I have recently been more aware of the differences between disordered eating and eating disorders. It would seem on my small amount of research and reading to date that we should be looking closer at disordered eating. So often this is the precursor to an eating disorder. People do not just suddenly wake up having lost huge amounts of weight and have a mental health diagnosis of AN or other eating disorder.
Looking back to how things evolved for Kae I can see quite clearly that what started as her making healthy choices became disordered eating and then declined into a full blown eating disorder, AN.
So the following are considered to be the disgnostic signs of disordered eating:
- Restricting the amount of food you eat
- Eating “clean” or regularly engaging in detoxes or fasting
- Spending a lot of time worrying about how you look and what you eat
- Avoiding social events with food
- Counting calories or measuring food obsessively
- Having very strict dietary rules
- Deliberately engaging in behaviours that alter your weight and digestion including vomiting, laxative use, taking diet pills or excessive exercise
- Feeling cold, dizzy and tired all the time
- Digestive issues including IBS type symptoms
- Not allowing others to cook for you or cooking food for others and not eating it
- Losing weight or gaining weight quickly
- Losing your period or having irregular periods
- Overeating without loss of control, eating in the absence of hunger, irregular meal patterns, or continual grazing (4)
So as you will see it is difficult to define this as being different to a full blown eating disorder and thereby lies a huge initial hurdle. From my experiences with Kae and with others it is clear for me to see that disordered eating so often then trigges weight loss which in turn can lead to the disordered thinking that becomes entrenched for those who go on to develop an eating disorder.
When I was first bulemic I knew that I could change my eating patterns and still lose weight because I would vomit and have the pleasure of the food without the inherent weight consequences. Then it takes control and it is no longer a choice but a life style which is controlling your behaviours and that is when I sought help. I am still bulemic and when in times of stress I feel that calling me then I know that I have to be aware and not fall for that temptation. This is why I believe we reach recovery, if lucky, but we are never recovered. ED’s hold a strong pull and if you are aware of that then you can put in place behaviours to prevent it taking control again. Being oblivious to that is leading to a path of relapse.
Following the suggestions below it gives a guideline for parents and carers to understand how to help your child/friend to be aware of what is unhealthy in their relationship to food and also to help with the way food is spoken about. It is so important not to vilefy any food groups or remove a complete food group. It is easy to remove and a fight to include again.
- Ditch dietary rules and practice eating regular meals
- Practice food neutrality (not seeing food as good or bad) and try not to label the way you eat as this can turn into another food rule
- Don’t engage in fad diets, detoxes or cleanses. Focus on what you can add to your diet to make it more nourishing
- Don’t cut foods or food groups from your diet. Research tells us that this can increase the risk of overeating or binging on the food later
- It can be helpful to take a break off social media or to unfollow unhelpful accounts which promote fad diets, diet culture or body shaming
- Be kind to yourself and practice body acceptance
- Seek support from a qualified health professional, a registered dietitian or nutritionist, psychologist or counsellor.
So at this time of year when the cold takes over and the pain related to that is felt by those in the grip of an ED I am mindful of the need for helping with this. There are silver gloves for sale which help to prevent heat loss and are made for those suffering with Reynaud’s which is poor circulation, exactly as AN sufferers experience. Thermal layers are so important and heat pads to carry that you crack to make them activate. Trying to prevent further damage to already damanged hands and feet is so important.
I will end now and know that I am here if anyone needs to talk, would like some advice and just to know that there is someone who will understand at the end of a phone or an email, voicemail, facetime, messenger etc.
Sending you all love and light x