There are some common diet habits that people may assume are perfectly healthy, but they may in fact be detrimental to your mental health. Some people are able to incorporate certain diet-related behaviors into their lifestyle without feeling overly restricted or stressed as a result. However, some people may be more prone to disordered eating or eating disorders.
At the end of the day, it is a great idea to take a look at how your habits and your mindset around food affect you. We spoke to nutrition experts and dietitians to find out exactly what they see over and over again in their clients that may be a sign of disordered behavior around food.
If you notice that you display any of these behaviors, it doesn’t mean that you automatically have an eating disorder or even disordered eating tendencies, but it does mean that you may want to talk with a professional to learn more.
Intentionally skipping meals
Skipping meals, or substituting non-calorie beverages in place of meals to “save” calories for later, may be a sign of deeper disordered behaviors. An example of this would be constantly skipping breakfast and only drinking coffee.
Not only is saving up your calories by skipping breakfast potentially disordered, it also is likely to increase hunger and cravings later in the day and make it even harder to stick to your nutrition goals.
We spoke to Kayley Myers MS, RDN who explained how good restriction behaviors can be harmful. “One common disordered eating habit is avoiding certain foods to compensate for what you ate earlier in the day. This is usually fueled by rules about what we ‘should’ eat rather than our internal experience,” says Myers.
Obsessive calorie counting
Counting calories is controversial in the disordered eating space. Some people can track their food with calorie counting with very minimal negative side effects. Others, however, may become fraught with anxiety around seeing the calorie count of their meals or daily totals.
Obsession with food quality
Counting calories or macro counting can be incredibly overwhelming without professional support or guidance around what these numbers mean. Working with a dietitian to make sure that you have support and education when tracking your food is what we advise.
Counting calories in foods that already have very few calories like mustard, spices, or hot sauce may indicate that there is a disordered pattern at play.
There’s a new type of disordered eating on the block called orthorexia. Rather than restricting or binge eating, people with this type of disorder eat consistently and may appear to be incredibly healthy and balanced in their choices. However, internally, they have a lot of stress and anxiety around their food choices being “clean,” and this may be affecting their mental health.
With the rise of social media and “what I eat in a day videos,” dietitians are waving red flags about the increase in orthorexic tendencies.
Mandy Tyler, M.Ed, RD, CSSD, LD told us, “Extreme focus or obsession with eating ‘clean’ can become a form of disordered eating or possible orthorexia. What starts out as a desire to eat a healthy diet can spiral into an elimination of many foods that do not meet the individual’s definition of ‘healthy’ or ‘clean.'”
There are many reasons that someone could feel some foods are unsafe. Barring any allergies, it’s possible that food sensitivities or health conditions have made specific foods feel incredibly harmful.