Because of magazine articles, social networks, advertisements, supermarket and pharmacy products, etc. you are constantly encouraged to control your weight and figure – especially through the means of a diet. In the end, each lapse can quickly make you feel guilty. Admittedly, a proper diet is essential for good health. Keeping this in mind, it is sometimes recommended or even necessary to follow an appropriate food regimen. Excessive control or a poorly implemented diet may also result in eating disorders. In such cases, your health can quickly deteriorate, both physically and psychologically. As the line between diet and eating disorders is sometimes a fine one, when should one seek help?

Diet or eating disorder? Identifying the warning signs

In everyday language, the word “diet” is used to refer to specific eating habits. It may be a diet that excludes certain foods (for instance in cases of food allergy or intolerance, or vegetarianism/veganism). But more often than not, the purpose of the diet is to lose weight. There are many different types of diets for losing weight, with varying degrees of restriction.

When the diet consists of a gradual and reasonable food rebalancing, which poses no health risk, there is nothing to be concerned about. On the other hand, if a diet leads to serious disruptions in eating behaviour, as well as excessive weight and image control, it is referred to as an eating disorder. Such a conduct is considered atypical or “abnormal” because of its harmful effects on both physical and mental health.

Types of eating disorders

Eating disorders are more common among women than men. Here are the most common eating disorders:

  • Anorexia nervosa: Obsessed by the appearance of his body, of which he has a distorted image, the individual partially or totally starves himself. Unaware of his thinness, he sees himself larger than he really is and imposes drastic food restrictions on himself.
  • Bulimia nervosa: Suffering from the same problems of mistaken self-perception, the patient alternates between periods of severe restriction and periods of overeating. Feeling guilty about overeating, the patient “purges” himself with the help of laxatives, vomiting, excessive physical exercise, etc.
  • Compulsive hyperphagia: Contrary to bulimia nervosa, the phases of overeating are not followed by periods of purging. With no control over himself, the patient eats in excess when feeling negative emotions (such as anxiety, stress, or sadness). This is why the expression “emotional eating” is often used to describe this disorder.

I’m sure you’re familiar with these eating disorders, but there are many more. Moreover, there are many more specific disorders that do not fall under any of these classifications. This is especially the case when a patient shows several symptoms associated with different eating disorders. More generally, one speaks of Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) when the patient displays atypical behaviours related to body image and weight control.

When should one seek help?

Ideally, it is best to always be accompanied by a health professional when starting a diet or even a dietary rebalancing. In this way, you will benefit from a customized program tailored to your personal needs and your specific goals. Moreover, you are guided throughout your journey, thereby reducing the risk of eating disorders.

And if you really believe you are suffering from an eating disorder as described above, make sure you seek out eating disorder treatment with a qualified therapist. Depending on the problems you are facing, he will offer a personalised approach in order to address the underlying psychological issues. This medical assistance will help you overcome your eating disorders, and restore a healthier relationship with food and your own image.

Going on a diet can help you become healthier, but beware of falling into eating disorders. To ensure your process runs as smoothly as possible, it is always best to have someone guide you throughout the journey. You will achieve more effective, safe and lasting results. Your very own good health depends on it.

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