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7 Signs of Disordered Eating (That are more common than you think…)

By: Ashley Cotta, RDN, LDN

Growing up in the society we live in, it is nearly impossible to steer clear of some of the disordered eating behaviors listed below. However, if any of the following behaviors are habits in your life, it may be time to re-assess your relationship with food. Exhibiting some or all of these signs does not signify an eating disorder, but rather disordered eating patterns.

*Please note that this article is not intended to diagnose an eating disorder. Instead, it is to empower you by bringing awareness to unhealthy behaviors so that you can make the changes necessary to become happier, healthier and to find harmony with food.

Without further ado, here are 7 Signs of Disordered Eating:

1. You consider coffee a meal

By no means am I saying to cut coffee out of the picture. Instead, I am suggesting you take a look at how you are starting your day. Would you go on a road trip without fueling your car up with gas? Never! However, you may notice you are starting your day without fueling up your body properly.

Reminder #1: Caffeine does not give us energy, it simply blocks us from noticing the exhaustion we would experience sans coffee. Reminder #2: Caffeine is an appetite suppressant. If you find you are not hungry during the day, but ravenous at night, check in with your caffeine consumption. Reminder #3: We need the most fuel in the daytime, so breakfast truly is an important component to a healthy, productive, sustainable lifestyle.

2. You’ve tried nearly every fad diet that has ever existed

Fad diets really are appealing, aren’t they? They promise a quick fix, which is how they draw us in. However, quick fixes are just that—quick. They work quickly but when they stop working, regression happens just as quickly. The reason for this is that most of fad diets exclude essential dietary components. Our bodies cannot sustain malnourishment for long. So, if you have taken this route, you know that hopping on another fad will likely bring you right back to square one.

3. Instead of official meals, you just “pick” all day

Now, don’t get me wrong, consuming small frequent meals works great for many individuals. However, when the “picking” does not consistent of whole foods and is not balanced with all the essential food groups, undernourishment occurs. Even if you feel “full,” you may not be receiving all the nutrients that are necessary for your body to function optimally.

4. You do not feel hungry during the day, but overeat/binge at night

A helpful question to ask yourself is “Am I not hungry during the day or am I just not aware of my hunger cues?” Chances are, you may be so busy that you forget to feed yourself! Over time the body will become accustomed to this, and the hunger signals will cease because they are getting ignored. However, at the end of the day, our caloric and nutritional needs will not go unheard. When we do not listen to our needs as they whisper to us throughout the day, they end up screaming to us at night, making it hard to limit our food intake. For some, this may lead to late night binges.

5. You eat “clean” most of the week then have a designated “cheat” day

Cheat days translate to “My eating habits are restrictive.” Plain and simple. If, instead, we incorporate our favorite foods on a daily basis, we would not need to rely on a “cheat” day to make our lifestyles tolerable. If you feel the need to cheat on your partner, they are not the right one for you. If you feel the need to cheat on your way of life, it is not the lifestyle for you. So, perhaps “clean eating” is an unattainable goal.

6. You count calories/macros/carbs, etc.

Going down this rabbit hole can be dangerous for your mental health. Not to mention, it is leading you in the exact opposite direction of intuitive eating. If you practice tracking or counting of some sort, in relation to your eating habits or exercise, you are telling your body what it needs instead of letting it tell you.

7. You use the terms “should” and “shouldn’t” in regards to food, based on diet culture standards

Using the terms “should” and “shouldn’t” is all too common when it comes to our food thoughts. There is a place for ‘should’ing. However, it is likely you are using ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ due to diet culture standards.

Common ‘should’s & ‘shouldn’t’s:

I should go to the gym.

I should eat a salad instead of _____.

I shouldn’t eat this pizza/fries/cookie/ice cream…I’m being bad.

I shouldn’t sleep in, I should go to the gym instead.

Notice that when you hold yourself to the standards of diet culture, you may be silencing your inner voice that knows what you truly need.

After reading through these signs, I encourage you to identify which ones you, if any, resonate with. Write them down. Bring the awareness to these habits. You may be able to pinpoint where they came from. Once you are aware, you will be more receptive to learning new, more suitable habits to become the best, healthiest version of you.

Ashley Cotta

Registered Dietitian

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