Disordered eating is a widespread (and often untreated) problem in our culture. In fact, research shows that approximately 50 percent of the US population demonstrates disordered eating .
But with a constant bombardment of weight-loss messages and misinformed nutrition advice, it can be hard for those struggling with disordered eating to restore a healthy and balanced relationship with food. This is where a certified nutritionist can step in and help.
What Is Disordered Eating?
Disordered eating is a term used to describe a wide range of abnormal eating behaviors . Common symptoms and signs of disordered eating include the following:
- Rigid rules and strict routines around food and exercise
- Anxiety around specific foods
- Skipping meals
- Obsessive calorie counting
- Frequent dieting
- Feelings of shame and guilt associated with food and eating
- Feeling out of control around food and/or compulsive overeating
- Using food restriction, purging, and exercise to compensate for “bad foods” eaten
- Continual weight fluctuations
What is the Difference Between Disordered Eating and an Eating Disorder?
Though every person with an eating disorder exhibits disordered eating, not every disordered eater has a diagnosed ED. Why?
To be diagnosed with an eating disorder like anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, a person must meet a specific and narrow set of criteria. This means that even if the person exhibits patterns of disordered eating, but the severity and frequency of those behaviors do not meet specific criteria, they will not be diagnosed with an ED.
Though disordered eating is a descriptive term and not an ED diagnosis, it is still a severe issue that needs to be addressed and treated . Disordered eating can cause health complications and increase a person’s risk of developing a full-blown eating disorder later on down the road.
In fact, a report by the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) reveals that those who engaged in disordered eating were 18x more likely to develop an eating disorder than those who did not engage in irregular eating behaviors .
How Nutritionists Help Us Recover From Disordered Eating
If you are struggling with disordered eating, it is imperative to seek professional help. Early detection and treatment can prevent future health problems, and also reduce your risk of developing a severe eating disorder in the future.
One of the best ways to overcome disordered eating is to meet with a certified nutritionist, specifically one trained to address eating disorders.
What is a Nutritionist?
Nutritionists are professionals trained in all things food and nutrition. They use their knowledge of metabolism, the body’s nutritional needs, and how our diet promotes health and well-being, to help people eat in a way that promotes a healthy lifestyle.
Some nutritionists are specially trained to address disordered eating and eating disorders. Nutritionists working in the disordered eating field provide nutrition education and counseling, create meal plans, provide accountability and motivation, and address food fears and weight concerns.
Why a Nutritionist Is Key to Disordered Eating Treatment
One of the reasons nutritionists play such an integral part in treating disordered eating is that we live in an age of nutritional misinformation. From fitness “experts” on Instagram telling us how to get that six-pack to the latest fad diet proclaiming the evils of fruit, fat, or carbs, we’re continually hearing different (and often misinformed and dangerous) messages on what and how we should be eating.
Thanks to all these diet-centric messages and ideas surrounding food and exercise, those struggling with disordered eating often believe their disordered habits are healthy and good for their bodies. This is where a nutritionist can help.
Nutritionists, using science-backed information about food and the body’s nutritional needs, are able to challenge misinformed and irrational thinking about food and weight. They also help the client explore hunger and fullness cues, teach them about metabolism, and address body image and weight concerns.
Nutritionists ask the client about their current eating behaviors and, if necessary, provide the client with a weekly meal plan and accountability to help get them back on a normal eating pattern.
Nutritionists provide a safe space for clients to express their fears and anxieties around food, be honest about their eating struggles, and find help and healing from their disordered eating habits.
If you or a loved one are struggling with disordered eating, find a certified nutritionist in your area who can address your disordered eating and help you find a healthy and balanced relationship with food and eating.
References: Gottlieb, C. (2014, February 23). Disordered Eating or Eating Disorder: What’s the Difference? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/contemporary-psychoanalysis-in-action/201402/disordered-eating-or-eating-disorder-what-s-the.  Anderson, M. What Is Disordered Eating? EatRight. https://www.eatright.org/health/diseases-and-conditions/eating-disorders/what-is-disordered-eating.  ibid.  Statistics & Research on Eating Disorders. National Eating Disorders Association. (2020, May 8). https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/statistics-research-eating-disorders.
Sarah Musick is a freelance writer who specializes in eating disorder awareness and education. After battling with a 4-years long eating disorder, she made it her mission to help others find hope and healing in recovery.
Her work has been featured on numerous eating disorder blogs and websites. When she’s not writing, Sarah is off traveling the world with her husband.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published July 24, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on July 24, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC