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What Is Disordered Eating?

By HERWriter
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Mental Health related image Photo: Getty Images

Eating disorders are popular in celebrity news, and they’re also being brought to the forefront with awareness weeks like the National Eating Disorders Awareness Week that’s coming up at the end of February 2012.

However, while eating disorders affect a smaller percentage of the general population, disordered eating affects many people (and is arguably a “normal” but unhealthy part of life because so many people struggle with it).

Experts explain what exactly disordered eating is, and how it relates to eating disorders. This is part one in a two-part series exploring disordered eating and its relation to other irregular eating behaviors.

<< What is disordered eating? >>

Carol Cottrill, a certified nutritional consultant, said in an email that many behaviors can be considered disordered eating, but there is one broad definition.

“Any behavior that negatively affects your physical and emotional well-being and interferes with your daily functioning is a red flag that you may be engaging in disordered eating,” Cottrill said.

“The bottom line is that even though disordered eating behaviors don’t necessarily include potentially fatal outcomes like anorexia or bulimia, women suffer a wide range of emotional and physical distress because of disordered eating. And disordered eating is always a side-kick of eating disorders. Even as an individual recovers from life-threatening eating disorders, disordered eating often takes its place.”

The idea of disordered eating can be considered controversial, she said.

“A significant problem lies deep within what has become a compelling cultural norm, for we are a nation obsessed with attaining an unnaturally thin body, a nation whose renowned health and fitness experts condone and endorse restrictive dieting as safe, even compulsory behavior for weight management while turning a blind eye to the facts,” Cottrill said.

She said that a majority of women are disordered eaters and a smaller portion have severe eating disorders that could be fatal if untreated. In fact, “more than six in ten women are disordered eaters,” Cottrill said.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.