Dietitian & Nutritionist
Diet culture is everywhere. From the media & influencers to food companies, healthcare and supermarkets are constantly promoting eating a certain way to achieve an ideal body type or composition. For those vulnerable to the influence of diet culture, the constant pressure to be on a diet or eat in a certain manner can lead to disordered eating behaviors and patterns eventually leading to the diagnosis of an eating disorder.
It is often difficult to tell whether the person is on a harmless short-lived diet or has an eating disorder. Individuals with eating disorders or usually practice severe food restriction & have debilitating beliefs & attitudes related to food. Their pre-occupation with food and fear of weight gain makes them unable to focus on other tasks or engage in social activities that involve food. Some also participate in binge eating followed by purging or excessive exercise to compensate for the binge. Abuse of laxatives, diet pills or constantly trying new fad diets are also a common sign of an eating disorder.
While the motivation to start a “diet” may be well intentioned to better health, there is a very fine line between healthy & unhealthy dieting. Unhealthy eating behaviors are commonly seen as diet & lifestyle changes leading to eating disorders largely being undiagnosed or diagnosed at a later stage. Early diagnosis of disordered eating or unhealthy eating habits with appropriate intervention can prevent disordered eating patterns turning into a diagnosed eating disorder.
As a society, our over-obsession with food & physical appearance and our increasing desire to achieve health in short periods of time are causing an increase in eating disorders across the globe. Collectively, the spotlight needs to move from diet culture & time-based health & physical interventions to promoting long term, sustainable lifestyle changes. How we promote health has an impact on those vulnerable to eating disorders, it is important to reduce any body or food centric talk to prevent triggering or worsening unhealthy eating patterns & disorders.