Disordered eating is the most common indicator of the development of an eating disorder. Disordered eating is when a person regularly engages in unhealthy and destructive eating behaviours such as restrictive dieting, compulsive eating or skipping meals. It can include behaviours some but not all of the symptoms of an eating disorder.

Disordered eating behaviours include:

  • Fasting or chronic restrained eating
  • Skipping meals
  • Binge eating
  • Dieting
  • Self induced vomiting
  • Unbalanced eating (e.g. restricting a major food group such as ‘fatty’ foods or carbohydrates)
  • Laxative, diuretic, enema misuse
  • Using diet pills

Dieting is one of the  most common forms of disordered eating. Severely restricting the amount of food you eat can be a very dangerous practice. It often leads to weight cycling and overeating or bingeing behaviours. 95% of people who diet will return to their usual weight, or weigh even more, within two years. Weight loss and ‘fad’ diets do not take people’s individual requirements into consideration and can result in a person feeling hungry, experiencing low moods, lacking in energy levels and developing poor health. Dieting leads to feelings of guilt and failure in people who engage in disordered eating.

What to look out for: The signs of Disordered Eating can be physical psychological and behavioural or a combination of these. It can result in severe health risks including:

  • A clinical eating disorder (Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder or Eating Disorder Otherwise Not Specified)
  • Weight gain
  • Osteoporosis – a condition that can lead to human bones becoming fragile and easy to fracture
  • Fatigue and poor sleep quality
  • Constipation and/or diarrhoea
  • Headaches
  • Muscle cramps

If you are concerned about someone you know who you think may have Disordered Eating it is vital to seek help and support as soon as possible. Early treatment can reduce the risk of developing a clinical Eating Disorder. Accessing treatment with health professionals who specialise in health and nutrition such as an Accredited Practising Dietitian can help you restore trust in your body and its ability to guide you to better eating habits. Restoring your emotional, mental and physical health are all important factors that require a multidisciplinary treatment team to provide the best evidenced based treatment. Your GP  is a good ‘first base’ point of contact. They can refer you onto a health professional who is specialised in this field. Your GP will be able to help monitor your medical stability to ensure you are medically safe or if you require more intensive hospitalised treatment.

It is important to seek help as soon as possible. The earlier you seek help the closer you are to recovery. For more information about eating disorders please visit the National Eating Disorders Collaboration website at http://www.nedc.com.au/