People who allow their food intake to be dictated by external factors – like commercial diets – are engaging in disordered eating. Contrary to popular belief disordered eating isn’t limited to eating disorders like bulimia, anorexia and binge eating, as there are a whole host of behaviors that are included in this syndrome.  And while there is no single factor, dieting as been recognized as the chief contributing cause in the development of disordered eating.

Dieting is one of the most common practices/pursuits of our society and for many people has become an obsession, and an unhealthy one at that.  Mixed messages and incorrect messages have been sent to the public via the pages of countless magazines and books that have been cranked out by so-called diet gurus, and are distributed by the diet industry. To the tune of approximately $40 billion dollars annually. That’s billion.

Among Americans disordered eating, eating disorders and obesity are at all-time highs, thanks in large part to the “solutions” put forth by diet industry that aim to resolve these very problems.  This is a complex problem, the scope of which goes well beyond the capacity of a single article to discuss. In an effort to raise awareness of this problem and to help people get off of this diet addiction, I’m going to talk about this problem of and hopefully will be able to help people recognize if they have fallen into a disordered eating routine so that they can start to take steps to re-learn how to eat properly.

Here’s a little exercise that might help you to understand and/or realize disordered eating attitudes. Make a list of your 10 or 15 most favorite foods.  You know, the stuff that makes you love eating.  The stuff that you dream about and that you would eat every day if you could.  No feelings of guilt or of “being bad.”  Burgers? Pizza? Ice cream? Chips? Cookies?  Go ahead, take your time… Okay.

Now that you’ve made up the list, answer me this; how many of these foods do you eat regularly and how many do you actively, consciously avoid?  If you actively avoid all or most of these foods you are practicing “restrained eating” and restrained eating is disordered eating.  This is also called “dieting” and dieting is disordered eating.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that people who eat nothing but Twinkies, ice cream and KFC are eating the right way.  But people who are afraid that a few slices of pizza, a piece of cake, a couple of Oreos, bread, rice, pasta or french fries will go right to their hips, and attempt to avoid eating these foods even though they like and want them, are practicing restrained eating.

To avoid specific foods and entire food groups is to practice disordered, restrained eating. This position is considered blasphemous by those “experts” who make their livings spreading gospel of diet dis-information, but is true nevertheless.  So many people have lost their way when it comes to eating.  People are actually afraid of bread, cheeseburgers and spaghetti and meatballs, for goodness sake.

A fancy term used by research-types is “externally regulated, restrained eating.”  For you non-fancy term types out there, like myself, this means eating that is determined by rules and guidelines that other people have developed, and that has nothing to do with the internal cues of the individual. Despite what the “Diet Police” has been getting people to believe, we are all capable of determining exactly when we need/want to eat, what we need/want to eat and how much we need/want to eat.

People who practice healthy, internally regulated, attuned eating eat what they want and want what they need and don’t have a weight problem because they know how to listen to their bodies.  What some refer to as “willpower” exists in the attuned eater precisely because they have always listened to their internal cues. The attuned eater doesn’t regularly eat past the point of being full or eat just to eat, doesn’t avoid ice cream and Ring Dings or any other foods that they enjoy.

The attuned eater doesn’t moralize about foods and put them into the “good” and “bad” categories, and has flexibility in their habits that allows them to adjust their eating according to the varied situations that life throws at them. Chronic dieting ruins the mind-body relationship and the natural, intrinsic signal system that allows us to regulate our diet internally. So if you aren’t eating the foods you like, you need to figure out why.

You also should keep checking in for the next installment in this series of articles dealing with disordered eating.


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