Since the 1980s, eating disorders have had a permanent fixture in any kind of discourse surrounding body image. Anyone coming of age from that point on have been raised on a steady diet of Very Special Episodes and scary documentaries about the dangers of anorexia and bulimia. Social media platforms have made it easier for people to find pro-ED communities and become enticed by images of elegantly protruding collar bones and massive thigh gaps. Many of us probably even know at least one friend who has an eating disorder or has had an eating disorder in the past. This all sounds like we’re poised to be the generation that will fight the rise of eating disorders, right? Sure, there will always be people out there who suffer from one, but we know the signs, we know that resources are available to us, the body positivity movement is gaining mainstream success… what could go wrong?
Here’s what could go wrong: Ignoring disordered eating.
Yes, disordered eating, not eating disorders. Disordered eating is when someone has an unhealthy relationship with food, weight, and body image, but their behaviors aren’t severe enough to be described as a full fledged eating disorder… yet. To be fair, a lot of us likely engage in some behavior that is considered disordered eating–counting calories, emotional eating, going on a cleanse. The difference is when someone’s disordered eating takes such a strong hold onto their life that it’s clear there’s something else going on other than taking a dip into a Fit Tea hellhole. They’re in this limbo stage where they’re not wasting away, or binging and purging, but something troubling is brewing.
Disordered eating can be hard to tackle because having an unhealthy relationship with food has become so normalized, and it’s easy to brush off because we’re conditioned to think that as long as there aren’t any extreme, noticeable changes to someone’s physique or mental state, then playing the ED card is an overreaction. But disordered eating can absolutely be a gateway to an eating disorder, and in a world where anorexia is the most fatal mental disorder–with approximately four percent of its sufferers dying from anorexia related complications–this isn’t something to be nonchalant about. It’s okay to be a little alarmist and make sure that you, or someone you know, knows about these nine sneaky signs of an unhealthy relationship with food.
You Weigh Yourself All The TimeYou weigh yourself at night. You weigh yourself first thing in the morning. You weigh yourself after a meal, after a workout, after using the toilet...you will weigh yourself as many times as you can, and you always want the number to be a little lower than the last time you checked. So here's the thing: weigh fluctuates throughout the day, and it doesn't mean that you ate the wrong thing or didn't exercise long enough...bodies are just weird. Plus, weight gain doesn't always add up to gaining fat; you can gain muscle and lose weight, especially if you're weight training. But here's what you really need to remember: When your behavior is creeping into obsessive territory, it's time for some serious reflection and maybe even banning the scale for a while. Hell, make someone who lives with you hide it for a while if you can't control your urges. /Kissthemgoodbye.net
You Think Foods Are Either 'Good' Or 'Bad'Everything in moderation, right? Not for you. You live in a world where there are foods that are "good" and foods that are "bad." If you're around bad food, you'll avoid it like the plague because you're afraid it will make you fat. This can easily spiral into skipping meals entirely every now and then to avoid adding calories, even if you only have "good" foods on the menu. Before you know it, you're not getting enough nutrients and you're developing a full blown eating disorder. Look, we all have our vices that we try to avoid if we want less fat, sugar, or sodium in our diets. But if you can't even have a "life is short, screw it" approach to food every now and then, you aren't living. Pinterest
You Feel Guilty After Eating A 'Bad' FoodIt's natural to feel a little icky every now and then after eating a meal with a high calorie count. That burger with a ton of toppings, those brownies. You know, those "bad" foods we were talking about. But there's a difference between feeling a little icky and feeling guilty to the point of obsessing over that damn brownie for hours, maybe even into the next day. Your behavior might completely revolve around getting rid of that "bad" food from your system. This could lead to extreme approaches like working out a little too much, restricting your food intake, or going on a cleanse...just because you ate a couple of brownies. If that sounds reasonable to you, then you might have some unchecked disordered eating to confront. YouTube/Cherry Glazerr
You're Very Intense About Working OutExercising is healthy, so it can't possibly be bad for you, right? Well, wrong. You can get a little too hooked on the fitspo and develop obsessive and unhealthy behaviors around exercise and fitness. Skipping a workout for a day shouldn't make you feel disgusting. Counting how many calories you might have burned shouldn't be the number one topic buzzing around your head. You shouldn't effing exercise when you're as sick as a dog, dude. When this extreme behavior is coupled with other disordered eating signs? Be aware, it's easy to slip into a state of under-eating and over-exercising. Pinterest
You Have A Twisted Perception Of Your ImageYou don't have to have a full fledged diagnosis of body dysmorphia to have a twisted perception of your body. You could have a body weight that is deemed perfectly healthy, and maybe even slightly underweight...but wait, your thighs are shaped like this instead of like that. Your arms look a little flabby today, right? And what about your jeans? Didn't they look nicer on you the last time you wore them? And can everybody see your massive love handles? See what I did there? Skins
You're Lowkey Hooked On Diets/Cleanses/Weight Loss SupplementsThere's always going to be controversy over flash in the pan diets, especially now that buzzwords like "cleanse" and "detox" are so in (and often mean absolutely nothing). But debate over what two week vegan cleanse "works" or not aside, ask yourself this: Are you becoming a little too hooked on these fads? Are you relying on some skinny tea that you saw some celebrity shill out to give you a flat tummy? Are you constantly searching for the all liquid fast that doesn't make you feel like garbage? If your constant state is "go on a diet, cheat diet, feel miserable, try a new diet, repeat," then you might have some a disordered eating problem. Instagram/@JanelParrish
Food Is On Your Mind All The TimeWe all love food, but food is on our mind a lot more when we're hungry or really craving something. The problem comes when we're in that mood all the time because we're depriving ourselves of it or because we're feeling anxious and hope that a binge will help set our mind at ease. Both scenarios can be troubling if they're a regular occurrence and are coupled with several of the other symptoms on this list. Clueless
You're An Emotional EaterBad mood? Eat. Good mood? Eat. Stressed? Eat. We all find comfort in food, but there's a difference between eating some ice cream when you're feeling down and having a binge session whenever your emotion changes. If your nerves are bound so tight that the only way you can let yourself lose control is by over-eating, that's a problem you should discuss with a therapist. This problem might be coupled with other mental health issues like anxiety or depression. Legally Blonde
People Have Expressed Concerns About Your BehaviorMaybe you've taken your obsession with working out a little too far and your family noticed. Or maybe you're recovering from an ED and your friend is worried that your recent obsession with "bad" food is a sign that you're relapsing. It doesn't hurt to take their concerns seriously, even if you think they're overreacting or that things can't possibly be too bad since you're not totally emaciated. People can often see things about us that we can't see in ourselves. Skins
Do you think that the above behaviors have been normalized in our culture? Tell us in the comments!