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What Exactly Is Disordered Eating?

Have you ever heard the phrase “disordered eating” before? This is different than when you flip the words around to read “eating disorder.” Though the two have some similarities, they are not the same. The main difference between the two is the severity and frequency of the symptoms.

In disordered eating, many of the symptoms that are present in eating disorders are seen, but they are less frequent. Even though this may be the case, they should not be taken lightly. If not recognized early, disordered eating could lead to a potential eating disorder in the future, such as Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia.

Let’s explore what disordered eating is and some additional information to be aware of.

Background Information on Disordered Eating

Disordered eating is an abnormal eating behavior that does not fall under the realm of an eating disorder.

Did you know that dieting is considered a type of disordered eating? This is because disordered eating is a change to your normal eating patterns, whether that is through restricting what you eat (such as dieting) or eating compulsively (potentially due to stress).

Disordered eating is also associated with potential future health problems or eating disorders.

What Causes Disordered Eating?

The causes of disordered eating can vary based on some of the following factors:

  • Society – This includes the celebrities and athletes seen on television, friends and family, and the world of social media. These images and likeness can lead to a distorted viewpoint of what healthy eating and a healthy body really is.
  • Stress – Have you ever heard of stress eating? This is a part of disordered eating. Stress can lead to binge eating or other unhealthy eating habits that fall within the disordered eating category.
  • Mental Health – Mental health concerns, such as depression, can also lead to disordered eating. Similar to stress, in this scenario an individual may look to food for comfort or reject food because of a loss of appetite.

Disordered eating is an unhealthy way to cope in these situations, and can also eventually lead to these causes worsening in time.

Disordered Eating Habits and Behaviors

Compared to eating disorders, disordered eating does not involve a specific ‘type’ such as anorexia (though it can eventually lead to this). Instead, it is more relatable to a form of habits.

Here are some habits that are related to disordered eating:

  • Avoidance – Avoiding certain food types such as fats or carb-cutting to limit nutritional intake.
  • Overeating – Eating more than you should at any given time. This could also fall under the term binge eating.
  • Unhealthy Dieting – Fad diets to help you lose weight, overwhelming food/calorie tracking, meal skipping, food restriction, or diet pills are all forms of dieting in an unhealthy way.
  • Over-Exercising – Though this is not specific to food, over-exercising to lose weight or burn calories from overeating also falls into the disordered eating category.
  • Coping Mechanism – Using food to cope with stress, anxiety, trauma, or other emotions.

The biggest difference between disordered eating and eating disorders is the frequency with which these eating behaviors and other habits occur. Eating disorders typically occur at least one time per week over three consecutive months. If the occurrence is less frequent, then it is considered disordered eating.

How We Can Help

At My Interventionist, we offer rehabilitation services for food addiction. We understand that disordered eating can be difficult to treat, which is why we created the one-year plan. We provide you with a recovery team to help you build a solid foundation on your new recovery path.

Our recovery team will be with you every step of the way as they will conduct weekly check-ins for a minimum of one year. When necessary, they will schedule individual sessions with you. We also encourage all members of the recovery team to take part in our weekly peer support group.

If you or a loved one is experiencing disordered eating and you are located in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, we are here to help. Contact us online or use our 24/7 phone line (833) 700-7759 to call or text us so we can help you start the recovery process today!