Diet and movement are very important for overall wellness, and food is powerful as a pleasurable medicine that supplies the body and brain with nourishment and sustenance in order to optimally function. However, in the health and wellness space, sometimes what is considered good for us can be taken to the extreme.

If you’ve followed my posts at all, you know I feel that nutrition is only one aspect to overall wellness. In fact, I believe that diet culture’s excessive focus and fanatical viewpoint on food and fitness has gone too far and that it could be contributing to disordered eating behaviors and eating disorders.

Keeping in mind the cultural, sociological, and psychological contexts and belief systems around food that eating behavior is stemming from, and acknowledging these societal and “health” memes we are being bombarded with, is essential when trying to understand disordered eating behavior.

This is also especially true when disordered eating and restrictive practices around food are normalized and even promoted in our integrative healthcare model. We must be awake to the dangers this entails.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been educating you about diet and wellness culture, food addiction, and eating disorders.

After a little detour to explore all things about essential oil therapy, I left off with the conclusion to my three-part series on eating addiction. In it, I argued that we must be very cautious and tread lightly on this subject, as it still is not officially classified in the DSM-V (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) as a substance use disorder. Yet, many health influencers and experts have accepted it and refer to it as such. This proposes six major caveats.

These include:

– the imperative to distinguish food addiction from eating disorders

– that no expert consensus on the definition, criteria, or validated measurement has been accepted

– the lack of human trial results lining up to the theories and mechanisms proposed

– that there is no universal food that is considered addictive

– the danger of ignoring the mental health issues that co-occur with eating disorders

– the seriousness of addiction

Regarding the last point, if we are to label people as “food addicts,” we need to consider if the harm that they are doing is up to par with the dangers of someone using drugs or alcohol. I personally do not believe it is.

If you’d like more details and empowering education on this topic, click here for the last article on food addiction.

Now, in the following posts, I want to address eating disorders specifically. They are officially classified in the DSM-V.

First, I will give an overview of them and some statistics. This will help you to recognize if a loved one or you could be suffering from one.

This knowledge is crucial.

Eating disorders can be fatal.

Rather than being recognized as dangerous, society and the wellness space has promoted restrictive, disordered eating. Diets are judged as “good” or “bad” and foods are personified to the point where what one puts in their mouth becomes equivalent to a moral decision. I feel we have gone too far.

We must inform ourselves of what is and what isn’t nourishing behavior around food.

So, let’s get some facts and clarity on what is “normalized” and if it is truly diagnosable as an eating disorder. What may be eye-opening to many is that some dietary practices touted by health experts may, in fact, meet criteria for one.

Eating should be balanced.

If it causes distress, that’s a warning sign.

Now, we will start with defining eating disorders in general and examine basic statistics.

Later on, I will get into more specifics and characteristics of each disorder.

At the end of the series, I will discuss why a program that focuses on acceptance and emotional coping might be more helpful than trying to restrict, shame, and control the behavior that results from one already feeling out of control.

Please take this information to heart. You may be able to save someone’s life, or your own.

If you are healthcare provider, this could be a wake-up call.

What is an Eating Disorder?

According to Mayo Clinic:

Eating disorders are serious conditions related to persistent eating behaviors that negatively impact your health, your emotions and your ability to function in important areas of life. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder.

Most eating disorders involve focusing too much on your weight, body shape and food, leading to dangerous eating behaviors. These behaviors can significantly impact your body’s ability to get appropriate nutrition. Eating disorders can harm the heart, digestive system, bones, and teeth and mouth, and lead to other diseases.

Eating disorders often develop in the teen and young adult years, although they can develop at other ages. With treatment, you can return to healthier eating habits and sometimes reverse serious complications caused by the eating disorder. (source)

The National Association of Eating Disorders (NAED) states:

Eating disorders are serious but treatable mental and physical illnesses that can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights. National surveys estimate that 20 million women and 10 million men in America will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives.

While no one knows for sure what causes eating disorders, a growing consensus suggests that it is a range of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors.  

Symptoms vary depending on the type of eating disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is the 2013 publication of the American Psychiatric Association (APA). It is used to classify and assess mental health disorders with specific diagnostic criteria. This assists clinicians in determining the symptoms and characteristics of psychological and brain health imbalances.

According to “Inside Out”, the Institute for Eating Disorders which reports on the DSM-5, the following categories exist for eating disorders:

  • Anorexia Nervosa (AN)
  • Bulimia Nervosa (BN)
  • Binge Eating Disorder (BED)
  • Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder (OSFED)
  • Pica
  • Rumination Disorder
  • Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
  • Unspecified Feeding or Eating Disorder (UFED)
  • Other:
    • Muscle Dysmorphia
    • Orthorexia Nervosa (ON) proposed criteria

I will go into more specifics in another post.

For now, let’s get stats so you can see why we need to be aware.

It’s More Common and WAY too Serious to Brush Off

I’ll give the numbers for the math buffs, but here’s the bottom line:

  1. You likely know someone with an eating disorder. Nine out of one hundred people are officially diagnosed, but as I stated above, it is likely much higher.
  2. You don’t have to “look like you have an eating disorder,” aka super thin, to have one. Anyone and any body size can have one.
  3. 26% of those 9/100 will attempt suicide.

May I repeat on the last point, it can be fatal.

Read on….

The Detailed Statistics

According to ANAD (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders), a non-profit, 501 (c)(3) organization providing free, peer support services to anyone with an eating disorder, “At least 10% of the population are struggling with an eating disorder, disordered eating, and or body image.”

General eating disorder statistics are listed below:

  • Eating disorders affect at least 9% of the population worldwide.1
  • 9% of the U.S. population, or 28.8 million Americans, will have an eating disorder in their lifetime.2
  • Less than 6% of people with eating disorders are medically diagnosed as “underweight.”21
  • 28-74% of risk for eating disorders is through genetic heritability.1
  • Eating disorders are among the deadliest mental illnesses, second only to opioid overdose.1
  • 10,200 deaths each year are the direct result of an eating disorder—that’s one death every 52 minutes.2
  • About 26% of people with eating disorders attempt suicide.1
  • The economic cost of eating disorders is $64.7 billion every year.2

Summary for Part I on Understanding Eating Disorders

For now, I’d ask you to contemplate the following as we move into the next post:

1. Is that “diet” or “lifestyle approach” “negatively impacting your health, your emotions and your ability to function in important areas of life?”

This would meet the Mayo’s clinic definition of an eating disorder. If yes, I urge you to explore this further with an eating disorder expert.

2. If you answered no to the above, consider this: one important aspect of life is relationships.

Is your eating behavior negatively influencing your relationships and are you breaking ties with support networks based on the “morality” of their food choices?

If you answered yes to this, or you are aware that this may be true for someone you care about, please do not push this aside.

Please educate yourself and take this seriously.

Finally, please ask yourself:

3. Is my outside appearance or “health” worth giving up relationships, my happiness, my freedom, and/or my self-esteem (food and body shaming)?

Next, I will review the risk factors and start outlining the characteristics of some of the most common eating disorders.

By understanding risk factors and characteristics, it can help one better diagnose, treat, and prevent this dangerous trend.

I urge you to take this information in and join me for part II.

Click here to learn more about my approach to whole-person, mind-body care.

Free resources and more education are also available to you here.

Stay tuned for an upcoming opportunity that can support you in holistic mind-body-heart-soul healing. (Join my newsletter below to learn more.)

Many blessings.


*Important Note:

If you struggle with mental health or an eating disorder, please reach out for professional support.

You may also wish to consider implementing holistic resources and partnering with a naturopathic doctor.

For example, I offer mind-body support for general mood issues using a functional medicine and wellness-oriented approach. I also practice using a non-diet, HAES approach to nutrition.


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Disclaimer: This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)

This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.

Thanks Pixabay and Canva.