Eating disorders are a common topic of discussion among nutrition minded people but few of us have heard the term, “Disordered Eating”. It can be a precursor to a full-blown eating disorder which can be life-threatening. If you believe that you have an eating disorder, seek professional help immediately.
In a culture that is obsessed with appearances, many of us develop quirks and strange habits and rituals centered around food. Because we are blessed with more than enough in the United States, we are possibly the most likely to develop these habits. Symptoms of Disordered Eating include, but may not be limited to, (1)
1-Self-worth being based almost exclusively on the size, weight or shape of your body. While we all want to look good, our value is not determined by our bodies. If that was the case, an “evil dictator” that looked great would be more valuable than an average- looking person who is loved and appreciated by everyone who knows them. This is ridiculous. If you believe your worth to be equal to your looks, seek help today.
2-Body dysmorphia or a discrepancy or disturbance in the way you see your body. While this is common in full-blown eating disorders it may show up before they develop. It is a warning sign that you may be susceptible to a disorder. An example is “feeling fat” even though you are not.
3-Excessive exercise can be a symptom. David and I both work out hard. We make it a priority. It is an important aspect of our lives. The difference in good, hard, regular workouts and this symptom is regular programming. If you are doing a recognized program that has been designed by a trainer, you are okay if you have cleared this with your doctor. You know that you are in trouble when you can’t stop with that. Excessive is when you go beyond normal. My normal, two years into heavy weight training is much more than what I started with but it is still a set program. When it is done, it is done and I don’t want to do more. If you can’t stop exercising, something is wrong.
4-Anxiety about certain foods or food groups can be a symptom. David has written extensively about the danger of fad diets. Often someone says to me, “I’m doing keto and I feel terrible.” Of course you do. It’s a fad diet. We advocate eating from all food groups and merely eliminating added sugars and simple carbs from the diet. We encourage you to eat good, healthy complex carbs. We do.
5-If you have such rigid rules concerning your nutrition that you sometimes find yourself unable to eat in a variety of situations, you may have a problem. I believe that you can almost always find something to eat in most situations. It may not be a full meal but you should be able to find something to eat when you are hungry. I can go into a convenience store and buy a pack of nuts. At a social event where I may not want most of the food served, there is almost always a good protein source available. I look for meat and cheese. There’s usually fruit or vegetables available. If you find yourself at Aunt Martha’s unable to eat a bite of anything, you may have a problem. While you might want to wait until you get home for the bulk of your calories, there should be something there to eat.
A key component of disordered eating is that, as David has said, we have abandoned the way that people used to eat. There was little to no anxiety about eating when we ate a well-rounded breakfast based on protein and complex carbs, had a sane protein based lunch and a dinner that was prepared at home that consisted of a protein, a starch such as a potato, and green and/or yellow vegetables. Some people added bread and even that was not a problem because there was no dessert most nights and never in the middle of the day. Desserts were for special occasions or at the very most, the weekend. There would be just enough for the family to have a modest serving or two and when it was gone, it was gone.
We couldn’t develop disordered eating under normal circumstances eating that way. Our eating was planned. It didn’t require a lot of decision-making. A problem today is that we eat randomly. There is no set pattern and every meal, or the daily graze of eating from awakening to slumber, is a spontaneous choice. Have you ever been setting at one meal thinking about what you would eat at your next? If we plan menu’s and shop according to those menus, we don’t think that way. It eases our national obsession with food. It also saves tons of money. If you plan your menus and buy your food from those menus, you remove spontaneous purchases. Your bank account will show the difference and so will your waistline.
I recently read a statement on a weight loss social media app that said that “I hope this is the year that I find the discipline that I’ve been lacking.” If you develop good nutritional habits, planning your meals and shopping accordingly, you will need less discipline. Yesterday I got to work and thought “Oh boy, I don’t have enough food with me.” I eat a specific number of calories to fuel my workouts and don’t go without eating. I ate the two ounces of mixed nuts that I had with me and when hunger hit, I began to plunder through my backpack. Wow! Was I ever surprised! I had gotten ready for work at light speed, throwing stuff into my bag in a hurry. As it turned out, I had a lean ground beef patty, a baked sweet potato, an apple and full-fat Greek yogurt in my bag along with those nuts. I had plenty of food because I have developed good nutritional habits. Throwing that good nutrition into my backpack was something that I did on auto-pilot. While I never eat the nutritional bombs that are frequently laying around my nurses station, without good habits if you find yourself hungry at work those Krispy Kremes might look good. Plan you meals and you will have little to no wiggle room and are less likely to develop disordered eating because you will be adhering to known rules of good nutrition.
A problem that I have noticed is that sometimes people specialize in “cheating”. They try to see just how much they can get away with. Let me ask you, who are you cheating? I know a woman whose doctor put her on a reduced calorie regimen and the first night that she didn’t have access to double dessert she ordered a pizza. Her statement to the other people in the room was “The diet backfired!” She said these words with venom. She was quite pleased that she had managed to get those extra calories of an entire large pizza with the works. This is how we are. It’s so much easier to just do the right thing where our nutrition is concerned than to straddle the fence, waiting and wanting for someone to fix us. She went to the doctor and refused his advice. After consuming copious amounts of simple carbs, getting our fix and striking back in fury at the very idea that anyone would try to tell us what to eat, we wonder why we’re not ready for swimsuit season and try to wrangle a fad diet to get what we want. We feel worthless, believe ourselves to be unattractive and try to exercise ourselves to death. This is disordered eating. It would have been so much better to just listen to our doctor and our grandmothers in the first place and just eat a sensible amount of good nutritious food and work out responsibly.
The tools to navigate good nutrition and healthy habits are at your fingertips. This website is free. Use it. Get to know it. Talk to your doctor and get an approved exercise that you can do. Discuss nutrition with your doctor and then comply with what he says. We’re always here to assist you in any way that we can. Eat healthy, be healthy. Always remember, “You are what you eat.”