Our relationship with food is on a spectrum that ranges from normal eating all the way to a clinically diagnosable eating disorder.
Normal eating —– Disordered eating —– Sub-clinical eating disorder —– Clinical eating disorder
The sad truth is that most people hang out in the realm of disordered eating, and the even sadder truth is that this has been so normalized in our society that people don't even realize that their eating is disordered.
Normal eating: Eating when you are hungry, stopping when you are comfortably full or satisfied. Choosing foods that sound good. Eating from all food groups. All foods are neutral (no good/bad foods).
Disordered eating: Limiting your intake of calories or certain foods. Eating mostly for reasons other than hunger (e.g. emotions, stress, simply because food is available, because it's time to eat, the food is calling to you, etc). Stopping for reasons other than fullness or satisfaction (e.g. because your plate is clean, you think you shouldn't eat any more, you've exceed a calorie or "points" limit, etc). Eating past the point of fullness. Eating foods you don't like. Cutting out food groups (e.g. gluten, dairy, meat, sweets, etc). Labeling foods as "good/bad." And, yes, dieting – the ultimate form of disordered eating. Also the #1 predictor of future weight gain and a significant risk factor for eating disorders.
Sub-clinical eating disorder: Eating disorder behaviors such as restricting, binging, purging, and disordered exercise that don't meet full DSM-V diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder.
Clinical eating disorder: A serious illness with significant medical and psychological risks. Must meet DSM-V diagnostic criteria as assessed by a professional. Behaviors include restricting, binging, purging, disordered exercise, laxative/diuretic/diet pill abuse and many other complex behaviors. Requires treatment by multidisciplinary treatment team of specialists.
I encourage you to ask yourself where you fall on this spectrum, and if you're concerned about your relationship with food to speak with a professional. The peace that comes with a normal relationship with food is invaluable. You deserve it.
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