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The Growing Epidemic of Disordered Eating

The Growing Epidemic of Disordered EatingWhat is Causing the Growing Epidemic of Disordered Eating

Clinical eating disorders have clear indications and criteria for diagnosis. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and eating disorder not otherwise specified (ED-NOS) are all represented in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-V (DSM-V) and have strict parameters for diagnosis. Not so easy to spot are those eating habits that, although they may not fit the definition of an eating disorder, have troubling consequences for a person’s physical and emotional health. These eating behaviors fall into a category termed disordered eating, and they are far more prevalent than we may have realized.

Gottlieb (2014) provides a comprehensive list of the signs and symptoms of disordered eating:

  • Self-worth based highly on body shape and weight
  • Body dysmorphia– seeing oneself as overweight when weight is actually within a healthy range
  • Rigid exercise routine
  • Obsessive calorie counting
  • Restriction of certain foods or food groups
  • Rigid eating routine

At Risk of Developing an Eating Disorder?

These behaviors seem to mirror some of the behaviors we see in traditional eating disorders. The difference between disordered eating and an eating disorder is this: symptoms may not be as extreme and the behaviors may not be as severe as those that occur with an eating disorder. It is important to remember that while a person with disordered eating may not currently meet the criteria to be diagnosed with an eating disorder, he or she could be at risk for developing a full-blown eating disorder. Anxiety and depression are common co-occurring issues with disordered eating. Psychotherapy and nutrition counseling are recommended to address behaviors and reestablish a healthy relationship with food.

Tips to Prevent Disordered Eating

Gottlieb (2014) goes on to share some tips for preventing or managing disordered eating:

  • Avoid crash diets
  • Set healthy limits for exercise routines. Focus on what’s enjoyable!
  • Stop negative body talk
  • Do not keep a scale in the house

Self-esteem issues and negative body image are common in the general population. Add to that the pressures we feel daily around how we “should” look and how we “should” eat, and it is no surprise why many people develop disordered eating and eating disorders. Maintaining a healthy relationship with ourselves, our food, and getting support when we need it are all great ways to put a stop to disordered eating and get back to living life and taking care of ourselves.



Gottlieb, C. (2014). Disordered eating or eating disorder: What’s the difference? Psychology Today.


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