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Disordered eating refers to a range of abnormal eating behaviors that do not meet the diagnostic criteria for a specific eating disorder. These behaviors may include skipping meals, fasting, restrictive dieting, binge eating, purging, or compulsive overeating. Disordered eating can occur in individuals of any gender, age, or body size, leading to physical, psychological, and social consequences.

On the other hand, an eating disorder is a serious mental illness that involves persistent and severe disturbances in eating behavior and related thoughts and emotions. The most commonly recognized eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Eating disorders can also have significant physical, psychological, and social consequences and require specialized treatment.

The spectrum of disordered eating and eating disorders includes various behaviors and symptoms that can overlap and coexist. For example, someone with disordered eating may engage in occasional binge eating or purging behaviors but not meet the full criteria for an eating disorder diagnosis. Alternatively, someone with an eating disorder may experience other forms of disordered eating that are not specific to their diagnosed disorder.

It is essential to recognize that disordered eating and eating disorders are complex and multifaceted conditions that can be influenced by various biological, psychological, and social factors. Therefore, early identification and intervention are crucial for preventing the progression of disordered eating behaviors to a full-blown eating disorder and promoting recovery for those already struggling with an eating disorder.

It can be challenging to determine if you have disordered eating or an eating disorder on your own. However, there are some signs and symptoms to watch out for that may indicate the presence of these conditions:

Disordered Eating:

  • Constantly worrying about food, weight, and body shape
  • Obsessively counting calories or macros
  • Skipping meals or restricting food intake
  • Engaging in frequent and/or severe dieting
  • Feeling guilty or ashamed after eating
  • Binge eating or eating to numb emotions
  • Using laxatives or diuretics to control weight
  • Exercising excessively to compensate for food intake
  • Feeling out of control around food
  • Withdrawal from social events that involve food

Eating Disorder:

  • Preoccupation with food, weight, and body shape that interferes with daily life
  • Extreme fear of gaining weight or becoming fat
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain in a short period of time
  • Restricted food intake or eating minimal amounts of food
  • Binge eating and/or purging behaviors (such as vomiting, using laxatives or diuretics)
  • Distorted body image or self-esteem that is overly tied to body weight or shape
  • Obsessive rituals around food preparation or eating
  • Feeling out of control around food
  • Withdrawal from social events that involve food

While eating disorders are serious conditions that can have significant physical and psychological consequences, not everyone who experiences these symptoms will receive a formal diagnosis. Various factors, including financial, social, cultural, and systemic barriers, may impact an individual’s ability to access a diagnosis.

Sometimes, individuals may not seek help or disclose their symptoms due to stigma, shame, or fear of being judged. Additionally, some individuals may not have access to adequate healthcare or mental health resources, limiting their ability to receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

It is important to recognize that a lack of diagnosis does not diminish the seriousness or impact of disordered eating or eating disorder symptoms. 

If you are experiencing any of these signs and symptoms, it may be helpful to talk to a mental health professional or a medical doctor. They can help you determine whether you have disordered eating or an eating disorder and recommend appropriate treatment options. It is essential to seek help as soon as possible, as disordered eating and eating disorders can have serious health consequences if left untreated.

During treatment with our dietitians at Building Better Nutrition, we aim to work on Eating disorders and disordered eating recovery, with the end result being Intuitive eating. 

Intuitive eating is a term used to describe a healthy relationship with food, where eating is guided by internal cues of hunger, fullness, and satisfaction. Intuitive eating involves eating a variety of foods in portions that feel good for your body without feeling guilty or deprived and without using food to cope with emotions or stress.

Intuitive eaters listen to their bodies, eat when hungry, and stop eating when comfortably full. They enjoy food and the social aspects of eating and are not overly preoccupied with food or their body weight.

Intuitive eating does not mean eating “perfectly” all the time, as there may be times when you eat for reasons other than hunger or when you overeat on occasion. However, intuitive eating involves a flexible and balanced approach to food without rigid rules or extreme behaviors.

It is important to note that intuitive eating may look different for different people, depending on cultural background, dietary preferences, and medical conditions. Ultimately, intuitive eating is about finding a way of eating that works for you and supports your physical and emotional health so you can live your most authentic life. 

Building Better Nutrition will help you decode your negative thought patterns and healthily rework them while learning to respect your body and gain a flexible nutrition routine that’s right for you.

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