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Is Your Diet Driving You Into Disordered Eating?

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Maggie Baumann, M.A.: Most of us are familiar with the term "eating disorder." We are exposed to eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, every day in the magazines we read, TV shows we watch, and sometimes from personal relationships we experience.

woman binge eating

What many of us may not be familiar with is the term "disordered eating." According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), disordered eating is a catchall phrase that describes a person who exhibits negative attitudes about body size, weight, and food that lead to obsessively rigid eating and exercise routines. The attitudes and behaviors are so practiced, the person's health and well-being can be significantly compromised.

Check These Warning Signs to See if You Are a Disordered Eater
• Do you obsessively count calories and fat grams?
• Do you skip meals regularly?
• Do you repeatedly weigh yourself and fixate on the number on the scale?
• Do you adhere to extreme dieting at times?
• Do you experience out-of-control feelings when you eat?
• Do you fear weight gain?
• Do you eat the same foods?
• Do you banish certain food groups?
• Do you secretively binge eat?
• Do you abuse laxatives or diuretics?
• Do you exercise not out of enjoyment, but out of necessity to lose or control weight?
• Do you feel guilty or ashamed after you eat?

If you answered yes to any of the warning signs listed above, you may be dealing with disordered eating. And if you answered yes, know that you are not alone.

According to a 2008 survey conducted by Self Magazine, in partnership with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, nearly two-thirds (65%) of young American women report disordered eating behaviors, and 10% report diagnosed symptoms of eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder. These findings came from an online poll of more than 4,000 women between the ages of 25 and 45.

Risk Factors to Developing Disordered Eating
• Dieting lifestyle
• Low self-esteem
• Perfectionism
• Fear of fat
• Weight concerns
• Body dissatisfaction
• Depression
• Coming from a family where a parent was critical of your body
• Being heavier than average

Disordered eaters are often using food to compensate for managing emotions, from happiness and boredom to sadness and anxiety. The psychological and physical distress can take a toll by decreasing the quality of life of a disordered eater.

Although disordered eating is not a clinically diagnosed illness, like anorexia or bulimia, it can easily turn into a life-threatening eating disorder where functioning in your personal and professional life becomes completely unmanageable.

Catch it Before You Fall Into a Full-Blown Eating Disorder
Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses and can be fatal. An eating disorder is not a choice or passing fad. Anyone can be affected: males and females of all ages. They are complex diseases that are influenced by psychological, social, environmental, and genetic factors. The good news is that eating disorders, as well as disordered eating, are treatable.

Get Help if You're Struggling
It doesn't matter if you are struggling with a diagnosed eating disorder or disordered eating -- anyone affected by eating behaviors that are unhealthy and irregular should seek help.

Talk about your problem with someone you trust, perhaps your medical doctor, a nutritionist, or a therapist who specializes in treating disordered eating.

To find a specialist in your area, log onto the NEDA website and click on "Get Help Today."

Post Your Comment
If you are a disordered eater, how did you fall into the pattern, and what fears keep you from letting go of this unhealthy attitude towards your body and food?


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