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Do You Suffer from Disordered Eating?


During a recent talk at a women’s conference in Los Angeles, Lady Gaga revealed her history of bulimia and obsession with losing weight as a teen. It’s rumored that Demi Moore may be undergoing treatment for anorexia, and Demi Lovata has been public about her recent struggle. These celebrity ties may open a window that allows you to examine your own relationship with food. I’ve worked in inpatient eating disorder treatment centers and with clients who struggle with anorexia and bulimia in my private practice for many years. Many of the women and men I’ve counseled are confused about the line between what’s “normal” and what’s not. 

Sometimes the desire to lose weight can morph into an unhealthy pattern of disordered eating. While these 10 questions cannot diagnose you with an eating disorder, answering yes to any of them may raise a red flag:

Do you spend more than three hours a day thinking about your diet?

Do you feel that eating isn’t a pleasurable experience?

Does your diet distance you from your family and friends?

Do you experience binge eating episodes that feel out of control?

Do you ever make up for eating by restricting, exercising excessively, purging or taking laxatives?

Do you ever not eat when you feel physically hungry?

Have you ever chewed food and spit it out instead of swallowing? 

Is your self esteem tied to your diet?

Are you secretive about your diet?

Do you feel obsessed with your diet and/or fitness program?

Weight loss is one of my specialties, but as a health professional my goal is to help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight in ways that nourish the body and optimize physical and emotional well being. Weight loss should be a side effect of eating in a way that feels like a way of taking care of yourself, from the inside out; and after a healthy, balanced meal you should feel energized, satisfied, and ready to move on with your day.

If you finish meals feeling hungry or stuffed, deprived or guilty, lethargic or uncomfortable, and if you have a hard time shutting off thoughts of food and/or weight loss, reach out to a professional who can help. Eating disorders can lead to devastating side effects, including damage to the heart, brain, kidneys and other organs, the loss of bone, and muscle, infections, and other serious health problems.

If you think you may be at risk, visit these links for more information and resources in your area:

National Eating Disorders Association

American Psychological Association

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic (click on 'Find a Registered Dietitian' on the right side of the green bar, then click 'Expertise Area' on the right and check 'Eating Disorders').

How do you feel about the difference between healthy weight loss and disordered eating? Please share your thoughts or tweet them to @cynthiasass and @Shape_Magazine.

Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.


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