Be wary of these everyday habits, which may harm your mental health.
Some everyday diet habits may appear perfectly healthy but may harm your mental health. Some people can incorporate certain diet-related behaviors into their lifestyle without feeling overly restricted or stressed. Some people, however, may be predisposed to disordered eating or eating disorders.
Considering how your eating habits and mindset affect you is a good idea. I spoke with nutrition experts and dietitians to find out what they see in their clients that may be a sign of disordered eating behavior.
If you notice any of these behaviors, it does not automatically imply that you have an eating disorder or disordered eating tendencies. Still, it does suggest that you speak with a professional to learn more.
Let’s look at which eating habits are potentially disordered.
Intentionally skipping meals
Skipping meals or substituting non-calorie beverages for meals to “save” calories for later may be a symptom of more disordered severe behavior. For example, skipping breakfast and only drinking coffee is an example.
Not only is skipping breakfast potentially disordered, but it is also likely to increase hunger and cravings later in the day, making it even more challenging to stick to your nutrition goals.
Avoiding certain foods to compensate for your eating earlier in the day is a common disordered eating habit. Rather than our internal experience, this is usually fueled by rules about what we should eat.
Obsessive calorie counting
Calorie counting is contentious in the disordered eating community. Some people can use calorie counting to track their food with few adverse side effects. Others, on the other hand, may become anxious when they see the calorie count of their meals or daily totals.
Counting calories or macros can be overwhelming without professional assistance or guidance on what these numbers mean. Therefore, we recommend working with a dietitian to ensure you have support and education when tracking your food.
Counting calories in foods with few calories, such as mustard, spices, or hot sauce, may indicate a disordered pattern.
Obsession with food quality
Orthorexia is a new type of disordered eating that has emerged. People with this type of disorder eat consistently and may appear extremely healthy and balanced in their choices, as opposed to restricting or binge eating. However, internally, they are stressed and anxious about their “clean” food choices, which may affect their mental health.
Extreme focus or obsession with eating ‘clean’ can lead to disordered eating or orthorexia. What begins as a desire to eat a healthy diet can quickly lead to eliminating many foods that do not fit the individual’s definition of healthy or clean.
Only sticking to individual “safe” foods
There are numerous reasons why someone may believe certain foods are unsafe. For example, the absence of allergies, food sensitivities, or medical conditions may have made certain foods appear extremely dangerous.
People suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, frequently report a fear of food as a result of gastrointestinal reactions. This is true, but it is highly complex and often necessitates the assistance of trained medical professionals.
Living with IBS can be stressful. There is no cure, symptoms vary, and finding an effective treatment can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. As a result, it’s not surprising that many people with IBS develop disordered eating habits to cope with their constant digestive symptoms. Fearful of painful cramps, embarrassing gas, urgent diarrhea, or days-long constipation, some IBS patients may undereat, skip meals, or strictly adhere to a short list of safe foods.
Guilt tripping yourself
Food guilt, or the perception of foods as “bad,” can moralize our eating. If you have disordered eating habits, you may experience intense guilt and shame after eating. These scenarios are frequently associated with arbitrary, self-imposed food rules that may or may not be based on science.
Guilt tripping can occur if you eat food after a specific time or feel anxious because you are hungry when it is not yet a particular time. In our quest to lose weight or do what we believe is ‘healthier,’ we sometimes neglect our mental health. We should not jeopardize our emotional health to follow a trend that isn’t helping.
Cutting out entire food groups
Except for specific health conditions, most of the population would benefit from incorporating balance into their diet. Unfortunately, we often feel more restricted and are more likely to binge later when we remove or cut out entire food groups.
We see an increase in the likelihood of a disordered pattern when we eliminate an entire food group to lose or fear gaining weight.
A form of disordered eating is removing or severely restricting an entire food group out of fear that it will negatively impact weight or cause poor health. This happens a lot with carbohydrates and sugar. However, many carbohydrates provide quality nutrition and energy while supporting a healthy weight. I am a firm believer that all food can fit in moderation.