Over the course of my career, I have worked with my fair share of people struggling with what I’ll call ‘disordered eating habits’. As a body-obsessed nation, many people work towards a perfect body or at least think about it. Knowing when my client isn’t like everyone else and is possibly suffering from an eating disorder has its challenges-as a fitness professional it is my responsibility to identify warning signs that could indicate a problem. Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are the two most commonly known eating disorders but “disordered eating” falls in between. To my knowledge, I haven’t had any bulimic clients, as under-eating has been the disorder of choice for my clientele. Hello New York City!
Someone suffering from anorexia is typically obsessed with thinness and body image. They are determined to lose more weight, even if their weight is below normal and will have an irrational fear of fat and weight gain. From this term, we can derive “manorexia” and “pregorexia” (any others?).
As is often the case, “-exics” might just restrict caloric intake and increase calorie burning (through exercise), or they may also use diuretics, laxatives and diet aids to assist in their weight loss. Yikes!
Since our society tends to lean towards extremely thin bodies, it’s sometimes difficult to recognize these disorders by looks alone.
Being on a constant diet is indicative of disordered eating. Normal eating patterns follow the body’s signals of hunger and fullness. Eating every 3-4 hours to satisfy hunger is the key is to eat for health, energy and vitality.
As a “normal person” (am I normal?!), I think about my food intake and weight a small part of my day, but a person with disordered eating typically finds much of their day consumed with thoughts of food, calories burned, fat content and thinness of their body. You know you’ve crossed over the line from normal to disordered eating when food in itself becomes stressful.
The problem for me (after my assessment) becomes how to deal with the ‘elephant in the room’. Referring my client to a professional, such as a dietitian, internist, or psychiatrist is only half the battle: the rest is a tightrope walk: how can we work out, burning as few calories as possible? I still want to be in a position of support and positive energy without adding to the problem. If we can identify the initial signs of disordered eating, can we stop it from getting to the next step?