I use this term quite a bit in both my writing and in talking with clients. For some, the term easily describes what they know to be their relationship with food, but for others, it causes raised eyebrows and uncertainty. Questions get raised, and they are legitimate and on point.
“What does disordered eating mean?”
“Just because I have disordered eating, does that mean I have an eating disorder?”
In the United States, it is estimated that 20 million women and 10 million men will suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder in their lifetime.
So what is a clinically significant eating disorder? And is that the same as having disordered eating?
In order to be diagnosed with an Eating Disorder, you have to meet certain criteria that is collected in a book of mental health diagnoses (The DSMV). The link below will take you to a website that lists all the currently defined eating disorders and the criteria for meeting the diagnosable standards for each.
The thing is, you might not have all the signs or symptoms of a particular eating disorder, but that doesn’t mean your eating isn’t “disordered.”
I believe that disordered eating is rampant. We have a culture that supports obsession with food, dieting, weight loss, and body image. It has become the norm. What seems acceptable and everyday is actually “out of order.”
It’s broken, and it is unhealthy. It is not natural, and yet because it so permeates our cultural norm, we overlook it and fail to see how it is hurting us.
I know it can be scary for some people to use the term “disordered eating,” but if you can get beyond the fear of the term and any negative connotations it might have for you, it fits so much of the behaviors that I see in our culture today.
- Starting a new diet every Monday, only to be binging on cookies and pizza come Saturday and Sunday, just to start it all over again the next week.
- Living your life on a diet, always feeling deprived, wishing you could eat what you wanted, but too afraid of weight gain to ever allow yourself to eat without judgment.
- Constantly thinking about food, your body, your weight, and markers of “good” vs. “bad” in the in the quest for perfection.
- Feeling as though food is “good” and “bad,” and as a result of what you eat, so are you.
- Allowing food, and the mental tracking of body weight to encroach upon your life in such a way that it plays a dominant role in your every day thoughts.
I could go on and on, listing ways in which, I think for so many people, our relationship with food is out of order, but instead I encourage you to think about your own relationship with food.
- In what way does it seem out of balance?
- In what areas of food or body image are you aware of conflicted feelings?
- In what ways does your eating and relating to food feel painful?
- In what ways does your behavior limit you, deprive you, or make you feel worthless?
- How much time are you spending thinking about food and weight?
My take on how we define our “issues” with words and labels is that we are splitting hairs and getting into semantics when it comes down to it.
If you relate to struggling with food, and you know it is causing you to be unhappy and unhealthy, you can call that whatever you need to in order to get honest with yourself.
What matters is that you know when to begin to love yourself enough to embrace change, and when you need to ask for help.