So maybe you’ve never gone more than 24 hours without food. Maybe you’ve never taken a laxative or made yourself throw up after eating too much. You don’t have an Eating Disorder. But how much of your day is spent thinking about food?
When you are out with friends, are you comparing what everyone else is eating to what you are eating, figuring out the calories instead of enjoying their company? Have you ever doubled your workouts to compensate for splurging on a slice of pizza? Can you barely even remember a time when you weren’t trying out the latest diet?
You don’t have to have an eating disorder to have an unhealthy relationship with food. It’s called Disordered Eating and it can be emotionally draining, physically exhausting or even lead to a full blown Eating Disorder.
Disordered Eating starts with a mentality rather than a behavior. If you are lucky to eat one real meal a day during finals week because you are so crazed trying to cram everything in, it’s not good for you, but it’s not a symptom of Disordered Eating. If you only eat one meal a day during finals week so you can at least be in control of your diet since everything else is so hectic, that’s Disordered Eating. It can present itself in many ways, but here are a few of the most common.
Diet Hopping: If you went from Slimfast to Atkins to South Beach to Master Cleanse, this can be a problem. If you don’t even know what to eat unless you are following some set out regimented diet plan, and are constantly changing to find better results, you might want to evaluate your motivations.
Exercise Binging: Do you count calories as they go in AND as they go out? Those very clever machines at the gym that tell you how many calories you are burning are useful, but if you obsessively exercise to burn off all the calories you consumed that day, that’s dangerous. It can ultimately lead to Exercise Bulimia which involves using intense workouts to purge instead of vomiting or laxatives.
Hidden Eating: Do you order a salad with your friends, but grab the bag of Oreos once you are back to your room? Have you ever lied to someone about what you ate that day? If you feel ashamed of eating in front of people there’s definitely something wrong with the way you see food.
Eating should be a natural part of your life. Food should not feel like your enemy and should not be constantly on your mind.
If you have exhibited these behaviors you are not alone. Not too long ago, SELF Magazine conducted a survey that found 65% of those polled displayed some type of Disordered Eating. The most important thing to remember is that to truly be in control of your eating habits, you can’t let them control YOU. Being aware of the problem is the first step to freeing yourself from being constantly consumed with thoughts of food.
Don’t be afraid to get help; being open about it is the best way to make sure it doesn’t get worse. Talk to friends, or find a support group. START a support group if you can’t find one. Chances are a lot of your friends are in the same situation.
Stop the problem before it gets worse. This really can develop into a life or death situation.