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The Continuum of Eating

Healthy Eating:

  • Eating a variety of foods
  • Eating adequate amounts of food
  • Eating without undue guilt or anxiety
  • Eating regularly most of the time
  • Occasionally rewarding oneself with treats or comfort foods

Note: Vegetarians and vegans can have perfectly healthy relationships with food. These are belief systems as well as ways of eating.

Problematic Eating:

  • Recurring episodes of overeating
  • Recurring episodes of under-eating
  • Recurring distress regarding body size
  • Recurring negative comparisons of one’s body to others
  • Over-exercising to lose or maintain weight
  • Avoidance of categories of foods to avoid guilt, which can result in compromised nutrition

Note: Problematic eating can be a temporary phase, or it may lead to more disturbed eating patterns.\

Eating Disorders:   

There are three types of eating disorders – anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. 

  1. Anorexia Nervosa is a disorder characterized by self-imposed starvation.
    Symptoms include the following:
    • Weight loss, which usually occurs rapidly
    • Restrictive eating, such as fasting or severe diets
    • Dizziness or fainting spells
    • Rigid exercise routines
    • Intense fear of fat, regardless of low weight
    • Self-worth that is determined by what has or has not been eaten
  2. Bulimia Nervosa is a disorder characterized by bingeing (eating large quantities of foods in a short period of time) followed by purging.
    Symptoms include the following::
    • Bingeing
    • Secretive eating
    • Vomiting, use of laxatives, diet pills
    • Fear of being fat, regardless of weight
    • Rigid, often excessive, exercise routines
    • Self-worth which is determined by what has or has not been eaten 
  3. Binge-eating disorder is characterized by uncontrolled eating of large amounts of food in a short period of time. Binge-eating is sometimes, but not always, associated with obesity.
    Symptoms include the following:
    • Repetitive episodes of eating rapidly far past the point of fullness
    • Feeling tormented by eating patterns
    • Restriction of activities due to embarrassment about weight
    • Secretive eating, due to embarrassment about quantity of food consumed

Note: Eating disorders are psychologically painful and often medically risky.