Many people get confused between the differences of dis-ordered eating versus eating disorder, so I wanted to clarify this in today’s post. As well I want to share my own experience with disordered eating in hopes of inspiring those of you who do suffer from eating and body image challenges to heal.
In today’s society, we are so preoccupied with size, weight, diet and exercise. In fact, rates of disordered relationship with food, body and exercise are rising (approximately 50% of our North American population!) and clinical eating disorders are significantly lower (1-3% of North American population). Just look at all the hundreds of fad diets existing today, or just ask five friends how much they think about food or their body image. Two or three of those friends suffer from some degree of anxiety or stress in their relationship with food/body image.
The Main Difference Between Disordered Eating and Eating Disorders is…
The main difference between disordered eating and eating disorders is the degree of severity and frequency. That is, a person suffering from disordered eating often engages in similar emotional, mental, and behavioral patterns as an individual with an eating disorder, however not as severe or frequent. Their behaviors do not meet the criteria of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V (DSM-V).
Eating disorders include: Anorexia Nervosa (severe restricted eating), Bulimia Nervosa (binge-purge), Binge Eating Disorder (binge but no purge) and Eating Disordered Not Otherwise Specified (mix of the above eating disorders but don’t fall neatly into the categories).
Disordered Eating Defined and Redefined by Me!
To be honest, I hate the word “disorder”. I prefer to use the term “EATING CHALLENGE” because the word disorder just seems to be so disempowering and dishonoring of people – it implies people are broken– which I absolutely, 100% do not agree!!! I truly believe we all have our own inner strengths and resiliencies, and we all have our own inner wisdom to guide us to a more empowered place (often though, we need support from a therapist or health professional to discover this place). So from here on in, I am going to use the term “Eating Challenge” in place of “Disordered Eating”.
Eating Challenges, like Clinical Eating Disorders (I will continue using the term Clinical Eating Disorders as it is the actual definition in the DSM-V and so not to confuse you readers, although I would also much prefer to also call it Clinical Eating Challenges!), include a wide range of eating behaviors that create negative emotions for that individual, such as stress, guilt, embarrassment, shame, anger, sadness, anxiety to name a few. Eating Challenges may include destructive eating behaviors that we see in Clinical Eating Disorders such as:
- Chronic mindless eating
- Emotional Eating (Constantly eating to cope with difficult feelings)
- Habitual eating for relaxation and relief
- Chronic restricted eating
- Irregular eating
- Chaotic eating patterns
- Rigid eating behaviors/patterns
- Chronic dieting
- Yo-yo dieting.
Eating Challenges create confusion between actual physical hunger and emotional hunger.
Unhealthy thinking and emotional patterns are driving these unhealthy eating behavioral patterns. As a result, Eating Challenges have negative impact on overall health emotionally, physically, mentally and socially. They may cause individuals to feel anxious, depressed, low energy; have poor digestion, poor skin complexion and deficiencies in vitamin and minerals leading to poor brain development and other health complications.
Eating Challenges, like with all eating issues, are on a spectrum from mild discomfort to moderate discomfort in their relationship with food and body. What matters most is that the individual themselves find their relationship with food/body discomforting, despite appearing “normal” and even, sometimes confident. In fact, many clients I work with portray our society’s idea of an “ideal body”, yet they are silently suffering in secret. I know this because I was one of them.
My Own Eating Challenge Story
Even though I had an ideal body, I suffered from eating issues (binging behaviors, rigid eating patterns, and chronic dieting) for years, although I appeared to be super healthy and confident to others on the outside.
This is me at my height of anxiety in my relationship with food and my body:
But inside, I was secretly OBSESSED with THINKING ABOUT FOOD – what to eat, when to eat next, what not to eat because I will look bloated, how many calories- and not caring about nutrition or quality of food. If that food made me look good, that’s all that mattered. Never mind if the food provided health benefits or not!
I was also secretly OBSESSED with my BODY’S APPEARANCE – did I look bloated? Is my waist tiny enough? Do I have muffin top in these jeans? How can I get more muscle definition? I need to make sure my stomach is super flat looking.
Oh yeah, and in addition, I was not-so-secretly OBSESSED with EXERCISE! I did not allow myself to have rest days, and I worked out long hours (at least 2 hours!) each day. I was striving for perfectionism! Although I enjoy working out, much of my time was spent doing just this and little energy for anything else. We live in a society where we are rewarded for being hardcore, having 6-pack abs and a hard defined body – because of this, I didn’t have to be so secret about how much or how hard I was working out.
Oh yeah…and this AFFECTED MY SOCIAL LIFE! I couldn’t go to potlucks or social gatherings without either tagging along my own cooler of only healthy low fat and/or low carb food OR if I did go to a restaurant, I would only order what I think I should have (i.e., a plain boring salad, no toppings or avocado, plain low fat dressing on the side, chicken OR often altering the dish so that it resembled nothing of it’s original recipe) rather than what I really wanted to indulge in (i.e., a salad with all the fixings, and house made unique dressing; OR a burger OR a wrap OR whatever the menu offered as is!)
The thing is, I suffered in silence (except my poor boyfriend – who’s now my husband- had to listen to it all! Poor guy!) I also had one friend who approached me one time when she found out about the term “Orthorexia”, also called “Correct Eating Disorder”. Individuals with this condition experience emotional satisfaction when they stick to their fitness and food goals, but intense despair when they fail to do so. Weight is commonly used as a measure of their success.
I remember clearly that I use to ask my poor husband daily to pick out the peas, corns and carrots out of the frozen veggie bag mix because they are higher in sugar content! Wow, talk about being out of balance with having a healthy relationship with food!
I hate to admit this, but I know some of you will be able to relate, so I’m admitting that I also remember being extremely judgmental about people who didn’t eat 100% healthy or who were overweight. I know now, that it was a projection of my own issues and nothing to do with them.
YUP! Orthorexia sounds like what I had! Although this is not a clinical diagnosis, it is recognized as a serious eating and health concern. All my life force went into dieting, exercising and judging myself and others. ACK! Where is my life energy!? I couldn’t see beyond myself and use my energy for serving the world in a bigger, lighter way.
So…I went through a big journey to heal, to slow down, to relax in my relationship with food, weight, body and exercise, to stop being perfect, and ultimately, I learned to love myself unconditionally.
In fact, I feel so free in my body that I captured my post baby body two months after Logan was born:
You can read and see more pictures on my post “My Post-Baby Body: Add curves, fat, stretch marks…AND Love” here.
As a result, I can now serve myself and serve the world in a way where my inner light gets to shine bright and radiate in everything I do and positively impact those people that come into my life, and even those people of the people that come into my life. It’s like a positive ripple effect! 😀 This makes my heart sing and nourishes my soul!!!
I have discovered an empowered and balanced relationship with food and my body as I now am able to eat healthy foods with guilt-free indulgences , engage in moderate exercise for health and energy (rather than what I look like), and I don’t give power to that number on the scale anymore!
Here’s me with my family this past fall:
Work With Me
If what you read above resonated with you in some way, or if you have a confusing/ stressful relationship with food, body image, weight, digestion, fatigue, mood, or immunity, I can help you. I’m a Registered Psychologist in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I have a Masters in Marital and Family Therapy, I am a Certified Hakomi Therapist and I specialize in Holistic Nutritional Psychology, where I help individuals, couples and families who struggle in their relationship with food, body image, weight, digestion, fatigue, immunity and mood.
The majority of my holistic nutritional psychology clients suffer from mild to moderate Eating Challenges and are seeking support to shift out of their painful patterns to live in an empowered relationship between food, body and self. Many behaviors and beliefs of Eating Challenges can lead to social isolation and ill health. I also work with people who find themselves mindlessly eating (i.e., zone out eating while watching TV, reading, driving, etc.) or have such busy lives that they cannot find time to eat healthy, or have careers revolved around food and cannot seem to control their food intake (e.g., business meetings at restaurants, chefs, instructors for cooking classes).
I now know that I went through my own suffering because I am meant to serve the world in helping individuals, couples, and families optimize their health emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. I’m meant to and am passionate about helping others break-free from their own suffering so that they too, can be at their greatest potential as a human being, and create positivity out in the world.
It would be an honor to empower you! J
Book an appointment by contactacting me today at 780.468. 1366
or by email: email@example.com
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I am able to offer my services to residents of Alberta via cyber counselling (i.e., video sessions).
I look forward to connecting with you!