Trigger Warning: This article dives into the realm of eating disorders, weight loss and food. I would suggest clicking off and finding another article on our website if that is triggering or upsetting for you.
What is Disordered Eating?
Disordered eating can be defined as any abnormal relationship with food, and it holds the potential danger of developing into an eating disorder. In college especially, these signs may not be as glaring since they are often normalized; however, it’s important to keep an eye on yourself and your habits, regardless of how mundane these patterns may seem.
So, what does disordered eating look like? It can include:
- Intentionally skipping meals (yes, this includes making iced coffee your only meal of the day!)
- Exercising to “make up” for a big meal
- Punishing yourself after a large meal by not eating for the rest of the day
- Purposely limiting how much you eat before a night of drinking
- Meticulously counting calories
- Obsessing over the scale/weight loss
- Constantly checking your body in the mirror, especially after eating
- Feeling guilty after eating, maybe wishing you could “get rid of” your last meal
- Anxiously waiting for your next meal because you haven’t eaten enough throughout the day
- Eating large quantities of food (binging) at night due to a lack of sustenance throughout the day
- Only allowing yourself to eat healthy foods, even when you long for other foods
- Constantly jumping from one diet to the next
While this is just a small list of warning signs, they are among the most prevalent in our culture today. Even if something seems normal compared to those around us, it’s important to keep in mind just how harmful and dangerous these patterns can be.
With so much societal pressure surrounding our bodies, especially as women, it can feel almost impossible to avoid these habits. We all fall victim to unhealthy mindsets and behaviors every once in a while; however, if you feel the need to continue doing them or just can’t seem to stop, you may become comfortable in this disordered eating rabbit hole.
This will affect not only your physical health but your mental health as well. Eating disorders are just as much of a mental disorder as they are a physical one, and mistreating your body will only result in damaging psychological routines. Keep reading if you feel that you might be at risk for or are already developing these traits.
First, let’s talk about weight loss. Is losing weight always bad? No, losing weight can sometimes be necessary for an individual’s health and functioning. Do I think our society gets a lot wrong about weight loss? YES. Let’s unpack that a little.
It may sound radical since weight loss is so commonly desired everywhere we go, but talking with a nutritionist should be an important first step before actively trying to lose weight. Notice I said “nutritionist” and not “doctor” or “physician.”
Doctors and physicians are not always qualified to tell you if or how you should lose weight, so talking to a certified dietician or nutritionist will be a better fit for allowing your mind and body to work in unison. A nutritionist also has more knowledge about when it’s truly necessary to lose weight; you may not want to believe them, but they may tell you that weight loss isn’t a suitable plan for you.
Before you decide to go on a journey like this, whether you want to lose 10 or 300 pounds, make sure you have checked in with someone highly educated on the subject to let you know if this is healthy for your body and mind.
Choosing to lose weight when it is not healthy or necessary for you can lead to a higher risk of disordered eating or eating disorders. If this is a viable option for you, make sure you have an educated plan on how to do so. As I said, it may seem like everyone around you wants to lose weight, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.
Solutions for Disordered Eating
Now that we’ve unpacked weight loss, hopefully, you’re starting to get a feel for the ties between weight loss and disordered eating. Even if you get the approval to begin losing weight, any method that includes those disordered eating habits will be detrimental to your physical and mental health.
So, how do we stop doing those things? There is no correct answer because everyone’s minds and experiences are different. Maybe if some of this information is new to you, you’ll be able to take hold of it yourself by being mindful of these warning signs. For some people, that can work fine. However, if you feel like you just can’t stop or these patterns have entered eating disorder territory, never be ashamed to reach out for help.
There are a multitude of online or in-person psychologists and nutritionists/dietitians who are highly qualified to treat eating disorders or give you the resources you need to build a healthier relationship with food.
Having those uncomfortable conversations with ourselves is imperative for recovery or reform. If you can’t seem to take hold of this issue on your own, don’t hide from it — reach out. You are worth the extra time, and you are worth the discomfort that may come from admitting these truths to yourself.
Always remember that you are on your own path. No matter what those around you are normalizing, take the time to educate yourself on what it truly means to be healthy.
Our relationships with food are the perfect example of how closely our minds and bodies work together, so be wary of how you treat both aspects of your existence.
Take some time to observe your own eating habits and behaviors, and don’t be afraid to take charge if you notice any of these warning signs in your day-to-day life. Never forget just how beautiful and precious you are — inside and out — and understand that your worth defies whatever mountain you seek to climb.