Disordered Eating

You don’t have an easily diagnosable eating disorder to be in danger. In fact, 66 percent of women in the United States will suffer from disordered eating at some point in their lives. Think your relationship with food might be risky? Check our list of red flags and tips for getting healthy.

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Disordered eating comprises a wide variety of harmful behaviors and beliefs about food and body image. Consequences of it will differ based on each person’s particular set of behaviors. A few red flags you shouldn’t avoid:

  • You don’t get your period
  • Your heart flutters or skips a beat
  • You feel lightheaded when you stand up
  • You’ve suffered chronic musculoskeletal injuries
  • You’re always tired
  • You say “always” and “never” a lot, i.e. eliminating entire food groups without a doctor’s counsel, or having rigid rules about food (eating the same “safe” foods every day, for example)


Recognize any of your own behaviors or beliefs in this story? The following tips from dietitians, counselors and coaches may help you course-correct.

Get help.
Talk to your family doctor, a counselor, a dietitian or a coach about your concerns. Glassman recommends scheduling an initial consultation with a dietitian. Even if you don’t see her regularly, she can tell you whether your current intake seems sufficient.

Ask why.
“Ask yourself: Is this training oriented toward my goal? Is it fully supported by both rest and nutrition?” says Beth Hartman McGilley, a Kansas-based psychologist and fellow with the Academy for Eating Disorders.

Get a ballpark idea.
Calculate your general calorie needs based on factors including your weight, age, gender and daily activity level at

Accept your body type.
Everyone’s body is genetically predetermined to protect a certain weight, and it will stay within five or 10 pounds of that weight unless overeating or under-eating forces it out of that range, Eberle says.

Get intuitive.
Many sports dietitians recommend reading “Intuitive Eating,” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, which advocates eating based on hunger. “The body tells the truth,” McGilley says. “If someone is highly attuned to her body, she will be able to tell how much rest and nutrition she needs.”

Surround yourself with healthy eaters.
“Go look at a guy,” Glassman says. “Most male runners these days are going to eat their fruits and vegetables, but if they want a cheeseburger and fries after a long run, they’re going to get it.”