An Informative Guide On Disordered Eating

Have you wondered what is disordered eating? Can it make you obese? Can it make you ill? What is disordered eating’s effect on one’s mental and physical health?

Various types of eating disorders are associated with unhealthy eating habits1. The most common eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, binge eating, specific eating disorders etc.

Thus it is important to know what all factors can lead to disordered eating, how it affects you and the various signs and symptoms of disordered eating2.

What is disordered eating?

Disordered eating is when a person does not eat properly per the suggested diet plan and follows irregular eating behaviours. For example, we know that breakfast should be the healthiest one, then lunch and then dinner, but what most people actually follow is the opposite pattern.

Other example includes eating the whole day without taking any gap in between or skipping meals. Fasting uselessly or overeating also reflects the disordered eating patterns of an individual3. These disordered eating habits can be dangerous if not taken seriously. It can also restrain a person’s physical and mental growth. For instance, when a person skips meals, then it will lead to weight loss.

Binge eating, self-induced vomiting, and diet pills are other types of disordered eating. The primary concern about disordered eating is that there is no rule book to determine whether a person is experiencing disordered eating or not.

What are the signs?

When asked about that “What disordered eating signs”, doctors have stated the following few signs of disordered eating patterns:

1. Obesity: If a person shows the symptoms of obesity, then there are chances that the person is suffering from disordered eating. However, obesity can be caused due to various reasons like lack of physical workout, overeating, stress, inadequate sleep etc., so make sure to figure out the exact cause of obesity as it is very dangerous for a person.

2. Weight fluctuations: Losing and gaining weight frequently also highlight that there might be chances of disordered eating patterns.

3. Feeling sluggish: Sluggishness or inactivity can also be caused due to disordered eating patterns in a person.

Potential causes of disordered eating

If you ever wonder what are disordered eating causes, then the following are a few reasons why a person develops disordered eating habits:

1) Lack of proper sleep schedule:

If you are a night owl and stay awake late, you are at risk of developing eating disorders 4as you become habitual of night eating. The reason behind this theory is that when a person stays up late, his energy is utilized, so he feels hungry and needs midnight snacks. This may lead to a person developing disordered eating patterns.

2) Heavy workout:

A person who indulges in excessive exercise will feel hungry more often since he has burnt a lot of calories while playing, working out at the gym, or doing other activities such as running, swimming, gymnastics etc. Still, they also need to follow a strict diet plan whether they are hungry or not.

A study conducted by Eating Behaviours has revealed that for weight management5, athletes are pressured to eat less or work out more in case they are eating more, thus developing purging behaviours6 like self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, diuretic abuse etc.

disordered eating
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3) Depression:

The reason behind many diseases, significant distress can also be one of the factors that can lead to irregular eating behaviors such as either overeating which is also known as emotional eating7 or undereating in some consequently leading to disordered eating therefore affecting one’s physical health and might lead to mental disorders.

4) Negative influence:

According to various sources, females are a lot attracted to looking thin and glamorous, just like their favourite social media influencers and actresses, and for the same purpose, they start following strict diet plans. Because of this, they develop eating disorders.

Restrictive eating won’t make your body shape glamorous; this is just a myth. Food restriction will only make you weak and fragile. To get shiny and glowing skin, it is necessary to get the correct food intake 8and not less food.

5) Change in the surroundings:

Sometimes, when we move from one place to another, with the change in factors such as climate, environment etc., some people develop disorders. Some people cannot adapt to their new surroundings and the food available there. As a result, they develop disordered eating patterns.

6) Binge eating disorder:

While watching episodes of your favorite series or working continuously for a longer duration, you might get the craving of eating something and then you eat anything. It is ok if followed for one day or two. Still, if followed daily, it may lead to disordered eating.

disordered eating
By Shvets Production // Pexels // Copyright 2022

Aftermaths of disordered eating behaviours

After researching “What is disordered eating’s side effects “, it was concluded that disordered eating may or may not be dangerous depending on the lifestyle, nature of the work a person does, a person’s stress level, etc.

For example, a person who indulges in a lot of physical work will be less obese than someone who has to sit and work the whole day. He will digest food easily if he eats a lot, but on the other hand, the person who has to sit and work the whole day will likely show the symptoms of weight gain.9

But still, it is important to know what is disordered eating’s possible side effects.

disordered eating
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1) It can cause gastrointestinal diseases:

When a person doesn’t follow a healthy diet plan, it is obvious that he/she might suffer from gastrointestinal diseases10.

2) Lack of concentration:

Your food directly impacts your concentration level. If you eat less, you won’t be able to focus properly on your work. Similarly, if you have eaten more, you won’t be able to focus much, as overeating will make you feel sluggish. Thus, eating the right amount of food is important to focus properly.

3) It can lead to a deficiency of essential vitamins and nutrients:

When a person eats less food, his intake of minerals, calcium, and vitamins will also decrease. Proper nutrition is necessary for a healthy individual, and the lack of proper nutrition weakens a person. He might fall ill frequently and is prone to contract various harmful diseases.

4) It can affect the menstrual cycle of females:

Doctors have stated that one of the major causes of missed periods in females is inadequate diet. There are thousands of chores that ladies do regularly, so it is very important that they eat enough food to recover the energy lost. If the energy levels aren’t replenished, then women can become weak. Medical reviewers confirm that deficiency of vitamins and minerals can even affect menstrual regularity in women.

Tips for treating disordered eating

Eating the right amount of food: It will prevent you from being both obese and underweight.

Say no to junk food: Eat healthy to stay healthy!!!

Prevention is better than cure: Seek professional help for proper planning and motivation, if you find it difficult to cope with the eating disorders.

On a final note

Well quoted by someone, “Your diet is a bank account. Good food choices are good investments.” So you make sure that whatever you are eating is healthy and in the correct amount.

Eating is important to stay healthy but eating in the correct amount is equally important, so replace disordered eating with a balanced diet and that too at the scheduled timings to stay well.

FAQs:

Q. What are two major eating disorders?
  • Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are two of the most common eating disorders plaguing individuals in the United States, and the first step to seeking treatment is understanding what you’re dealing with.
Q. Who is most likely to have an eating disorder?
  • Eating disorders are more likely to occur in people who have parents or siblings who’ve had an eating disorder. Other mental health issues. Trauma, anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other mental health issues can increase the likelihood of an eating disorder
Q. What is a common characteristic of all eating disorders?
  • People with eating disorders can have a variety of symptoms. Common symptoms include severe restriction of food, food binges, and purging behaviors like vomiting or overexercising.
  1. Rodrigues, Paulo Rogério Melo, et al. “Adolescents’ unhealthy eating habits are associated with meal skipping.” Nutrition 42 (2017): 114-120. ↩︎
  2. Ferreiro, Fátima, Gloria Seoane, and Carmen Senra. “Gender-related risk and protective factors for depressive symptoms and disordered eating in adolescence: A 4-year longitudinal study.” Journal of youth and adolescence 41 (2012): 607-622. ↩︎
  3. Tanofsky‐Kraff, Marian, and Susan Z. Yanovski. “Eating disorder or disordered eating? Non‐normative eating patterns in obese individuals.” Obesity research 12.9 (2004): 1361-1366. ↩︎
  4. Keel, Pamela K., and K. Jean Forney. “Psychosocial risk factors for eating disorders.” International Journal of Eating Disorders 46.5 (2013): 433-439. ↩︎
  5. Clark, Matthew M., et al. “Self-efficacy in weight management.” Journal of consulting and clinical psychology 59.5 (1991): 739. ↩︎
  6. Hoffman, Elizabeth R., et al. “Understanding the association of impulsivity, obsessions, and compulsions with binge eating and purging behaviours in anorexia nervosa.” European Eating Disorders Review 20.3 (2012): e129-e136. ↩︎
  7. Arnow, Bruce, Justin Kenardy, and W. Stewart Agras. “The Emotional Eating Scale: The development of a measure to assess coping with negative affect by eating.” International journal of eating disorders 18.1 (1995): 79-90. ↩︎
  8. Dashti, Hassan S., et al. “Timing of food intake: identifying contributing factors to design effective interventions.” Advances in Nutrition 10.4 (2019): 606-620. ↩︎
  9. Rey, Enrique, et al. “Association between weight gain and symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux in the general population.” Official journal of the American College of Gastroenterology| ACG 101.2 (2006): 229-233. ↩︎
  10. Oglesbee, Barbara L., and Jeffrey R. Jenkins. “Gastrointestinal diseases.” Ferrets, rabbits, and rodents (2012): 193. ↩︎

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Yashika Mahajan

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