to manage anxiety
- Consuming food to deal with feelings
- Complicated routines when it comes to food and eating
- Indulging in unreasonable or erratic bingeing and purging
- Feeling regretful for consuming particular foods
- Labelling meals as “right” or “wrong.”
- Unhealthy usage of diuretics, laxatives, or enemas
- Only ingesting particular foods
- Missing meals
- Assuming an all-or-none strategy for nutritional eating
- Abusing diet pills or supplements to lose weight.
There are numerous eating disorders, but the most prevalent are binge eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, and bulimia nervosa. Each has a unique collection of signs and diagnostic standards.
The symptoms of anorexia nervosa include:
- Extreme anxiety about gaining weight
- Stringent regulation of food intake
- Abnormal body image
- Reduced activity
- Excess weight loss
- Obsession with meals and body weight.
The symptoms of binge eating disorder include:
- Consuming enormous amounts of food in a brief timespan
- Loss of control during a binge episode
- Eating even when full
- I feel remorseful, embarrassed, or distressed after eating.
The symptoms of bulimia include:
- Bingeing and a feeling of powerlessness
- The repeated usage of compensatory, self-induced purging methods such as the use of laxatives, diuretics, vomiting, and excessive exercise to keep from gaining weight
Treatment of disordered eating and eating disorders
You can try to moderate your behaviour and create a healthier relationship with food. Finding coping mechanisms may aid in halting the development of such habits into a full-blown eating disorder. Here are some of the actions you can take:
- Avoid extreme diets: Focus on eating moderately rather than adhering to fad diets, and stay away from categorising foods as intrinsically good or bad.
- Positivity: Focus on admiring your positive traits rather than berating yourself for your appearance or comparing your physique to others. Creating a positive relationship with your body and using affirmations to boost your confidence can help you feel more confident.
- Try to be body neutral: Body neutrality is a strategy you can also employ to change your focus. Body neutrality entails learning to accept your physical appearance and focusing your attention on feeding, resting, and nourishing your body. Avoiding daily weight checks, limiting your exposure to false body ideals, and cultivating a mentality of thankfulness are all helpful strategies.
- Mindful eating: The practice of mindfulness entails focusing all of one’s attention on the present. When used for eating, it can assist you in appreciating both the food and the eating experience.
- Professional treatment: This generally incorporates a mixture of individual, group, and family therapy and nutritional counselling. Therapy is multidimensional, managing beliefs, manners, coping skills, and lifestyle characteristics to help you heal. Early intervention can enhance the path of healing and therapy results.
We acquire the energy we need to go through the day, contribute to the world, and be there for our loved ones through food. We require food to fuel our bodies. Somehow, this message got lost in translation when fitness trackers and crash diets came into the spotlight. We need to bring back the focus on healthy, everyday eating. It is because recovery is achievable in both conditions despite the substantial physical and mental repercussions that can result from eating disorders and disordered eating. It is beneficial to seek qualified, professional help if you or someone you know is dealing with an eating problem or disordered eating.