What is ''Normal Eating''? --Part 2Checklist of Disordered Behaviors & Attitudes
-- By Dean Anderson, Behavioral Psychology Expert
Do you often wonder how “normal” your eating habits are, or how they compare to what experts consider to be a “healthy” approach?
If you’ve adopted SparkPeople's "lifestyle” approach to weight loss, then you know that a crash diet—or any other temporary diet—isn’t a good idea. But what does “normal” eating look like, especially when you have quite a bit of weight to lose?
This article is the second in a series of three that discuss "normal" and abnormal eating habits. (Part one looked at some of the basic characteristics of normal eating.) This article contains a checklist of behaviors and thought patterns that are often associated with disordered eating. Chances are that you will find some of your own habits on this list, but before you reach for the panic button, here are some important things to keep in mind:
“Disordered eating” includes many behaviors and attitudes that are extremely common and not always a signs of a significant problem. The difference between normal and disordered usually comes down to a question of frequency, degree, the extent to which the behavior causes problems or distress for the individual, and the amount of control the individual has over the behavior.
Wherever you find yourself on the normal-to-disordered spectrum, these problems do not define you as a person, nor do they determine or limit your potential for achieving a healthy weight and creating a healthy lifestyle for yourself. You are not a disordered person. You are simply a person with particular challenges to overcome on your way to establishing a healthy relationship with food.
- This list does not include most of the formal symptoms of clinical eating disorders. Rather, these are the “diet-mentality” behaviors and attitudes that are usually behind such common experiences as failure to lose weight or maintain weight loss; chronic motivation problems; emotional eating; excessive hunger and cravings; inability to manage the ups and downs of weight loss without significant distress; and lifelong yo-yo dieting.
Checklist of Disordered Eating Behaviors and Attitudes
Note how many of the following statements sound like you.
- Eating (or restricting) food provides immediate relief from unpleasant negative feelings.
- Your eating behaviors frequently make you very unhappy.
- You weigh (or are afraid to weigh) yourself very frequently, and become significantly distressed when you don’t see the results you hope for.
- You frequently avoid eating because you are afraid that you may not be able to stop once you start.
- You believe there are “bad” or “forbidden” foods that you shouldn’t eat, and eating them makes you feel guilty or ashamed.
- You very strictly count calories and track of everything you eat, and feel that going over your limit means you have failed, at least for that day.
- When you eat a "forbidden" food or go over your calorie limit, you often decide to continue overeating, since you have blown it.
- You frequently think that people are talking (or thinking) poorly about you because of your weight, even when nothing is said.
- You are trying to lose weight because you think it will influence how other people think or feel about you and treat you.
- Being at your current weight makes it very hard for you to feel good about yourself and you believe that will change when you lose the weight.
- The main reason you exercise is to burn calories, and/or offset the calories you have eaten or plan to eat.
- You feel like you have to avoid certain foods entirely because you can’t control how much you'll eat once you start.
- You frequently think about food and eating, much more than necessary.
- You eat secretly (to avoid embarrassment if others found out about it) or keep hidden food stashes that you eat only when you're alone.
- You believe that many of the problems in your life (work, relationships, etc) are due to your weight, and will improve once you reach a normal weight.
- You frequently eat when you aren’t hungry or feel like you can’t stop yourself, but don't understand why.
- Even though your weight is considered healthy or normal, you are not satisfied, and want to keep losing.
- You have many rules about what, when, and how much to eat, and breaking these rules causes you to feel anxious, guilty, or negative about yourself.
- You tend to follow your eating and exercise plan for days or weeks at a time, but then seem to go on strike, rebelling against your own plans.
- The closer you get to an intermediate or long term weight goal, the more you seem to engage in self-sabotage.
- You sometimes use overeating, food deprivation, or excessive exercise to “punish” yourself.
- You spend a great deal of time and energy tracking your nutrition, and feel very uncomfortable eating food when you don’t know what’s in it.
- You sometimes go to extreme measures like using laxatives, diuretics, diet pills or supplements, enemas, or other measures to achieve weight loss or offset calories you’ve eaten.
- You find yourself doing things you know aren’t healthy or advisable (skipping meals, over-exercising, eating very few calories) in order to make up for going over your calorie limit, or to speed up your weight loss.
- You base your food choices primarily on calorie content, rather than nutritional concerns or personal taste.
But the good news is that all of these problems can be overcome with the right combination of willingness, knowledge, skillful effort, support, and (if necessary) professional help.
Future articles in this series will discuss strategies and self-help solutions that can help you learn, develop skills, and put forth the necessary effort to change your habits, as well as information about when to seek professional help. You can take advantage of all the support our Message Boards have to offer. After all, there’s no time like the present to begin helping yourself improve and reach your goals.