Updated: Jun 25
The Normalization of Disordered Eating
Hating your body and being obsessed with food has become the norm.
Comparing your food choices when you're out to eat with friends is your default
Commenting on your friend's weight loss is a common conversation starter
The media is flooded with the latest wellness trends and let's be real... it's tempting to at least try them.
People are praised and complimented when they stick to a diet and are admired for their "self control."
And although none of these things meet the criteria for an eating disorder, they prevent you from feeling free in your body and at peace around food.
👉Food isn’t meant to be your enemy, an object to be controlled, or used as a punishment.
Yet, its NORMALIZED to have fallen into the trap of strict rules, calorie counting, and endless cycles of dieting that only leave you feeling deprived, guilty, and disconnected from your body.
By clearly identifying and naming the specific behaviors, you can begin to challenge them and explore a new way of relating to food (Intuitive Eating!)
Identifying Disordered Eating Behaviors
Here are 15 common ways that people think about and/or relate to food that are normalized, yet are actually harmful and counterproductive.
1. Not eating after 8 pm.
There's advice circling out there about not eating late at night.
But... there's also advice telling you to skip entire meals or DAYS of eating (intermittent fasting), advice telling you not to eat first thing in the morning, advice telling you to eat first thing in the morning.
What's been proven as the best method and timing to eat, however, is listening to your body's hunger cues and honoring THEM as truth - not whatever Dr. Oz says.
2. Tracking calories consumed vs. calories burned.
We've turned into calculating machines, constantly obsessing over numbers. And we've been taught that if you burn more calories than you eat, you'll lose weight. Easy as 1, 2, 3.
Not only is this untrue, it also reinforces the idea that your weight is entirely in your control (its not) and contributes to obsessive thinking (which is not an indicator of health).
Your body is a complex system. Calories in vs. calories out are only two variables of a much bigger picture.
I highly encourage you to listen to this Maintenance Phase podcast episode debunking the idea of "Calories in, Calories Out."
3. Yo-yo dieting
A tale as old as time, yo-yo dieting is the never-ending cycle of going on a diet, losing weight, and then gaining it all back.
Some people LIVE THEIR ENTIRE LIVES LIKE THIS. Andddd never think twice about it (hence why it's considered normal).
But the effects of dieting are HARMFUL and counterproductive.
We need to stop glamorizing such an ineffective and misguided lifestyle.
4. Feeling a loss of control while eating or feeling a compulsive need to eat/continue eating.
"If I take one bite, I'll eat the whole bag!"
This phrase is so common and accepted as normal but really it should be a sign of distress.
👉Your relationship with food doesn't need to feel like you're one bite away from a binge.
5. Feeling a sense of guilt after eating.
"I shouldn't have eaten that."
Common? YES. Normalized Yes. Signs of a distressing relationship with food? YES.
If you're finishing most meals feeling guilty about the food you just ate rather than satisfied and grateful, it could be time to reach out to an intuitive eating coach - me! 😊
6. Skipping breakfast.
Diet #1 tells you to skip breakfast.
7. Skipping lunch.
Diet #2 tells you to skip lunch.
8. Skipping dinner.
Diet #3 tells you to skip dinner.
❗ THIS IS CRAZY MAKING ❗
Your relationship with food doesn't need to follow rules. Especiallyyyy when the suggestions contradict each other, have minimal backing by science and are designed with profit on the mind.
The diet industry profits off of your insecurities and so they continually produce new claims, new studies, and new trends to keep you coming back for more - aka giving up your money and sanity.
9. Trying out all the latest wellness fads in the name of health but at the expense of eating a well-rounded meal. Hint: Celery juice is not a meal.
It can be so easy to get wrapped up in the latest diets - keto, paleo, Whole 30, just to name a few - that you forget the BASICS of nutrition.
Your body needs fat, carbs, protein, nutrients, minerals, water, rest, and movement.
These should be non-negotiable.
Any wellness fad that tells you to avoid an entire food group or specific behavior needs to be looked at VERY closely.
10. Feeling overwhelmed by food.
Many people struggle to eat balanced meals because they're overwhelmed by the idea of figuring out what to eat, going to the grocery store, preparing it, making sure you eat the "right" amount, and then strictly adhering to your meal plan for the rest of the week.
Whew. I would be overwhelmed too.
But there are ways to reduce this:
👉 Use a meal delivery service
👉 Go back to the basics
11. Eating and exercising from a place of “shoulds” and obligation.
As a society, we've strayed from trusting ourselves and listening to our body and spirit. Instead, we almost solely listen to our minds and use logic to make decisions.
Logic has a place in our decision-making, but it's critical that we develop a relationship with our bodies that's built on trust so we can honor our bodies' needs and desires when they arise.
Also, exercising suddenly becomes way more appealing when we're moving in ways that feel good and are fun.
12. Having obsessive thoughts about food.
Have you ever experienced a craving and tried to ignore it but then kept thinking about it all. damn. day?
🙋🏻♀️🙋🏻♀️ I have!
Cravings are one of the most normalized and demonized aspects of eating. But they don't have to feel evil or like something to be feared.
Society tells you cravings are bad, but I say cravings are information worth listening to.
13. Avoiding certain foods for reasons other than allergies and spiritual beliefs. (aka fat-free, sugar-free living).
Going gluten-free and being vegan have become verrrry popular.
And although it may be under the guise of health, many people do this as a form of restriction or as an attempt to create structure and rigidity in their meals.
Check in with yourself to see if you're making these lifestyle shifts as an act of self-care for your body orrrr because you're hoping to lose weight. 😬
14. “Earning” your food.
I've made a vow to never return to a fitness class where the instructor tells me I'm "earning my dinner or fancy cocktail after class."
This is disordered thinking and leads to disordered eating.
You don't need to earn your food. Whether you've exercised today or not, you deserve food.
15. Having trouble being present at social gatherings because you’re distracted by the food or how you look in that dress.
Ideally, you could hang out with friends, eat food that brings you joy, and listen to your body about what feels good and what doesn't.
But too often social experiences are tainted with stress about the food on the table, what to order, how many calories are in the mystery meal, how do you look and is anyone judging you?
If your worries about food are keeping you from fully enjoying your life, it's time to shake things up and do some healing.
Hard truth: If you’re spending your nights updating your calorie tracker, YOU’RE MISSING OUT ON YOUR LIFE.
Instead of worrying about...
👉 your body, clothes, size, food, calories, exercise, weight, abs, and salads than you are...
You could be tapping into....
👉 your passions, your mission, your friends, your family, your lover, YOUR HEART.
Sometimes the only thing standing between where you are now and where you want to go is the fear of trying something new.
I get it. I've been there.
But diet-culture sucks. And you can take a baby step towards freedom today by challenging some of your long-held beliefs about food.