When we hear disordered eating, most of us automatically think of anorexia and bulimia, but in today’s society, disordered eating habits are much more widespread than this and they are engrained in our society. We see pictures of people with their 6-packs, eating chicken and veggies on their Instagram all the time. (Before you say anything, my last post was a gallon of ice-cream that I got in to this weekend) My point is, this is what is drilled in to our brains as being acceptable and the “right” way. This alone has contributed to the numerous disordered eating habits people struggle with. I am not throwing stones; I have been there! Let’s talk about a few of these habits.
My personal favorite, because if I am being honest, I have so many tendencies to be a binge eater! All the restrictive nutrition challenges I have done in the past have given me a mindset of all or none. If I eat a cookie, I think, “Well if this is a cheat, I might as well eat ten more and a pizza”. Which is why I HATE the phrase “cheat meal”- stop using it, it implies you are doing something wrong! This is a perfect example of disordered eating. These days I eat my normal stuff Monday-Thursday, and then Friday night we usually get take-out. On Friday evenings, I simply do not think about it and I do not worry about it. This is a healthy balance for me, and I do not feel like I am giving anything up.
Constantly avoiding “bad” foods and restricting certain items almost always leads to bingeing in the end! First off, stop labeling foods as “good” and “bad”. Some foods will support overall health more than others but stop labeling them. Sometimes, when trying to change your eating habits or your lifestyle, there will be a certain element of restricting items. Sorry, you probably cannot eat donuts every day and meet your weight loss goals. But you can change the way you think about it. Instead of telling yourself, “I can’t have that cookie”, ask yourself, “Do I really want that cookie?”. Now for some of you, the answer may still be yes, but over time, you may realize that changes. If I am going to eat a cookie, it is going to be a damn good cookie, not some random cookie in the break room that does not even look tasty!
Obsession with food intake/healthy choices
I have been here too… thinking about food all the time and being neurotic about what you will or will not eat. I have been a real pain in the butt on many occasions because I have insisted on being such a weirdo about what I would and would not eat. While it is important that you do not let your food choose you, it is also important to realize that your health and well being are more than just the foods you eat. Enjoying time with family and friends is just as important… and if you are friends don’t want to hang out with you because you are so difficult, I’m not sure that is a win either.
Eating the cookie as fast as you can, before anybody sees it, does not mean it did not happen. What thoughts lead you to that decision? Why did you have a compulsion to eat that food? A lot of time the answer to this can be tied to our emotions or thoughts.
Over-exercising after eating
How many of you have thought this, “I had pizza and beers last night, now I have to do at least 3 metcons tomorrow to burn it off”? I think we have all had that thought, no matter how innocent. Again, this is a disordered eating habit. You should not be compensating for what you at the night before with your exercise routine. Do not get me wrong, doing a workout Thanksgiving morning cannot be a bad thing, but do not tell yourself you HAVE to workout before you eat all that delicious food. It is just not a healthy train of thought.
Eating your feelings
I hate the saying, “You’re not a dog, don’t reward yourself with food”. I love food… I love to have a nice “treat” every now and then. I also love to have a nice dinner to celebrate something… so I have mixed feelings about this category. But what we should be mindful of is using food to comfort us when we are feeling low or stressed. This can be a rabbit hole. Do you really need to “treat” yourself to a grande caramel macchiato everyday because you put pants on? Probably not. This is where using “treats” as a reward can be a rabbit hole as well. Just be mindful.
Maybe now you will think of disordered eating habits in a broader capacity. Again, it goes much further than anorexia and bulimia. In a society that feeds insecurities and is so heavily influenced by others, be aware of your eating habits. I think it is normal to struggle with a lot of these habits and it takes time to have a healthy relationship with food. Remember, it is a journey, and it does not happen overnight. Strive to get to the point where you have a healthy, guilt free relationship with food. It is one of the most rewarding and beneficial aspects of health for me.