Photo: Shutterstock / Tero Vesalainen
A recent study published in the European Eating Disorders Review showed that disordered eating can have long-term negative effects on health including lower psychological well-being and lower self-evaluation of health, which isn’t too surprising. What was more striking was how common the disordered eating behaviors seemed to be in our culture.
It turns out that disordered eating really is pervasive. In a survey of more than 4,000 women by researches out of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a whopping 75 percent reported behaviors consistent with eating disorders. Individually, these behaviors aren’t something to be overly concerned about, but when they add up, it becomes a roadblock to healthy living. Ask yourself the right questions to find out if you, too, have gone beyond healthy habits and are obsessing about your weight.
1. Are you anxious about certain food groups?
Starchy foods like pasta and bread have gotten an unfair bad reputation, which can make people feel uneasy about eating them. Sometimes it’s an ingredient like fat that causes anxiety, even if it’s used to make healthy food, like olive oil that’s used to saute vegetables.
2. Have you cut out a whole food group?
If you’re skipping foods and blaming it on an allergy or an ethical reason, but your real motivation is to lose weight, that’s a red flag. (If you really do need allergy-free foods, we have some great treat ideas for you.)
3. Do you only allow yourself to eat at certain times?
A strict eating schedule might seem like a smart way to provide structure throughout your day, but overdoing it can leave you feeling hungry, deprived and overeating at your next meal.
4. Are restaurants out of the question?
Not having control over how your food is prepared can be a legitimate concern, especially if you have food allergies. It’s when that anxiety is baseless and prevents you from otherwise enjoying a night out that it becomes a problem.
5. Do you have a rigid exercise schedule?
Regular physical activity is so important for good mental and physical well-being. But, like most other things in life, it’s important give yourself flexibility when conflicts come up.
6. Do you get on the scale constantly?
For some, regularly stepping on the scale helps them stay on track. For others, it can become an obsessive routine and an unrealistic way to monitor small fluctuations in weight that happens every day.
7. Is your self-worth tied to weight?
When you start feeling bad about yourself because of a number on the scale, the shape of your hips or the size of your clothes, it’s probably time to take a step back and dig deeper about what’s really going on.
8. Are you obsessive about calorie counting?
Tracking calories can be a useful tool to understand which foods are calorie-dense, which aren’t and what calorie range you should be eating. If it becomes overbearing, it’s no longer a healthy tool.
9. Do you arbitrarily decide when you’re hungry or full?
If it’s just the time of day that prompts you to eat or you stop eating because you’ve hit a certain calorie mark, start thinking more about how your body feels. Pay attention to your hunger and satiety and rely on those cues to decide when to start and stop eating.
10. Are you in a healthy weight range, but consider yourself overweight?
If you logically know that you’re at a healthy weight, but you’re still putting pressure on yourself to lose more weight, that’s a sign of a deeper issue.
In a culture that’s obsessed with weight, it can be really difficult to managing hunger, nutrition, body image and exercise in a healthy way, but it’s so important for short- and long-term well-being. There’s a spectrum of disordered eating and it’s important to recognize when your thoughts and actions are becoming distorted. After all, disordered eating is common, but it’s not harmless; seek out help if you see yourself in these behaviors.
Take the stress out of finding recipes that are fast and healthy, too.