Disordered Eating & Eating Disorder

Whilst many of us are aware of eating disorders, just as many of us are in the dark when it comes to disordered eating.

In fact, many suffer with disordered eating and have no idea they are living with it.

So just what is disordered eating and why is it different to an eating disorder?

Let’s start with the more commonly known issue of Eating Disorders. 

An eating disorder is any range of psychological disorders that are characterized by abnormal  or disturbed eating habits.  Forms of eating disorders include, 

Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder and Compulsive Over Eating just to name a few

Disordered eating falls between normal eating behaviour and an eating disorder.  Disordered eating includes symptoms and behaviours of eating disorders but these are exhibited on a less severe level.  These behaviours can include restrictive eating, compulsive eating and irregular or inflexible eating patterns.

In today’s world we are more aware of the signs and symptoms of eating disorders then we previously were, and seeking help is an act that is encouraged and supported. 

But what about disordered eating.  Something that to one may seem healthy and correct to another may signify disordered eating behaviour.  How do you know if you or someone close to you is dealing with disordered eating?

Whilst diagnosis of disordered eating can be tricky, common signs and symptoms of disordered eating include, but are not limited to; 

  • Regular dieting
  • Anxiety around consuming certain foods 
  • Avoiding specific meals
  • Chronic weight fluctuations
  • Rigid routines and practices regarding food and exercise
  • Feelings of guilt or shame when eating or eating certain types of foods
  • Fixation on food, weight and body image resulting in a negative impact on quality of life
  • Using exercise, food restriction, fasting or even purging too “make up for bad foods” that were eaten

Unfortunately many people who exhibit disordered eating behaviour trivialize it and don’t realise the effect it is having and can have on them. 

Prolonged disordered eating can lead to an increased risk of obesity and eating disorders.  It can also lead to bone loss, gastrointestinal issues, fluid and electrolyte imbalances, low heart rate and blood pressure, increased anxiety, depression and social isolation. 

Orthorexia Nervosa is a relatively new term used in regards to eating disorders.  

Orthorexia Nervosa was first coined in 1997 by American Physician Steven Bratman M.D.  He proposed that some peoples dietary restrictions intended to promote health may in fact lead to unhealthy consequences.  Then in 2009 Ursula Philpot chair of the British Dietic Association and Senior Lecturer at Leeds Metropolitan University described those with Orthorexia Nervosa as “being solely concerned with the quality of the food they put in their bodies, refining and restricting their diets according to their personal understanding of which foods are truly pure”

This differs from Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa where the focus in on the quantity of food eaten

In today’s world where we are exposed regularly to the newest diet or eating practice via social media channels, disordered eating is becoming more and more prevalent. 

So is there a right or wrong way to eat?

Are there truly good and bad foods?

In short – No

Foods when broken down are nothing more than Carbohydrates, Fats & Proteins.  The difference is the quantity of the macronutrients in the food and the quality of them. 

But realistically, if your weekly diet consists of 85-90% wholefoods, you will not become overweight or unhealthy if the 10-15% are made up of more processed food options. 

Practicing a balanced approach to food is essential for a sustainable healthy lifestyle and weight management. 


If you or someone you know is showing signs of disordered eating or an eating disorder it is important that help is sought as early as possible. 

Reaching out to your local GP is a great place to start or contacting help lines such as the Butterfly Foundation on 1800 33 46 73