Eating is a simple yet very complex and nuanced behaviour. Eating is not simply a matter of being either an intuitive eater or having an eating disorder; it is a complex spectrum that we move along, influenced by our culture, our belief system, our upbringing and our experiences.
In this blog post, we will discuss the eating spectrum and ways we can support ourselves in developing a healthier relationship with food.
Imagine a spectrum with two arrows pointing outward, representing the different categories of our relationship with food. On one end, we have intuitive eating, which is often considered the ideal and where we all begin (yes, we were all born intuitive eaters!). The more we move along the spectrum, the more our relationship to food becomes disordered and typically impacts our quality of life negatively.
Let’s go through each category!
Intuitive eating is a framework that supports us in nourishing ourselves while connecting to our bodies and honouring our emotional and psychological needs.
Being an intuitive eater supports a healthy relationship with food and our body.
Intuitive eating is an empowering approach to nourishing oneself that focuses on cultivating a harmonious relationship with food and body. It involves listening to and honouring the body’s internal cues of hunger, fullness, and satisfaction, rather than relying on external rules or restrictions. It emphasizes that food does not hold any moral value and that food is not just fuel (indeed food can also support us emotionally, connect us with love us, enhance celebrations, etc.).
Being an intuitive eater means trusting your body’s signals and giving yourself permission to eat all types of foods without guilt or judgment. It involves finding joy in eating, practicing mindful eating techniques, and respecting your body’s natural size and shape. Intuitive eating encourages self-care and self-compassion, promoting overall well-being beyond just physical health.
Numerous scientific studies have explored the benefits of intuitive eating. Research published in the American Journal of Health Education found that intuitive eating was associated with better body image, improved self-esteem, and decreased emotional eating tendencies. Another study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics highlighted how intuitive eating was linked to better mental health outcomes, including reduced risk of disordered eating behaviors and improved psychological well-being.
Intuitive eating is really just having a healthy relationship with food and body and it often times our goal in treatment.
As we move toward the middle of the spectrum, we encounter disordered eating, a prevalent category in today’s diet culture. Disordered eating often arises from societal pressures to change our bodies as well as this push towards “clean eating” and wellness.
Most of us have been exposed to patterns of disordered eating throughout our childhoods which impacts the way we relate to food today #almondmom (have you seen the almond mom trend on social media? It basically refers to dieting mothers who pushed their diet beliefs unto their kids. Although this has a very negative impact, we also believe that “almond moms” are also victims of diet culture.)
In 2023, many people find themselves in this space, struggling with their relationship with food.
Disordered eating refers to a range of irregular eating behaviours and attitudes towards food that has detrimental effects on one’s physical and mental well-being. Disordered eating includes various behaviours such as restrictive eating, rigid food rules, guilt and shame surrounding food choices, and negative impacts on social interactions, work, and self-esteem. Although the behaviours are disordered, they are normalized in our current landscape which makes access to treatment more difficult as people do not often see the issue until they keep going down the food spectrum.
Disordered eating behaviours are also on a spectrum, which means the intensity of the distress felt by the individual as well as the impact on overall quality of life can vary.
Dieting is the most prevalent factor in disordered eating. While dieting has been promoted as a “healthy lifestyle” and a way to change your body, it often leads to negative outcomes. Scientific research has consistently highlighted the pitfalls of dieting and its association with disordered eating patterns.
A study in the International Journal of Eating Disorders revealed that dieting was associated with an increased risk of developing eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.
Although disordered eating may not meet the diagnostic criteria for a specific eating disorder, it can still have detrimental effects on physical and psychological well-being. It is crucial to recognize and address disordered eating to prevent its progression into a more severe condition.
If you recognize yourself in this category and want to move towards intuitive eating, we got you. Apply to The Balanced Program Today so together we can support you through healing your relaiotnship with food and you body for good!
At the end of the spectrum, we find eating disorders. An eating disorder is a serious mental health condition characterized by persistent disturbances in eating patterns, accompanied by intense distress and preoccupation with body weight, shape, and food.
Eating disorders affect people of any age, gender, or background and have severe consequences for both physical and mental health. Individuals with eating disorders often experience significant distress, impairments in daily functioning, and increased risk of medical complications.
Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Although every disorder is unique, we want to stress that all eating disorders are severe and you deserve to recover.
When someone has an eating disorder, ealry onset of treatment is crucial in the recovery process. At The Balanced Practice, we beleive in a multidisciplinary approach to treatment to increase quality of care. Our approach is weight inclusive, anti carceral, collaborative and client centered.
Recovery treatment plans are tailored to each individual’s unique needs and may include medical monitoring, psychotherapy, nutritional counseling, and family support.
It is crucial to raise awareness about eating disorders, combat stigma, and promote early intervention and effective treatment. By addressing the physical, psychological, and social aspects of these illnesses, individuals with eating disorders can receive the support they need to recover and improve their overall well-being.
If you or someone you know struggles with an Eating Disorder, we are here for you. The Balanced Practice specializes in the treatment of eating disorders for teens and adults across Ontario. Learn more about our eating disorder services here.
We want to take a moemnt to also mention subclinical eating disorders because we know that diagnosis are not always accessible and not having a diagnosis does not mean you dont need help.
Just before the line that defines clinical eating disorders, there exists a category that can be called subclinical eating disorders. Although individuals in this category may not meet all diagnostic criteria, their experiences and challenges are still significant. Lack of access to diagnosis and care can leave many individuals in this subclinical zone for years without the support they need. It is important to emphasize that seeking help is crucial regardless of having a diagnosis or not, as the impact on quality of life and health is real and valid.
Understanding the eating spectrum helps us recognize the diverse range of experiences people have with food. It serves as a reminder that our relationship with food is not fixed and that change is possible. By working towards intuitive eating and dismantling harmful diet culture, we can empower ourselves to have a positive and nourishing relationship with food and our bodies.
Remember, wherever you find yourself on the spectrum, your experience is valid, and seeking support is a vital step towards healing and well-being.
And, if you need support, The Balanced Practice is a safe palce for you to land.
Copyright © 2023 The Balanced Practice Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Website Template by K Design Co.