Do I have Disordered Eating?

binging on sweets would be a sign of disordered eating
Alison Hall
Alison Hall

Try Freedom Founder and Intuitive Eating Counsellor

Understanding Disordered Eating: A Roadblock to Intuitive Eating

In the pursuit of a healthy relationship with food, it is essential to recognise and understand the concept of disordered eating. Disordered eating refers to a wide range of irregular eating behaviours and attitudes towards food that can be harmful to both physical and mental health. It stands as a significant obstacle on the path to intuitive eating, a holistic approach that encourages mindful and balanced eating habits.

Disordered eating is not the same as an eating disorder, though they share some similarities. Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder, are clinically diagnosed conditions with specific criteria. Disordered eating, on the other hand, encompasses a broader spectrum of unhealthy eating patterns and attitudes that may not meet the diagnostic criteria of an eating disorder but still cause distress and harm.

Here are some common signs and characteristics of disordered eating:

  1. Dieting Obsession:

    Constantly dieting, counting calories, or following restrictive eating plans, which can lead to a preoccupation with food and body weight.
  2. Food Rules:

    The establishment of rigid food rules, such as labelling foods as “good” or “bad” and feeling guilty for indulging in “forbidden” foods.
  3. Skipping Meals:

    Skipping meals or drastically reducing food intake, which can disrupt hunger and fullness cues.
  4. Emotional Eating:

    Using food as a coping mechanism for emotional distress, stress, or boredom.
  5. Negative Body Image:

    Experiencing persistent dissatisfaction with one’s body shape or size, often leading to feelings of shame and self-criticism.
  6. Compulsive Exercise:

    Exercising excessively or compulsively as a means to compensate for food consumption or to change one’s body shape.
  7. Social Isolation:

    Avoiding social situations that involve food, leading to social isolation and withdrawal from enjoyable experiences.
  8. Binge Eating:

    Consuming large amounts of food in a short period, often in secret, and feeling a loss of control during these episodes.

Unnatural eating behaviours can take a toll on physical health, resulting in nutritional deficiencies, irregular menstrual cycles in females, digestive issues, and more. They can also have a profound impact on mental health, leading to anxiety, depression, and a reduced quality of life.

So, how does disordered eating relate to intuitive eating? Intuitive eating promotes a balanced and mindful approach to eating, focusing on listening to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, honouring your cravings, and making peace with food. Disordered eating, with its rigid rules, calorie counting, and preoccupation with body image, is the antithesis of intuitive eating.

The journey from disordered eating to intuitive eating involves several steps:

  1. Awareness:

    Recognise and acknowledge your disordered eating behaviours and attitudes. This self-awareness is the first step towards change.
  2. Seek Support:

    Consider seeking help from a registered dietitian, therapist, or counsellor who specialises in eating disorders and disordered eating and intuitive eating. Professional guidance can be invaluable on this journey.
  3. Challenge Diet Culture:

    Educate yourself about the harmful impact of diet culture and the unrealistic beauty standards perpetuated by the media. Learn to critique and reject these damaging messages.
  4. Practice Mindfulness:

    Engage in mindfulness techniques to connect with your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Mindful eating can help you reestablish a healthier relationship with food.
  5. Embrace Self-Compassion:

    Cultivate self-compassion and self-acceptance. Treat yourself with kindness and understanding, just as you would a loved one.
  6. Ditch Food Rules:

    Let go of rigid food rules and labels. Give yourself permission to enjoy all foods without guilt or judgment.
  7. Celebrate Progress:

    Celebrate small victories along the way. Recognise that healing takes time, and setbacks are a natural part of the process.

In summary, disordered eating represents a complex and harmful relationship with food and body image that can hinder the journey toward intuitive eating. Recognising the signs and seeking support are essential steps in breaking free from disordered eating patterns and embracing a healthier, more intuitive approach to nourishing your body and soul. It’s a journey worth taking, one that leads to greater self-acceptance and a more peaceful relationship with food.

Help with Disordered Eating

Contact Alison Hall at Try Freedom for more information, empathy and counselling.

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