Disordered Eating & Eating Disorders

What's the Difference, Common Eating Disorders & How to Get Started with Recovery

Disordered Eating versus Eating Disorders:

Disordered eating is a spectrum ranging from "normalcy" on one side, where the relationship with food is neutralized and there is no shame or guilt wrapped up in the eating experience, to clinical eating disorders on the other, where one is engaging in behaviours that are harming their physical and mental wellbeing. Disordered eating falls in the middle, and this is where the relationship with food and body is strained and often beginning to impact one's self-worth and quality of life.

Signs that may indicate a disordered relationship with food:

  • Feeling all consumed by your thoughts surrounding food (or lack thereof)

  • Restricting your intake in the day and concurrently overeating at night

  • Feeling a lack of control around food and/or consuming large amounts to the point of discomfort

  • Frequently or obsessively weighing one's self, body checking, or shaming your reflection

  • Feeling the need to "work off" or "earn" your food

  • Going prolonged and/or abnormal periods of time without eating 

  • Avoiding or cutting out whole food groups 

Regardless of where you fall on the disordered eating spectrum, we are here to meet you where you're at and support your journey, from the beginning stages where we'll stabilize mental and physical health, work on challenging the negative behaviours and coping strategies, to the final steps of recovery and beyond. Learn more about how we can help in your recovery journey here.

Pasta Meal
Teenager Portrait

The Different Types of Eating Disorders & Their Warning Signs

Anorexia Nervosa (AN)

Anorexia is a life-threatening mental illness characterized by patterns of behaviours that can interfere with achieving or maintaining an adequate or safe weight. It is characterized by, over a period of at least three months:

Patterns of behaviour that interfere with achieving or maintaining a healthy body weight such as restricting food and/or compensating for its intake through purging behaviours (over-exercise, self-induced vomiting, the misuse of certain medications). Of note, "atypical" anorexia refers to the very real diagnosis of AN without an unhealthily low body weight - it is just as serious.

An overwhelming fear of gaining weight or becoming "fat", despite their current body size. Because of this fear, common behaviours that are linked to it include constant evaluations of their body in the mirror ("body checking") and obsessively weighing or measuring oneself. 

A disconnect or disturbance in how they are perceiving their weight and shape ("body dysmorphia"), whereas they often overestimate its size, evaluate their reflection negatively and assume that these are the most important things about them. 

Of note, despite the fact that individuals living with anorexia are highly focussed on remaining thin/avoiding weight gain, actually losing weight very rarely reduces any of the anxiety or comorbid anxiety or depression an individual is living with.

 

FAQ's on Eating Disorders

What are the Health Risks of Eating Disorders?

  • Supporting a loved one, or your own child, with an eating disorder, can be an extremely tough role to step into. While the experience of living with an eating disorder is extremely distressing, often impairing mental, cognitive, and physical health - we cannot discount how stressful it also often is on the people surrounding or supporting individuals through recovery. Because of this, the first place I often start when working with the parents of my clients with eating disorders is on their own self-care and self-compassion. We need to show up for ourselves so that we can show up for the ones who need us, and that still holds true for parents and caregivers! From here, support for an individual with an eating disorder is going to look different for each individual, but some of the top tips I discuss with parents include:

  • 1. Neutralizing the home environment around food/body image & start leaning into a better relationship with food for yourself.

  •  

  • 2. Take the time to understand your child's struggle, triggers, and point of view - even though it may seem "irrational" or "incorrect" to you doesn't mean the experience and fear isn't very real to them.

  •  

  • 3. Mealtime support looks like keeping the environment as emotionally safe as possible, this might mean using distraction techniques, supportive conversation, or games - but never does it include belittling their struggle or fighting in the moment.