Why Do So Many Women Experience Disordered Eating?
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Our world is full of women who sadly experience disordered eating. There is such a preoccupation with the food we eat, the portions we eat, and when we eat that, it can become an obsession. Dieting and exercise may also play a role in disordered eating. Why do so many women experience disordered eating?

What Is Disordered Eating?

Too many women experience disordered eating. Some of this is societal or cultural, but sometimes it comes from families or themselves. Symptoms of disordered eating include:

  • Frequent dieting or weight fluctuations
  • A preoccupation with food, weight, or body image which impacts daily life
  • Anxiety associated with food
  • Skipping meals frequently
  • Inflexible routines surrounding eating or exercise
  • Compulsive eating habits, feeling like they have no control overeating
  • Restricting themselves from certain foods or quantity of food they consider bad
  • Using compulsive exercise to make up for a poor diet
  • Purging because they have shame around their eating

Eating disorders are conditions such as bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa. There is minimal overlap between disordered eating and these eating disorders as they involve specific criteria defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Why Women Are at Such High Risk for Disordered Eating

We live in a culture that has created an expectation that everyone should appear a certain way, despite their body type or genetics. While men do feel influenced to exercise or diet to achieve certain body types, these pressures are most commonly experienced by women, particularly in specific cultures. This unrealistic expectation creates low self-esteem and body image issues, even for women who are within those boundaries. The pressure could be external expectations, including a partner or family member, or it could be self-inflicted.

There has been a significant increase in women, especially younger women, due to the prevalence of social media apps such as Instagram, where people judge themselves based on images they see of other women. This unhealthy practice can be a fixation with weight or body size or shape, or it could be a fixation on a perceived flaw in their body. Body image issues that interfere with the quality of life can become body dysmorphic disorder, which can become severe.

Another reason that women develop disordered eating is that we live in a diet culture, where there are always new fads that encourage a fixation with body image, weight loss, and dieting. This pressure often leads to yo-yo dieting. Here, people alternate with excessive food intake or binge eating and then restrict food, exercise too much, or otherwise have poor dietary habits that create a cycle of unhealthy eating.

What Are the Consequences of Disordered Eating?

Both your physical and mental health is impacted by disordered eating. If not treated, it can have more severe consequences. There are direct correlations between depression, anxiety, social isolation, and substance abuse related to an unhealthy preoccupation with diet or body image. Physically, there are other symptoms:

  • Obesity
  • Low blood pressure or heart rate
  • Bone loss
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Fluid imbalances
  • Electrolyte imbalances

Can You Have a Healthy Relationship With Food?

Your relationship with food involves how you feel about food. To develop a healthy relationship, you need to have no judgment about food—there is no bad or good food, no healthy or unhealthy food, despite what society says. All food is nutrition because it provides some form of energy or nutrients that your body needs.

Another way to have a healthy relationship with food is to not restrict yourself from eating food. How often do you tell yourself, “I shouldn’t eat that; it’s unhealthy,” or “I won’t fit into my dress if I eat that.” If you listen, your body tells you how much food and what it needs. Cravings for sugary or fatty foods typically come when you have restricted yourself from eating them, resulting in binge eating.

What Is the Connection Between Your Eating Habits and Self-Love?

Your eating habits and relationship with food stem from how you feel about yourself. When you have low self-esteem, you are more likely to experience disordered eating. When you realize that bodies are not one size fits all and accept your body as it is, you can develop self-love. When you can accept that there are no good or bad foods, no healthy or unhealthy foods, your eating habits will reflect your love for yourself — allowing yourself to feast, to eat what your body wants and when it wants to demonstrate self-love.

Why do so many women experience disordered eating? Societal, cultural, and even familial pressures, whether real or perceived, lead to unhealthy obsessions with diet, weight, or exercise that become disordered eating and can have serious consequences. Learning to have a healthy relationship with food will help you develop self-love and healing from both substance abuse and disordered eating. The Ho Tai Way – Recovery For Women offers women the opportunity to discover their self-esteem and develop self-love. Our nutritionist can help advise those with disordered eating. We know that you already have the tools inside of you to achieve sobriety. We allow you to use them. Our wonderfully peaceful facility is located between the sunny beaches and calming mountains in Costa Mesa, California. Our curriculum is focused on self-awareness through education, which is the first step in the healing process. Please call us today at (714) 581-3974 to begin your recovery and heal from disordered eating and addiction.