Health Nut or Disordered Eating? How to Know if your Eating is Normal or Disordered.
I see it all the time.
Disordered eating behaviors that have become normalized in our culture.
I heard the phrase - "trying to recover in a world that has its own eating disorder" recently on Julie Duffy Dillon's new Love, Food podcast (which is great!).
I completely agree. Our culture is disordered around food and bodies.
When I'm innocently grocery shopping, I see people scrutinizing food labels and know they're having an inner argument about whether to buy it or not.
I overhear conversations about diets, weight loss, and more.
I see websites or people on social media that are say they are promoting a healthy relationship with food - but are also still talking about weight loss, or using language that is shaming or still implying foods are 'good' and 'bad' Yes, even dietitians, therapists, and coaches who are working with disordered eating.
Our disordered eating behaviors have become normal in our culture.
It's normal to talk about your diet, weight loss, and extreme exercise regime nowadays.
Or if it isn't a diet, maybe you talking about food in terms of health or morality - sharing your newest dietary restrictions like gluten, dairy, or sugar-free.
Many clients tell me they are known as the health nut, the exercise fanatic, or the diet queen by their friends or coworkers. They eat healthy or exercise in front of others, yet mentally, they are obsessed with food and secretly binge.
It's perfectly fine to enjoy eating nutritious foods for taste and how they make your body feel. Yet, healthy eating is often taken too far and becomes an obsession.
Here are red flags to raise that your eating thoughts and behaviors may be more disordered than normal:
- You think about food most - or all - of your day. You're planning your next meal, or thinking about what you ate already and what you can have next.
- You weigh, measure, or track your food - through tracking macros, counting calories, or using points.
- You're always going on a new diet - or detox, cleanse, or clean eating plan.
- You think about food, or make food decisions, related to your weight or body shape/size. You choose what foods to eat - or not eat - based on how you believe it will impact your body.
- You choose foods based on how "healthy" or "unhealthy" you believe they are.
- You feel bad about yourself when you eat a "bad" or "unhealthy" food. You feel superior and good about yourself when you're following your diet, eating "clean," or the good/healthy foods.
- You have "cheat" days.
- You doubt your internal body cues for hunger or fullness. You question whether or not you're truly hungry, avoid letting yourself feel full, or ignore your body's cues.
- You have an inner argument about food decisions. It's hard to let yourself what you really want to eat because part of you argues to eating the low-calorie or healthier food choice.
- You weigh yourself or track your body fat consistently and it impacts how you feel about yourself - and how you feed yourself.
- Food, exercise, and weight come up in conversation more often than not.
- Eating is stressful.
- Eating out causes anxiety.
- You meal plan with the intention of creating the "perfect" diet.
- You're spending all your money on supplements, superfoods, or health and nutrition books.
- Health, weight loss, or dieting is your main hobby in your life.
- You preach about eating clean or losing weight to your family, friends, or social media.
It's not uncommon to have someone's life revolve around eating, exercise, and health.
It may even seem like the healthiest or most responsible choice to make - after all, we hear from doctors and the news all the time to "eat less and move more."
While it's not unhealthy to set intentions to take care of your body through good nutrition and movement, the language around food and our bodies tend to exist in black and white terms.
The truth, as I see it, is:
- Eating should be easy.
- It should take up some of our time and energy.
- We should be able to make nutritious food choices, along with enjoying our food.
- Food choices do not determine your self-worth and how you feel about yourself.
- The body can be trusted - its inner cues of hunger and fullness, along with food cravings.
- There is no perfect way to eat or move your body. There is no one perfect body.
- While you can feel free to take supplements and eat superfoods, you don't need to in order to be healthy. (*Note about supplements: I highly recommend working with a practitioner to determine any nutrient deficiencies or supplements that are appropriate for your body rather than taking random ones.)
- Mental and emotional health is just as important as physical health.
- All bodies deserve nourishment, respect, and love.
If you recognized a few of these disordered thoughts in yourself, check your intentions and beliefs around food and your body.
If you are concerned, or you're relating to most (or all) of these, I'd encourage you to reach out to a therapist and dietitian who specializes in disordered eating or eating disorders.