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Eating Concerns

Disordered eating and body image 

What it is

Disordered eating encompasses a cluster of behaviors related to food and exercise, such as engaging in excessive exercise, restricting calories, binge eating, or purging calories. These are behaviors that disrupt the bodies ability to regulate and make use of proper nutrition. When disordered eating behaviors occur regularly over a period of time, they may become an eating disorder, such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder. Disordered eating can start for a variety of reasons, some of which are related to negative body image, a desire to change your body, or difficult emotions related to your physical or emotional sense of self. 

The most significant difference between an eating disorder and disordered eating is whether or not a person's symptoms and experiences align with the criteria defined by the American Psychiatric Association. The term "disordered eating" is a descriptive phrase, not a diagnosis. All disordered eating behaviors deserve attention and treatment as they may turn into more problematic eating disorders and put individuals at risk of serious health problems. 

Many people who suffer with disordered eating patterns either minimize or do not fully realize the impact it has on their mental and physical health. 

Symptoms that may be present

  •  Frequent dieting, anxiety associated with specific foods
  • Excessive restriction of calories; skipping meals
  • Excessive exercise
  • Rigid rituals and routines surrounding food and exercise
  • Spending a lot of time worrying about food or body image
  • Focusing on your appearance to determine your self-worth
  • Spending a lot of time and effort to change your appearance
  • Abrupt weight loss/gain
  • Changes to other bodily systems such as absence of a menstrual cycle, increased fatigue, and increased irritability

Prevalence

Anorexia affects 0.5% of the US population, Bulimia, 1% and Binge Eating Disorder, 0.28%. Disordered eating (restricting, bingeing, or purging that does not meet criteria for a formal diagnosis) is thought to impact over 13% of women and girls by the age of 20.

Males represent 25% of individuals with anorexia nervosa, and they are at a higher risk of dying, in part because they are often diagnosed later. 

For more statistics on eating disorders visit NEDA's Statistics and Research

Things you can do to help yourself

  • Maintain focus on a healthy diet and activity plan; seek help from a nutritionist if you have questions
  • Practice healthy coping skills to reduce stress
  • Become aware of the ways in which you talk to yourself about your appearance and comparisons to others
  • Identify aspects of yourself that you are proud of, with a focus on non-physical qualities
  • Follow healthy, body-positive social media rather than posts that make you feel inadequate
  • Seek professional assistance
References
Local professional resources
Apps that help
  • Rise Up + Recover: Log eating plans, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in order to monitor progress toward a healthy balance lifestyle and find positive motivation to keep moving forward.
Other resources
Overcoming Disordered Eating Workbook Eating Disorder Treatment & Recovery Eating Disorder Recovery Tips 10 Steps to Positive Body Image