The ED Epidemic: Why I Argue That Most People Struggle with Disordered Eating

I write about eating disorders frequently, mainly because I know they are such an issue in other twenty-something women like myself. However, the more I talk to other people that aren’t so much like me, the more I realize that a ridiculous amount of people exhibit disordered eating behaviors. In fact, I would guess that most people struggle with disordered eating — of all ages, genders, and sizes.

With fitness fads and trends, personal diets are discussed too much in my opinion. Whether you’re at work, out to eat with friends, or in your own kitchen with roommates, people are talking too much about why they’re eating what they’re eating. The problem is that most people don’t understand true nutritional facts, and most of these discussions involve guilt.

“I’m only eating this because I worked out earlier.”

“Wow, that must have a lot of calories!”

How much sugar do you think this has?”

“This is healthy, right?”

“I shouldn’t be eating so much but OMG it’s so good!”

People have become so obsessed with what’s on their plate, what is on others’ plates, and what should be on their plate that they cannot fuel their bodies without feeling some sort of guilt or stress.

Recently at work, someone was eating a CLIF Bar as a snack. Another coworker chimed in that those are actually meal replacement bars and shouldn’t be eaten as snacks. “Those have 250 calories! That’s a meal.” I interjected, “In what fucking world?”

Of course, we should try to eat mostly whole foods and limit our processed/packaged foods. However, many snacks are better than others, and people need food. The average person needs 2000 calories a day, so a typical meal should be far more than 250 calories. I don’t care if you eat several small meals are fewer larger meals — a meal is not 250 calories.

I’ve also been called out for eating “healthy” food because I pack it on my own and there are visible vegetables. It’s never criticism, but watching others’ food intakes and judging them shows that you are internally judging yourself and comparing.

Other times, I’ve been meal prepping my breakfast at home. A roommate will compliment me on doing so. I explain that I’m never at home. She tells me that she only eats a granola bar for breakfast. I tell her that I have to have a big breakfast to function, basically saying that I eat granola bars too… on top of eggs, vegetables, and fruit. She says well, I probably eat too much for lunch then.

I felt horrible that I made her think her meals were not correct for any reason. Does she know that I workout in the morning and need a protein-packed breakfast for recovery fuel? Probably not. Does she think that her eating habits are wrong because they are not like mine? I hope not.

People overanalyze their food intake and struggle to enjoy a meal. They can’t go out to eat without thinking they feel too full and shouldn’t have eaten so much. Many people can’t indulge without denoting a day as a specific “cheat day.” Some people can’t even go a day without eating a vegetable for fear of…what? Why is everyone so afraid?

Marketing tactics have scared people into healthy eating, except healthy is just an internalized box that is often incorrect. Healthy looks different for everyone, and most people don’t know about macros or nutrients.

If you notice someone talking about food in an unhealthy way, be brave and speak up, reminding them they have no reason to have a poor relationship with food. Although I personally believe most people suffer from disordered eating, most people will never acknowledge that since disordered eating is often commonly limited to anorexia and bulimia. Orthorexia is real and can lead to binge eating disorder as well as anorexia and bulimia. Encourage those around you to fuel their bodies with foods that fuel their bodies and also their souls.

Life’s too fucking short to be afraid of carbs.

++ Mary K

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