Is It an Eating Disorder Or Are You Just a Healthy Eater?

18 signs that you or a friend's "healthy" eating habits are developing into a more serious problem.

Is It an Eating Disorder Or Are You Just a Healthy Eater?

18 signs that you or a friend’s “healthy” eating habits are developing into a more serious problem.

-Julia Austin

woman eating healthy

We are a culture obsessed with knowing exactly what a person eats, how they exercise, and their overall regimen for getting them that amazing figure. If you look at magazines like People and Star, we are always on the look out for 5 pounds gained there or 15 lost there. Why are we so concerned with knowing every detail about a person’s fitness plan (or lack thereof)? It isn’t just because we want their body.

Read 20 Surprising Reasons Why You Eat

Each time we ask, “How does she have that body?”, we are also asking (silently), “Is she happy?” The answer is something that can make us, the “civilians,” feel better. Yes, a certain star has an impeccable body, an elegant protruding collar bone and arms that never jiggle. But we often discover she also gets up at 4 a.m. to begin her two-hour workout. She hasn’t eaten a cookie in over five years. And she rarely drinks alcohol. And we get our answer.

She probably isn’t happy. Our response (also silent) is “Good.” We want to know that having that body is not worth it. It’s not worth giving up happy hour with our girlfriends. It’s not worth giving up that red velvet cupcake you reward yourself with at the end of every week. And it sure as hell isn’t worth losing two or three precious hours of sleep in the morning over.

I don’t mean to give too much credit to those of us who sigh with relief when we discover that the perfect body goes hand-in-hand with misery. Many people use that as an excuse to incorporate no healthy habits into their lives whatsoever. On the other hand, our culture’s obsession with bodies has actually been a healthy thing for many people. It has drawn some total gluttons off their couches and onto the treadmill. That’s a healthy change, right?

The point is, there has been a large shift in the direction towards caring more about fitness. A shift that has physical effects of course, but also less apparent psychological ones. In the midst of all the fuss around organic, low-fat, fat-burning, body mass index, macro-biotic etc., it’s hard to really know when your diet and exercise have simply become more orderly, or in fact disorderly. Yes, I’m talking about an eating disorder. And since it is far more psychological than anything else, we can’t always see it.

If you’re wondering whether you or a friend are skillfully riding the fitness wave, or if it’s actually crashing down on you and causing you some damage, here are some signs to look out for:

1. You wake up at an ungodly early hour to workout before a flight or early meeting because the idea of missing one workout panics you.

2. You force friends to schedule your lunches together at the exact time you like to have your lunch every day, even if that means they have to make major changes in their schedule to accommodate your eating regimen.

3. You take the stairs always… even to the 17th, 30th or 50th floor.

4. You think about a certain food you over-indulged in for days afterwards, over-extending each workout in an attempt to work off that cupcake from last week.

5. You skip out on girl’s night with your friends, or even make an excuse not to go comfort your friend going through a breakup, because it interferes with your workout.

6. You’re afraid to have just one bite of something indulgent, because it might lead to a full-on binge.

7. You weigh yourself every day or even multiple times a day.

8. Every meal must fit into a particular plate you’ve designated as your measuring plate. For example dinner can’t be too large for a salad plate.

9. Your friend slaved in the kitchen for hours to make you a delicious meal, but it’s fatty so you won’t touch it.

10. You force yourself to exercise even when every bone in your body aches and you are exhausted to the point of being immobile.

11. You lie to your friends when you workout, saying you’re going to do something else.

12. You are no longer menstruating (if you’re a woman, of course).

13. You claim you have allergies to certain foods just so you have an excuse not to eat them.

14. You skip dinner because you feel like you ate too much that day.

15. You cancel plans if you feel you’ve over-eaten.

16. You notice when a certain item of clothing fits even the tiniest bit differently.

17. You go to the gym on vacation.

18. You prefer to always feel a little bit hungry, otherwise you feel you’ve overeaten.

Some people are naturally thin. Some people just don’t think about food very often (lucky them). But the point is, you need to pay attention to the thinking going on when you make decisions concerning eating and working out.

How high on your priority list is your fitness? It’s great to want to be physically healthy, but if it’s forcing you to skip out on all the activities in life that keep you psychologically and emotionally healthy, then what is the point? You want to keep your body strong and fit so you can stay on this planet longer and enjoy this life longer. Just don’t forget that last part, enjoying life.

Julia Austin is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. She covers travel, lifestyle and love+sex for a number of media outlets including Discovery’s PlanetGreen,, and, a site dedicated to giving busy women quick and easy workouts, recipes and lifestyle tips to better their body and mood. When she isn’t writing she is planning her next trip or sharing dating stories with her friends at happy hour.

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