Dieting: Socially Acceptable Disordered Eating

Dieting is disordered eating.

It's a fine (often overlapping) line away from an eating disorder and research shows it's often a huge contributing factor to developing a full blown eating disorder.

Our diet obsessed culture is screwing up our relationships with food and ourselves on such a massive scale that it’s made disordered eating, not only socially acceptable but expected and normal.

We’re taught that happiness with ourselves and our bodies requires being super controlled with what goes in our mouth, even when it comes at a huge emotional and physical cost.

Disordered Eating Defined

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-Text Revision) defines disordered eating as "a wide range of irregular eating behaviors that do not warrant a diagnosis of a specific eating disorder."

Symptoms of Disordered Eating

Signs and symptoms of disordered eating may include, but are not limited to:

  • Chronic yo-yo dieting

  • Frequent weight fluctuations

  • Extremely rigid and unhealthy food and exercise regime

  • Feelings of guilt and shame when unable to maintain food and/or exercise habits

  • Pre-occupation with food, body and exercise that causes distress and has a negative impact on quality of life

  • Compulsive or emotionally-driven eating

  • Use of compensatory measures, such as exercise, severe food restriction, and even purging or laxative use to "make up for" food consumed

  • Fasting or chronic restrained eating, skipping meals

  • Binge eating

  • Restrictive dieting

  • Unbalanced eating (e.g. restricting a major food group such as ‘fatty’ foods or carbohydrates)

  • Laxative, diuretic, enema misuse

  • Using diet pills

Harm Caused by Disordered Eating

Disordered eating is so normal that many people either minimize or don’t even realize the impact it has on their mental and physical health.

Harmful consequences can include a greater risk of obesity and eating disorders, bone loss, gastrointestinal disturbances, electrolyte and fluid imbalances, low heart rate and blood pressure, increased anxiety and depression, and social isolation.

Disordered eating is a serious concern that’s hard to address because dieting has become such an ordinary, commonplace part of our culture.

Dieting has made the abnormal, acceptable.

It’s made dysfunction, something to celebrate.

It made punishing ourselves part of every day life.

But those things are not normal.

Restricting foods and entire food groups is not a normal way for humans to live.

Feeling guilt and shame around the things we choose to put in our mouths is not normal.

Eating until we’re sick is not normal.

Purposely not allowing ourselves to eat when we’re actually hungry is not normal.

But because diet culture has made it acceptable and expected, we never talk about the significant physical, emotional and mental stress it causes.

If you have any concerns that you may have disordered eating patterns or an eating disorder, click here for a helpful screening tool.

Also, feel free to drop me an email ( ....and talk to your doctor.

Or click here to read how Dieting Made Me Bulimic.

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About The Author

Roni Davis
Cognitive Eating Founder

Writer, Producer, Host - It's All In Your Head Podcast

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Roni Davis spent over two decades struggling with weight, food (mindless, emotional and binge eating), an eating disorder, depression, panic attacks, and an anxiety disorder. She's also been a nationally qualified champion figure athlete, written for bodybuilding websites, was featured in a national fitness magazine, by and spent almost a decade helping people transform their bodies as an award-winning personal trainer and nutrition and wellness coach.


After over two decades of her own personal weight & food struggles and almost a decade in the weight loss/fitness industry, Roni left the fitness industry and bundled everything she learned from her own recovery, from her time as a trainer & nutrition & wellness coach with everything she learned in her mindfulness-based cognitive behavior coach training, to create Cognitive Eating.  This allows her to guide and support people to live healthier lives through behavior and habit modification at the brain level, where it counts and will actually stick.

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NOTE: While counselors or therapists often use CBT to deal with mental illness or a patient’s mental/emotional conditions and/or processing trauma, MBCT & cognitive eating does not. My roll as a coach, in its most simple form, is to encourage, coach and/or act as a facilitator of a client’s self-reflection, decision making, planning for the future, and creating life changes. As an MBCT & cognitive eating coach, I am obligated to refer clients in need of mental or physical health therapy to an appropriate licensed professional.  

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