Thursday, March 28, 2013

Eating Disorder or Disordered Eating?

Recently the term "disordered eating" has been getting a lot of buzz; but what does it mean exactly? Are eating disorders and disordered eating habits really that different? I felt the need to do a little research and find out exactly what the difference was...

According to the National Centre for Eating Disorders, disordered eating can be described as:
"Far more common and widespread than defined eating disorders are atypical eating disorders, or disordered eating. Disordered eating refers to troublesome eating behaviors, such as restrictive dieting, bingeing, or purging, which occur less frequently or are less severe than those required to meet the full criteria for the diagnosis of an eating disorder. Disordered eating can be changes in eating patterns that occur in relation to a stressful event, an illness, personal appearance, or in preparation for athletic competition. The 1997 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Study found that over 4% of students nationwide had taken laxatives, diet pills or had vomited either to lose weight or to keep from gaining weight."
Another definition from the National Eating Disorder Collaboration states:
"Disordered eating is when a person regularly engages in destructive eating behaviours such as restrictive dieting, compulsive eating or skipping meals. Disordered eating can include behaviours which reflect many but not all of the symptoms of eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder or Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS)."

And just in case you need a few more statistics, an article from titled, "Three out of Four Women have Disordered Eating, Survey Suggests," provides some shocking numbers:
  • 75 percent of women report disordered eating behaviors or symptoms consistent with eating disorders; so three out of four have an unhealthy relationship with food or their bodies
  • 67 percent of women (excluding those with actual eating disorders) are trying to lose weight
  • 53 percent of dieters are already at a healthy weight and are still trying to lose weight
  • 39 percent of women say concerns about what they eat or weigh interfere with their happiness
  • 37 percent regularly skip meals to try to lose weight
  • 27 percent would be “extremely upset” if they gained just five pounds
  • 26 percent cut out entire food groups
  • 16 percent have dieted on 1,000 calories a day or fewer
  • 13 percent smoke to lose weight
  • 12 percent often eat when they’re not hungry; 49 percent sometimes do
It is not shocking to me that this many people reportedly have unhealthy relationships with food; what is shocking to me, however, is the definition of disordered eating. This is just my personal opinion, but if a person is regularly engaging in eating disordered symptoms, such as binging and purging, then how is it possible that medical professionals can diagnose them with disordered eating instead of an eating disorder?

There are so many people in this world who are struggling every single day with their eating habits, but are afraid to receive help because they don't believe they are "sick enough," thanks to these stupid definitions. Again, just my personal opinion, but if a person's eating habits are getting in the way of their mental and emotional well being, then they should be considered "sick enough" to receive help.

One other thing that really pushes my buttons is when professionals do not believe a person has an eating disorder (or disordered eating or whatever other incorrect label is put on it) because they are not severely underweight. Let me repeat myself: If a person's eating habits are affecting their mental and emotional well being then they should be considered sick enough to receive help.

I'm not quite sure how this post helps my personal progress, but sometimes simply spreading a little awareness (or common sense) is good enough for me.



  1. Kelsi,
    This post was so encouraging to me. I know I have an unhealthy relationship with food, but I've never been "underweight" and my mind always said "You're too fat for an eating disorder" or if you tell someone that they will just laugh. It is incredibly helpful to hear another person acknowledge what I have wondered for so long. I felt a lot of shame about the fact that I struggle to love my body and have a healthy relationship with good because I was at a "healthy" weight. Thank you so much<3

    1. Good! I'm glad this post helped you. I feel like physicians and professionals.. or whoever came up with this 'disordered eating' term is almost encouraging the "I'm not sick enough" mentality. Very frustrating. There's no shame in the way you feel!
      <3 <3

  2. I think that when a symptom is so subtle outside, it is hard for people to be aware of the sickness. For some reasons, I was always aware that I was anorexia even during the time when my weight was in a healthy range. My weight was always low, though. It was just recent that it dropped to be really an unhealthy weight. I never tried to lose weight either, but then I really had to admit that I was anorexia, not because I lost weight, but saw my struggle to gain back. It is more like emotional and mental disorder just showing on foods. People who just go with factual things like numbers don't see this. They are not aware of themselves much. In a way, I think when people can love who they are enough for what they are doing with foods and life, they are not suffering from an eating disorder. If they do, they have a potential to develop an eating disorder if it is not showing outside now. I hope I am not bothering you, Kelsi. Thank you for your post! xoxo

    1. You are not bothering me at all! I am so glad you always can relate to my posts! It is really sad how most people don't really understand. At least we have each other. :)

  3. I think disordered eating has more to do with eating and food, self image and body image distortion and body dissatisfaction. I think eating disorders are often a response to cultural expectations, social pressures, emotional issues, personal distress and/or a need for a sense of control. So, eating disorders usually have nothing to do with the food, weight, body image at all. It may seem like that, but at the root, the eating disorder is a means of coping with unpleasant feelings and feeling in control of ones life. A person with and "eating disorder" deep down doesnt actually care that much about how they look, its just a way to measure how in control they are. My ed is more about trying to cope with traumatic experiences and scary emotions. However other days i can totally only want to starve simply because i want to lose weight because i dont like my body. Its kind of half half for me. I have a page from my ed recovery group that describes the difference between the two really well, i will post it to my blog and maybe you can link your followers? I do believe however, from my experiences, you can have both an "eating disorder" and the more common "disordered eating". I think we can all be on different ends of the continuum at different times in our lives. But either way, everyone deserves help wether that be dealing with self esteem and body image issues or therapy to help cope in healthier ways.

    1. Hey Abi,
      I really appreciate this comment. I understand better what you mean about eating disorders being about emotions and not so much food. Using food or the lack of food to numb out or control is exactly what I did, too. I would love it if you would post the sheet on your blog and I could pass it along! Send me a message when you do post it, so I don't miss it.
      Thanks again for such an insightful comment! <3

  4. Hey,
    No porblem :)
    I've posted it to my blog. The post url is

    1. I got it and have reblogged it. Thanks again for helping me and so many others understand. :)

  5. These statistics are pretty scary. Three out of four women have disordered eating- that means with my mom, Mel, Maddie and I, three of us have it. Scary thought.
    Hopefully this does spread awareness, because it's all true. People should not not be able to recieve help because they aren't "sick enough". Besides, who is to judge how sick someone is. With the common cold, sure, but with the mind, E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E is different!
    Great post girl!

    1. Yes, so true that EVERYONE is completely different... And I think that's why it has become so difficult to treat eating disorders. So sad... <3

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