What is Disordered Eating

Common knowledge on eating disorders will lead you to believe there are only a few: Anorexia (“very, very skinny, eats nothing”). and Bulimia: (“throws up food”). And sometimes there are people who have Exercise Bulimia, too, (“but what even is that? Exercise is always GOOD! Right? So that is probably like… a helpful disorder”).

Oh, and all those people with “no self-control” who have Compulsive Overeating Disorder, also be called Binge Eating disorder…

But the truth is, that there’s much more to it than that. And Disordered Eating affects a hell of a lot of people, thanks to our cultural fixation on being thin, our “war on obesity”, and the messages we get on a daily basis that tell us “Dieting is GOOD” so “Diet MORE and BETTERER”.

There is an eating disorder labeled “Eating Disorder: Not Otherwise Specified” or EDNOS. So that is the rest of us? I guess.

Do you have disordered eating? Here are some markers:

  1. Any over-thinking or stress involved in choosing what to eat. Seriously, if you think about what you should eat today, or tomorrow, or for your upcoming meal, for any more than a few stress-free minutes, it is not healthy. ***If you are joyfully planning what to buy and cook for yourself or your family, that is absolutely wonderful! The stress and obsession and guilt is the issue. Not joy and nourishment.
  2. Fear of a specific food or food group. There are two times when this is not disordered: a legit allergy or genuine intolerance, or a general easy-going avoidance of a food because of a dislike or intuitive sense that it isn’t best for you at the time. But as soon as it becomes a fear, or something you think a lot or worry about, you have officially been brainwashed by “well-intentioned” diet gurus and a society that fears the moral failure of weight gain. If you are avoiding a food or food group because of an orthorexic-level desire to be pure and healthy, you are building your own cage. ***Sure, we should care about ourselves and want to eat well and treat ourselves like a temple, but when fear and fixation get involved, that is a manifestation of control issues. And it is not a normal, healthy, or sustainable way to live or eat.
  3. Any exercise that is in direct correlation to something eaten. Food is not burned off like gasoline in a car. Your body is more freaking complex than a car. And you can quote me on that. And, you can eat a rich, delicious meal without gaining any weight even if you don’t run it off “right afterward”. Also, on the flip side, and just for good measure: you can gain weight, for any reason, and still maintain your dignity, because you were not put on this earth to be as small as humanly possible. And you can quote me on that too. *** Exercise is SO GOOD FOR YOU. Do it for your soul, your lungs, your heart. Do it to feel good. Don’t do it to punish yourself, because it will backfire. And you deserve more love than that.
  4. Starving yourself now so you can eat a lot later. This is just bad practice. And there is a difference between saying: “nah, I’m not gonna eat that cookie now because I really want to enjoy my dinner” or “nah, I’m hungry but I really don’t feel like a cookie now, I’d rather wait for dinner” as opposed to: “Omg I’m starving, but I promised I woudn’t eat in between meals. I might pass out, but I will thank myself later when _________”… You know what I mean.
  5. Any preoccupation on what other peoples’ bodies look like and/or comparing them to your own. Technically this can be separate from eating, but I am adding it in here, because it also can be very linked with disordered eating. If you do that, then you are hyper-focusing on things that don’t really make life all that much better. Go out. Hang with your friends. Play. Dance. Sleep. Create Something. Go for a nature walk. Enjoy your life.
  6. Judging foods by their calories and/or counting up your calories as you go through the day. Maybe this is hard to unlearn for you, but unlearn as well as you can. Because, again, it is not healthy or joyful or life-affirming to a: eat according to calories. Because calories know nothing about your body’s hunger. Or b: Eat the Smallest Amount possible. It is just not logical. Think about appetite and life and family and eating through the ages, up until very recently. nobody would eat as little as you do, with as much stress as you do about it. They had other problems, and thank god we don’t have them! Don’t replace their real problems with thinking that you ate too many Weight Watchers Bars. Your ancestors would be very upset with you.
  7. Thinking and preaching that you have found “THE WAY TO EAT”. Whatever that may be, a diet plan, a “diet lifestyle”, a great cultish CSA, simple marathon training, goji berries and hoodia and green coffee extract, WHATEVER YOU THINK YOU HAVE FOUND… you probably haven’t. The closer your diet resembles a religion… or a cult, the more disordered it probably is.
  8. Fear or fixation or guilt after you eat something “Bad”. Never fear, people will experience this a lot for a while after they start intuitively or mindfully eating, and moving away from disordered eating. There is a learning curve, and the more times you eat said food without ill effect or the rapture happening, the easier it will be to eat it without fear or fixation or guilt. But, in general, if eating certain food causes guilt or constant thinking about it, or the need to talk about it constantly “guys I just ate a whole bag of chips”… it’s disordered! Fear, control, feelings of losing control, black and white, good and bad, all or nothing. Not. the. way. to. live.
  9. Bingeing. Often a reaction to periods of restricted eating, or a general restricted mindset, sometimes as an emotional pacifier. Sometimes strictly emotional… but rarer.
  10. Substituting Fake/Low/No calorie foods. 
  11. Believing “Without a diet I would __________”. Balloon up. Lose control. Have a breakdown. Lose my job. Eat the World. Never stop eating. It is not true.
  12. LIST YOUR OWN! Let me know of any more markers of disordered eating in the comments.

I am not listing these things to shame people. I am not listing these things because suffering from them is a huge moral failing. What else are we to do in a world that values thin above almost all else? A world that seems to spew out constant diet tips with varying degrees of absurdity? Or a world that openly fat shames and doesn’t even realize it is doing it?

It’s ok. We are all just doing the best we can do with the best information we have at the time.

Nobody is perfect. Some people have eating disorders. Some people will never know they have one. Some people do know, but are too afraid to do anything about it because the result seems like dying or failing or losing all control.

But some people do see a light at the end of the tunnel of disorder… and they want to learn to focus on other things besides how many ounces of fish to eat. And those are the people I am writing for. We can all learn to say:

Fuck It.

 

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21 thoughts on “What is Disordered Eating

  1. Ann B says:

    Well said. I’ve been all those disordered eating types, except for bulemia. And still working on the anorexia….not eating when hungry. And I’m a maximum of 70 pounds over the weight I believe I gravitate to naturally if not ‘watching’ the scales. But it’s been nearly 40 years, so time will tell. I’ve decided to not weigh myself anymore. Pushed the scales under the bed so far, that it will take great effort to retrieve it as it’s under a modified drawer base….the middle end is open. Enough to really question the thought of weighing and deleting that thought.

  2. Adina says:

    Unless you have a fridge and pantry that is always stocked and full of ready-to-go meals you can’t really not think about food for more than a minute. Sometimes you have to plan menus so you don’t come to dinner time and think “F$%& I have nothing to eat!” Especially if you cook for a family. I don’t like to do a whole week of planned meals…it’s too restrictive and I may not feel like eating XYZ 6 days from now. But I do have to evaluate what I’ve got and think about what I could put together for lunch and supper to include things my family will eat and I like.

    • C says:

      Hi Adina, I should have been more clear. If you are logistically planning to feed your family, make sure you have ample food stocked and ready to prepare, that is of course normal and not disordered. You can tell by how worried and stressed you are thinking about it, in regards to your health and weight, not just “oh many i had better pick up groceries for this week, what should I get? My kids will only eat… etc”. Of course that is necessary!

    • Ann B says:

      For sure cooking for a family is difficult when everyone has preferences. And I get that what may seem wonderful early in the week may not be later in the week. And one or more may not like what you cooked and want something different.
      I don’t know how you will resolve this, but do get your family in the kitchen with you and teach them how to cook and clean up…as soon as they are able to snap green beans, rinse vegetables, etc. Slap together a sandwich.
      Get a kitchen glove for all members of the family to prevent cuts and have at it. Include husband….if he doesn’t occasionally cook already.
      The ‘rule’ is that the wife is the cook for all the family…or she isn’t doing her job. I beg to differ. It could be a time for family, to touch base and get the meal together quickly. In this, you all will have input and learn likes and dislikes…and become cooks/bakers.
      Remember the outdoor BBQ, which men are more likely to use.
      For sure, don’t make it harder than it should be. Do your best to relax and let others do what they are able.
      I recently ordered some kitchen gloves from Wasserstrom Co online so I could allow my 9 year old grandson more involvement in the kitchen when he visits…with supervision. May seem pricey, but less so than an emergency room visit to stitch up a finger/s or hand.
      You could also sit down with family and ask for dinner ideas and just go with that for the evening or try it for a week. Then everyone has their ‘hunger/craving’ satisfied at least once or twice a week.
      I’ve had such a love/hate relationship with food and then working outside the home to really find it very unappealing to cook, even for myself. I always must remind myself, cooking really doesn’t take that long….unless I want something baked. And that is usually something that is a craving, for which I can plan ahead.
      Make it fun and enjoy the results.

  3. A. says:

    Oh dear… I’m guilty of all of the above. Except anorexia. Never managed to ‘catch’ it. At times I feel like such a failure. I’m about 10lbs heavier than a year ago, when I was about 10lbs heavier than the year before. I have exhausted the repertoire of all the available diets alone, diet + exercise, exercise alone.

    I am afraid of bread, rice, pasta, fats, sugars, alcohol, nuts, fruits, yet can’t help binging and purging at least three times a week on all the above (except alcohol, I truly don’t like the taste of it). I live in fear that my two daughters will become like me, although I put no restrictions on what they eat and cook very healthy food for them. Oh, yeah: I binge on healthy home-made food too. Am a good cook I guess :) am so tired of it all, I wish… I wish… Am in therapy. Apparently something to do with my mother, but I can’t figure out what and my therapist won’t tell.

    Your blog is great. I will continue to read it hoping some of your wisdom will rub off.
    All the best.

    • Ann B says:

      Look up Three Minute Therapy, the website, the book and related books to help you to identify overeating triggers (at home/anytime)…and help overcome your fears of food. No need to ask me how I know that it helps. It will take time, but every little bit helps. Ask your therapist if he/she is familiar with Rational Emotional Behavior Therapy. If poo-pooed, seek another therapist who uses it.

  4. Mona says:

    Girl, you should write a book. Seriously. This blog is such a great help, its a refuge for me at some times. I am still at the beginning, slowly starting my way to fuck it. I don’t know if I am ready yet, but every time I am reading and thinking I am taking a little step forward. It’s going to be a journey, for sure, but well… just wanted you to know that your blog is such a huge contribution! Looking forward to your next post.
    Best, Mona

  5. Jacki says:

    I got fat by NOT watching what I eat & counting calories. I got fat by NOT working out to burn off the extra I had over eaten & not counted. So you are telling me that deciding to watch what I eat & maintain peak fitness is a disorder now? Well call me disordered then & happily. I’m happier now that I have been in 38 years all because I watch every last bit of what I eat & work my guts out to keep it that way. I personally think people who just don’t care about what they eat & are so obsessed with what OTHER people do in their lives have more of a problem than those who are into being healthy & fit. BTW, you DO burn off the food you eat after you have eaten it. It’s how the body works.

    • Kim says:

      I see what you’re saying but the end result from this article is not to be as thin as possible – that’s the end result of dieting. If yourdieting and exercise (doing and thinking/worrying about them) take up so much of your life that it makes other people around you unhappy then that’s when there’s a problem. Ex: my mom is obsessed with being thin so much that she doesn’t eat at restaurants and couldn’t go out for my college graduation dinner – it’s still one of the many things that prevent us from having a relationship. You should spend more time being a good wife, friend, sister, ect than thinking about dieting/exercise. I know for me when I was in diet mode I had very little energy for the people around me or to have manful hobbies (not dieting and exercise).

  6. Most of us have an eating disorder who carry around too much fat as well. There is a balance in health. Ignoring calories, not planning, and not attempting to find a solution and work toward goals indicates a disorder. There is validity in not over-valuing “skinny”, but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Dieting didn’t work for me, so I’m going to write an article bashing it does not make it truth. Many health problems are associated with obesity. It is valid to calculate what your body needs, and adjust for those caloric needs if you work out.

  7. jessica says:

    I’m sorry, but this is a tad stupid. I calorie count and pre plan my meals every day, as I got big NOT thinking about food. Now that I eat healthier and think about what I am going to eat, I feel great, look great, and my health issues have diminished. For me, eating healthy has to be a conscious one, because I wont DO IT otherwise. I don’t starve myself, and if I’m ever hungry I make sure to eat, but telling people they have an ED because it’s not “normal” to think about food longer than a minute is ill informed and just stupid. “Obsessing” and “thinking” about food are two totally different things, and just because I would like to put healthier options in my body does not make me obsessive with body image or food- it just make me realistic in regards to my health.

    If people want to eat whatever they want, when they want, then that’s fine. If some people want to make better eating habits, and have to think about it because it’s not second nature for them, than that’s fine too.

  8. Alex says:

    “Seriously, if you think about what you should eat today, or tomorrow, or for your upcoming meal, for any more than 1 minute, it is not normal or healthy.”

    How can you absolutely not think about food when it’s necessairy to plan what to cook and what to buy – at least sometimes – to have good stuff available and to make meals fit into your busy schedule? Or do you mean you should just not think about what could be good for your weight, health, etc.?

  9. dutchie says:

    I am very happy to have found your blog! Even though I am nowhere near ready to face the possible body changes that might accompany letting go of disordered eating, reading your blog helps me to feel more hopeful. It seems a while since your last post, though. Are you still actively doing the blog?

  10. AnnB says:

    I’m not sure why someone would post on this weblog in defense of counting calories and exercising to lose or keep weight off.
    If your weight is normal for you, and is being maintained by eating enough calories to have energy and health, then why are you concerning yourself with The Fuck It Diet blog?
    Those of us here have for months, years or decades under eaten and slowed our metabolisms to pack on the pounds, lose our health, energy, proper heart rhythms, hair, develop poor skin, menstrual irregularities including PMS, ovarian cysts….shall I go on?
    We’ve had our fill of being afraid of food and eating. Cutting out food groups in an attempt to be well and thin…and have energy and healthy digestion.
    Going against the natural food cravings (listening to our body) got us into this mess and going back to counting calories and exercising when our body tells us the opposite in order to become well is ludicrous.

  11. Amy says:

    This is a good post, it’s made me think. I’ve struggled with weight and body image and eating all my life. I watched my Mother do it when I was growing up, I remember her Bulimic episodes. Although at the time I didn’t know what it was. I’ve never had a specific eating disorder I think, never been Anorexic or Bulimic, I just liked eating as a kid, hated exercise once the bullying started, and it’s been a vicious cycle from there. I had 4 children in 4 years which (although I love them more than anything else) ruined my body even more, and now even at the age of 29 I feel like a teenager inside: worrying about how I look, what I eat. I cannot seem to stop myself from eating all the types of foods I think I shouldn’t eat, and definitely am eating too much of. I’m afraid to exercise because I feel people will laugh at me, and most of the time I’m too damn tired to exercise after taking care of my kids. (who are 7, 6, 5 and 3 by the way) I eat more junk food when I’m unhappy. I like to bake to cheer myself up, which of course results in eating what I’ve baked. Then I feel guilt at eating what I think I shouldn’t have eaten, and this usually results in self harm. Sometimes I think “fuck it, eat what you want, you’ll never be happy with your body anyway” but I guess even this isn’t a healthy attitude. I should be thinking “fuck it, eat what you want, exercise to be healthy, and be happy with your body because there’s more to life than this” but I can’t because the way I look is a big part of an almost all consuming depression that I can’t shake off. I’m starting therapy in the new year. I’m hoping this will stop my self loathing and start me on a road to self tolerance and then maybe at the end, self love. My partner and my kids think I’m worth something so I guess I must be.

  12. Stephanie says:

    This is an older post and you probably won’t even read this, but THANK YOU. I just started my intuitive eating journey and I have to say its scary as hell. I just left the grocery store and there’s a bag of bagels in the back seat. With cream cheese. This is just not usually done in my world but I have been fucking craving this! Grrrrr! Anyway, your posts all give me hope that I can finally love and accept myself. So thank you. :-)

    • AnnB says:

      Good for you. Bagels and cream cheese…nice. If your skin is in bad shape now, it will get better. Just watch and enjoy. …….And I used to think getting slim would help my skin. Ha! Closer now to 60 than 50 and who would have thought that all those years of dieting to be slim and healthy was undermining my health the entire time. For the FIRST time I can remember, I now have smooth skin. Even pores have shrunk, as well as scars from decades of bad skin.

      Get Matt Stone’s free e-book this week at Amazon “Diet Recovery.” Read how too much water causes constipation. yep….no more constipation if I stay away from the 8 glasses of water/fluids a day garbage.

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