If you have ever complimented/commented on my body/size OR my “super healthy” eating habits you should know that I was knee-deep in the terrible world of disordered eating at the time.
This is true without exception.
Recently I started sharing my story more publicly; partly because I have finally accepted the truth and have fully acknowledged my past behaviors and beliefs, and partly because I am NOW doing the HARD work to accept my post-disordered eating body (and that is hard work indeed!).
Sharing the truth helps ME in MY healing and I know it will help others in theirs.
It is only when people begin to admit that they are trying to change their bodies, using diet and exercise, as a way to conform to societal standards, gain love and acceptance, and benefit from the privilege that being thin/smaller/fitter provides, that we can begin to reverse this unhealthy and dangerous way of thinking.
I have every intention of sharing more details of my story in the near future, how and why this happened to me, but for now I simply want to get the term “DISORDERED EATING” into the world’s vocabulary.
Most people are not aware that this term even exists or just HOW BIG OF A PROBLEM IT IS.
I didn’t identify with the term myself until a couple years ago, and even then it was only something that applied to my ‘ancient-history-diet-pill-phase’.
Nope, turns out, it applied to me even as recently as a year ago.
So what does disordered eating mean?
According to the DSM-IV, the gold standard for defining any mental health disorder, it is defined as:
"A wide range of irregular eating behaviors that do not warrant a diagnosis of a specific eating disorder."
Ok... so what does THAT mean? What are some real and honest examples of “irregular eating behaviors”?
• choosing foods based on their calories, carbs, or fat grams
• judging a day of eating as “good or bad”
• feelings of fear, guilt, or shame around your food choices
• using words like “should or shouldn’t” around food and exercise
• weighing yourself (yup!)
• frequent and intentional weight fluctuations
• attempting to “trick” your hunger by filling up on liquids, smoking, or using caffeine
• exercising as a way to “burn off” foods you have eaten
• exercising as a way to “allow” yourself to eat certain foods
• binge/compulsive eating with feelings of “being out of control”
• cheat days
• having “food rules”
• 10, 21, 30, 60 days “challenges” where you eliminate foods to encourage quick weight (or inches) loss
• identifying yourself as a “clean or healthy eater” COMBINED
with the goal of losing weight
(This last one gets super tricky BUT it’s the one example I encounter the most AND describes
MY experiences the most accurately)
In a landmark 2008 study a whopping 75% of American women would fall into the disordered eater category.
The numbers have not changed since then.
Identifying with one or more of these behaviors DOES NOT make you a disordered eater, but neither does NOT displaying these specific behaviors, as there are too many to list here.
(I often think of a line that was used in a government debate about obscenity: “You’ll know it when you see it” .
The same can be true of disordered eating.)
It’s a very complicated issue, filled with grey area and emotion, one not “easily” diagnosed using numbers and charts like a clinical eating disorder (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and EDNOS, eating disorder not otherwise specified).
Thankfully it is not my job to diagnosis anyone. I simply bring awareness to issues and ask the hard questions.
SO, here ya go, here are some hard questions.
Take your time and be honest with yourself:
• Is my relationship with food & body as enjoyable and accepting as it could be?
• If I saw my behaviors in my 10 year old daughter/niece/student would I be concerned?
• Is the energy being spent on attempting to lose weight, sculpt my body, or looking "good" in a bathing suit the best use of my precious time on this planet?
• Do I want to continue on this path or do I want off this crazy ride?
• If someone offered me a better way would I take it?
Disordered eating is the more common (and tricky) cousin of eating disorders.
The best way to seek help is to work with a trained professional.
Find yourself nodding along with this post and want to know what to do next?
Reach out to me for a FREE conversation
about YOUR struggles, concerns, and desires
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Here is a simple quiz from one of my favorite Intuitive Eating dietitians, Christy Harrison
Check out the book "Savvy Girl, A Guide To Eating" from one of the best in the business, Sumner Brooks