There’s a saying that goes, “Eat when you are hungry”. However, in the current world, this saying is losing its meaning each day. People are coming up with different tactics such as fasting or induced vomiting to lose weight and appear beautiful. On the other hand, some are becoming binge eaters due to mental challenges. In either case, how do you know whether you are currently suffering from disordered eating or eating disorder?
Normally, three balanced meals a day are enough to be considered normalized eating. Additionally, when an individual eats when they are hungry and can stop when they are full, it is also considered normalized or non-disordered eating. However, when a person eats out of boredom or stress, their behavior is considered a problem.
This article points out the difference between eating disorders and disordered eating, signs, triggers, and how to go about their treatment.
What is Eating Disorder
This is a serious condition related to one’s relationship with food that can negatively impact your health. People with eating disorders focus more on their weight, body image, what to eat, and what to avoid. These behaviors may lead to serious health issues since the victim does not get the appropriate nutrition.
Eating disorders are mostly developed during teenage and young adulthood, although they can also develop at other stages of life. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, and binge eating. Each disorder manifests differently in different people and may have long-lasting consequences.
Anorexia: People with anorexia nervosa are so watchful of their body weight that they can go an extra mile to get rid of whatever calories they take. Such individuals will starve themselves and engage in self-purging mechanisms such as self-induced vomiting, extra exercise, laxative, and diuretics.
Bulimia: Bulimia is yet another serious eating disorder that involves eating large amounts of food at a go followed by shame and guilt leading to extreme exercise, laxative abuse, or self-induced vomiting. It is also known as purge or binge eating disorder.
Most people with anorexia nervosa are underweight, while those with bulimia nervosa are normal or overweight.
Signs and Symptoms of an Eating Disorder
Your behavior and action around food can indicate whether you are experiencing an eating disorder or disordered eating. It’s normal to think about food, especially when you are hungry. It’s also normal to plan on what to eat or what to buy at a grocery shop.
However, the level of obsession around food can interfere with your concentration ability and your daily functioning. As earlier mentioned, your behaviors and actions that trigger these obsessions differentiate eating disorders from disordered eating.
Though it’s difficult to know how much time and energy other people spend thinking about food and body image brought by their eating habits, it’s easy to tell based on their actions. The following are some signs and symptoms related to eating disorders:
- Spending a lot of time at a grocery shop reading ingredients labels and counting calories
- Obsession with body image
- Seeing yourself as overweight while underweight
- Avoiding certain meals
- Cutting food into small pieces before eating
- Starving yourself
- Wearing oversized clothes to cover up the excessive weight
- Excessive exercise to prevent weight gain
- Eating in private
- Feeling guilty after binging
- Lack of control during binging
Remember that different people may show different signs and symptoms of eating disorders. Apart from self-induced vomiting, food restriction, excessive exercise, and laxative abuse, some individuals work daily to control their calorie intake. The desire to control their body weight may make them avoid family dinners or outings due to fear of eating around other people.
What Is Disordered Eating?
This is a term usually used to describe different eating behaviors that do not yet fit to be identified as eating disorders. Though some people think that if disordered eating is left untreated can result in an eating disorder, not everyone with disordered eating develops a clinical eating disorder.
People with disordered eating eat for other reasons apart from hunger and nourishment. Some of these people eat out of boredom, stress, or to hide their emotions. They also might skip meals, engage in binge eating, and purge from time to time.
Types of Disordered Eating
The following are some types of disordered eating:
- Laxative abuse
- Restrictive eating
- Emotional eating
- Binging and purging
- Extreme dieting
Signs and Symptoms of Disordered Eating
There are similarities in signs and symptoms linked to disordered eating and eating disorders. Their differences lie in severity and frequency. Signs and symptoms in eating disorders are more severe and frequent, unlike those in disordered eating.
Signs and symptoms include:
- Food rituals
- Changes in weight
- Extreme dieting
- Social withdrawal
Disordered Eating – Prevention and Management
Whether you are experiencing an eating disorder or disordered eating, do not lose hope. There are many ways to manage and prevent these disorders and ways to stop your disordered eating before it gets to an eating disorder. If you have any of the mentioned disorders, try the following:
This is one of the disordered eating signs which can lead to restrictive eating disorders. While physical exercise is important and healthy, too much of it is equally harmful. Exercise should be aimed at making you feel good rather than losing weight because you don’t like how you look.
Stop negative body talk
Instead of criticizing your body whenever you look in the mirror, appreciate how you look and what you can do thanks to your body. Your energetic body can carry you throughout the day, plus your smile is enough to make anyone like you despite your body shape.
Ensure that you do not overeat or undereat to avoid the mentioned disorders. Your daily diet should comprise food from all groups of foods in moderation.
Treatment of Disordered Eating
Eating disorders and disordered eating are not uncommon. Suppose you have either of these disorders and cannot go away without professional help. In that case, you need to seek help immediately to avoid other health complications such as anxiety, depression, and organ failure, among others. Remember, healthy eating habits are when you eat when hungry and stop when you are full. Besides that, you need professional help.