When you think of disordered eating, what’s the first thing you think of? You probably think of anorexia – extreme dieting that results in an unhealthy, overly-skinny body. Perhaps you think of bulimia nervosa – a person who eats and then throws up, in an attempt to prevent themselves from gaining weight.
Yes, both of the above eating disorders are common, and they are serious. But they are not the only eating disorders – far from it. In fact, disordered eating is very common, and it can manifest itself in a number of different ways – some of which may surprise you.
Beyond severe calorie restriction and binging and purging, there are a number of other signs that you may have an unhealthy relationship with food and your weight.
We’ll explore 4 of these signs in this article now.
1. Binge Eating
Binge eating can be defined as ingesting a very large quantity of food – typically unhealthy foods that are high in fat and simple carbohydrates – in a short period of time. Binge eating can feel good, because the food that we eat triggers feelings of satisfaction in our brains.
However, these feelings do not usually last long. This is why binge eating is often a precursor to bulimia nervosa – as you begin to feel guilty about overeating, you may have a desire to purge yourself of what you’ve eaten.
Binge eating that occurs without bulimia typically results in poor overall health and weight gain, which can lead to even more issues with self-esteem, a bad relationship with food, and further binge eating.
Even if you do not binge eat regularly, and have no desire to “purge” after overeating, binge eating is an unhealthy eating pattern, and a definite indicator that you may have a bad relationship with food.
2. “Exercise Bulimia”
Going to the gym and working out consistently is, undoubtedly, a good thing. But like all good things, too much exercise can be bad for both your mental and your physical health.
If you find that you’re spending a lot of time in the gym – particularly after you’ve eaten a food that’s “unhealthy” like pizza – then you may be exhibiting symptoms of “exercise bulimia.”
Instead of purging by throwing up, you make it a point to exercise regularly and for a long period of time – in an attempt to make sure you don’t gain weight. Maybe you had too many slices of pizza over the weekend, so you’re spending an extra 30 minutes on the elliptical every day this week.
Of course, exercise is key for leading a healthy lifestyle. But you should not let your diet dictate your exercise schedule, and you shouldn’t overdo things. If you find yourself working out for more than about 60 minutes, 6 days a week – because you want to make sure you don’t gain weight – this may indicate that you are suffering from disordered eating.
3. Excessive Calorie Tracking
Thanks to apps like MyFitnessPal and LoseIt, Fitbit, and so many other smartphone apps and devices that let you track how many calories you’ve burned in a day – and how many you’ve consumed – it’s easier than ever to monitor your eating habits. This can be a real godsend for folks who are trying to lose weight, or make sure they eat the proper ratio of fats, protein, or carbohydrates.
However, excessive use of these apps can be an indicator of disordered eating. Reasonable, informed use of these apps is a good thing, especially if you do want to lose weight. But if you begin obsessing over every calorie you eat, you may be at risk of developing disordered eating habits.
For example, if you find yourself checking your calorie tracking apps dozens of times a day, and you are always self-conscious about eating too much, and exceeding your daily caloric intake limit, this could indicate that you do not have a healthy relationship with food, or your body.
You shouldn’t feel panicked or anxious just because you had an extra slice of cake and went over your limit for the day. If you do, this is a sign that your attitude towards food, eating, and your body may be unhealthy, and need correction.
4. Food Restriction Diets
If you find yourself often eating a diet that is restricted, and only allows you to eat certain types of food, this could be a sign that you have disordered eating habits.
Diets like Whole30, Atkins, keto and paleo diets, gluten-free diets and vegetarian/vegan diets that restrict you from eating certain types of foods can sometimes be useful for weight loss, or to become healthier, in some cases.
However, it’s important to realize that “diets” like these are not a replacement for a healthy lifestyle and proper caloric intake. If you find yourself bouncing between a lot of different fad diets based on food restrictions, and you’re still unhappy with how you feel and how you look, this is a sign that you are developing disordered eating habits.
Rather than simply cutting out certain foods from your diet altogether, you need to work with a professional – such as a nutritionist or a therapist – and understand what foods your body needs, and how what you eat affects your body.
Failing to do so can result in body image issues, a bad relationship with food and eating, and further disordered eating habits.
Know How To Recognize Disordered Eating – And Get Help
As you can see, there are more types of eating disorders than you may think – and all of the above issues are serious, and should be discussed with a professional.
If you recognize one or more of the issues that we’ve described above, we would encourage you to seek professional help. Your relationship with food does not have to be unhealthy, and by seeking treatment for your eating disorders, you can live a more happy, healthy, and balanced lifestyle.