Difference Between an Eating Disorder and Disordered Eating

Our culture is obsessed with weight, health, nutrition, food, exercise etc. Many of my clients when I ask them about the health and wellness field, they quickly state they do have or had an obsession. The amount of disordered eating in our society is astounding. Some research has even stated that up to 50% of people in the world have a poor or disordered pattern with their eating. Whereas eating disorders (ED) make up 1 to 3% of the population.

First however, let’s talk about what is normal eating. Normal eating allows for you to have variety, you don’t think about food all the time and you are able to recognize hunger and fullness cues.

Disordered Eating

Disordered eating (DE) is rooted in diet culture- starting a new exercise plan, or calorie counting, or you are trying the latest diet, etc.

A big difference in the comparison of DE to a ED is that DE you can be flexible, make changes and you don’t feel consumed by food.

Many times when working with clients, they will start to recognize the disordered eating patterns and how much these patterns have become “normal habits.”

Most of will experience trying a diet sometime in our life, however each one of those diets leaves us with a crumb of that diet. For example, maybe you calorie counted for 6 months, but start to realize this is not sustainable for years to come. So instead of counting everything you consume, you start to hyper-focus on calories and always choosing the “lower calorie item.” This is disordered eating.

DE is very dangerous as this can start to lead down the path of eating disorder (ED). If you find that you are start to slip down this path it is highly advised for you to seek medical help.

Eating Disorders

ED is “an extreme” version of DE. You are not able to be flexible with your schedule, you can’t make changes, you feel consumed by your food and you have little variety.

Their are 4 major types of ED (with sub- categories), which I will discuss in a later post and require a professional diagnose from a therapist and/ or medical doctor.

If you are struggling with either ED or DE, I am here to help and provide you with resources as well. Please reach out!

If you follow me on TikTok, this is my most popular video in describing the difference between the two in more detail.

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