What is Disordered Eating Behavior? What Are The Signs and Symptoms?

Disordered Order...

What is Disordered Eating?
What is Disordered Eating?

Information Worth Knowing

Disordered eating behavior is an irregular and sometimes erratic eating pattern, which to most of us mere mortals raises an eyebrow or two. The name disordered eating behavior derives from the fact that this disorder is not specific to a particular disorder, for example, anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. The sufferer may or may not be aware of their strange relationship with food. The whole ritual of eating that is their daily performance may be perfectly normal to them.

Poor body image, childhood habits, depression, stress or other negative influences in their life, may kick start the sufferer into a dysfunctional obsession with their eating patterns. Unlike typical food disorders, suffers of this particular disorder can go unnoticed for some time. We may put someones unusual eating habits down to being a picky eater, being a little odd or simply just being down right awkward.

Weight loss can be a symptom, but in most cases this is a symptom of a progressive state of disordered eating behavior. It's important to be aware of unusual and/or erratic eating habits that may help the diagnosis of disordered eating behavior. An early diagnosis of a food disorder can be the difference between ironing out a few odd food obsessions (with great care) and a full blown food disorder way beyond the control of the sufferer and the sufferer's family.

Understanding and Recovering

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Disordered Eating Examples

  • A sufferer may eat only one food group. Eat particular colours of food ie green pasta and green vegetables or chicken (white) and rice (white). Foods of one or similar textures ie mashed or pureed foods. Foods cooked in a particular way or in a particular pot or pan.
  • Perhaps celebrities and their fad diets ie the purple food diet and the baby food diet have helped fuel the disordered eating behavior of adoring fans and people that are easily influenced. For some, following the fashionable celebrities is more than just a fad, it's a ritual.
  • Obsessive weighing of foods and/or portion controlling is another possible sign of this disorder; planning meals or insisting on cooking their own food; being overly fussy about ingredients to the extent of becoming unreasonably upset.
  • Some sufferer's will have a favorite plate or glass from which they eat and drink. If someone else uses their plate or glass, their behavior can verge on the manic. Serving their food on anything but their plate can send them into a state of panic. Plates with colours or motifs may also be a no go for some, preferring a plain white plate
  • Placing different food colours or food groups into individual little bundles on a plate.
  • Taking great care to ensure their foods don't touch.
  • Another example is counting the mouthfuls of food as they eat. Eating one mouthful of each food type on the plate in a particular pattern; one mouthful of meat, two of rice, three of vegetables and back to one mouthful of meat etc. Or similar oddities.
  • Time can play a major part in the habits of some sufferer's; eating at particular times on a daily basis. The extent of this particular ritual can alienate a person form friends and family. The idea of eating at any other time other than their specific allocated time forcing them to avoid lunches and dinner invitations with loved ones. The whole day can evolve around the times they plan to eat. To their loved ones they come across as being reclusive or just down right rude. The sad reality is quite hard to accept but for many it's far harder to live with.



Apples on Tuesdays...

Irregular Habits

Is there a typical pattern with disordered eating behavior? There is only one answer: No! Some behaviors may be more common among sufferer's but other behaviors can be completely unique. There may be a series of habits on different days or combinations of unusual habits all of the time.

Although a food disorder is not recognized in the same serious context as other eating disorders it's important to be aware of 'harmless' faddy eating. What may seem picky or choosy can morph into more serious food habits with alarming consequences, progressing to anorexia nervosa or other life threatening related diseases.

If you notice a loved one who will only eat green vegetables; denies themselves certain foods; won't share their food; always leaves three chips, peas, carrots or a particular number of whatever foods are on their plate; organize their food before eating it; seem stressed when it comes to meal times and/or other peculiar food habits keep an eye on them. They may simply be going through a funny faddy stage, but they might not be. They might be on the verge of something much bigger.

Should you be concerned about a loved one speak with your GP. Whatever you do don't harp on at them, you will only add to the problem.

With the right guidance and professional help, people that suffer with disordered eating behavior can resume healthy normal eating habits for the rest of their lives and of course lots of love and patience is required too.


On a Personal Note

I decided to write this hub due to some personal experiences over recent years within my own family. It can be a very confusing and hurtful time. Blame plays a big part, but blame never solves anything and certainly doesn't aid prevention.

I wish to highlight the subject of disordered eating behavior for the soul reason of awareness. It's amazing what you see when you know what to look for. Realizing what is a fad and what just doesn't seem at all right, can make a huge difference when it comes to eating disorders.

On a slightly lighter note however, don't panic if a loved one always asks for the green M&M, the red jelly bean or your last rolo. Apparently the majority of us often do, and it's perfectly normal.



© 2011 Gabriel Wilson

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Comments 3 comments

skyblugurll1 profile image

skyblugurll1 5 years ago from Wisconsin USA

Thank you Gabriel, you are very kind... I think you and I are alike in the sense that we want to educate and talk about things that sometimes are not so pretty. I am very pleased to meet you too! :D Wishing well wishes as well..


Gabriel Wilson profile image

Gabriel Wilson 5 years ago from Madeira, Portugal Author

You are very brave to share such personal heartache. I look forward to reading future hubs that some day, I know you will feel like writing. It's a pleasure to meet you here on Hubpages. I wish you well.


skyblugurll1 profile image

skyblugurll1 5 years ago from Wisconsin USA

I take care of a 14 y/o that is just like this. He is severe adhd and has ocd as well. I am from a family of the "typical" disorders. Mom was an over eater, one sister was a "purger", and the other was anorexic. I was an over eater as well, but ended up having gastric bypass surgery. Eating disorders are so scary. Thank you for this hub!

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