Can you lose weight without triggering eating disorders? (+7 ways)

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In this blog post, we shall answer the question “can you lose weight without triggering eating disorders?” We shall explain briefly what eating disorders are and the types of eating disorders. We shall then focus on ways you can lose weight without triggering an eating disorder that you are recovering from.

Can you lose weight without triggering eating disorders?

 Yes, it is possible to lose weight healthily without triggering eating disorders. It is also not a straightforward task altogether, but people on the weight loss journey are encouraged to involve their physicians as much as possible to avoid them from using destructive weight loss methods that will leave them psychologically unwell. 

What is the thin line between dieting and an eating disorder?

In our society today, people have embraced disordered eating and hardly do people have a healthy relationship with food. The most common is called a semi-starvation diet or crash diet or a very-low-calorie diet, which is characterised by a daily low-energy food consumption to achieve rapid weight loss. 

An individual with a crash diet will reduce the amount to minimal levels. This makes it difficult for anyone at risk of developing an eating disorder to realize it until it is too late. Research has shown that 35% of those who diet become pathological dieters and 25% of them end up having a full-blown eating disorder.

The similarity between the two is that both start with a longing to lose weight and improve their health and diet. While dieting stops when the goal is achieved or when it becomes too restrictive, an eating disorder is never-ending. While a diet focuses on weight and food, people with an eating disorder use food and weight to better their lives, I.e. gain confidence, numb painful emotions, for acceptance, gain approval, etc.

The person with an eating disorder believes that a perfect body is attainable and does everything to make it possible. Their self-esteem is then compromised if this is not achieved. Many people cannot differentiate between diet and disorder. 

We will now look at the symptoms of eating disorders and the types of eating disorders that are triggered by dieting

Signs and symptoms of an eating disorder

The signs and symptoms of eating disorders include:

  • Spending a lot of time worrying about food, weight and your body shape
  • Avoid social situations where you think food will be involved
  • Changes in the mood like being withdrawal, feeling anxious or depressed
  • Eating too little
  • Exercising too much
  • Making yourself sick or taking laxatives after eating
  • Having very strict eating routines or food habits

Some physical symptoms include;

  • Pains, tingling or numbness on the legs or hands (an indicator of poor circulation)
  • Feeling dizzy, cold and tired
  • Having puberty delays or skipping your periods
  • Racing heart, fainting or feeling faint
  • Having very high or low weight for a person of your age and height
  • Problems with digestion like constipation, bloating and diarrhoea

Warning signs of an eating disorder in someone else

  • Wearing loose clothes to hide their body shape, weight
  • They are eating very slowly or cutting their food into little pieces
  • They lie about the amount they have eaten, what they have eaten and their weight
  • Avoiding eating with others
  • Exercising a lot
  • Going to the bathroom a lot after eating
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Eating a lot of food quickly

Types of eating disorders and how they can be triggered by weight loss

Anorexia nervosa

It is characterised by extreme restriction of calorie intake ‌to lose weight. People with anorexia have a distorted body image and can view themselves as obese even when they have skeletal frames. 

  • Eating fewer calories to facilitate weight loss in a few days
  • Pervasive desire to be thin
  • Use of laxatives to eliminate calories in the body
  • Excessive growth of thin hairs on the body, fainting

Anorexia can be caused by having controlling parents, being a perfectionist, imitating unhealthy images of thin models, actors and other role models, changes that come with adolescents and taking part-conscious sports like gymnastics or modelling.

Bulimia nervosa

A person with this disorder takes enormous amounts of food and then purges using vomiting and laxatives. This disorder co-exists with anorexia or other eating disorders. Symptoms including;

  • Binge-eating
  • Purging
  • Excessive exercise
  • Dehydration
  • pouch-like cheeks
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Tooth decay
  • Wounds in the mouth
  • Bulimia is caused by the cultural message of thin is beautiful, perfectionism, competition, family pressure to be thin, trauma, and participation in weight-conscious sports like gymnastics and modelling.

Avoidant/ restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID)

This disorder was previously known as a feeding disorder of infancy and early childhood. It was reserved for children age 7 and below. It develops in childhood but can proceed to adulthood.

Unlike other disorders which are common in women, ARFID equally affects men as compared to women. An individual with this disorder has disturbed eating because of a dislike of the texture or smell of certain foods or a lack of interest in eating. The common symptoms include;

  • Eating habits that interfere with normal social functions, hence avoiding them
  • Weight loss or poor development for height and age
  • A nutrient deficiency that leads to dependence on supplements or tube feeding
  • Restriction of food intake that prevents a person from consuming sufficient calories and nutrients

Purging disorder

This is a less-known or less-common disorder where the individual uses purging methods like laxatives, vomiting, diuretics, or excessive exercise to control their weight.  People with this disorder do not binge.

Causes of eating disorders

There are no exact causes of eating disorders, but risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing eating disorders. They include;

  • You have been sexually abused
  • You have received negative criticism about your weight, body size and shape
  • You are anxious about slimming or you have pressure from others or your job to lose weight, especially if you are in the sports or modelling fields
  • You or a member of your family has a history of eating disorder, substance abuse or depression
  • You are a perfectionist, have low self-esteem, obsessive personality or anxiety.

7 ways to lose weight healthily without triggering eating disorders

Make satiety your goal

Satiety means being physically and emotionally full. Sometimes we opt for quick foods that boost our energy for a short time. We then end up having a high-calorie meal after every 30 minutes or so.

The tip here is to have one heavy meal that is nutritious and that will not warrant you to go fix yourself another meal after a short while or buy snacks to help you feel full. This nutritious meal will help you cut down on excess consumption and you feel fuller for longer.

Focus on healthy foods you enjoy

This method is highly recommended by dietitians and nutritionists. The trick is to focus on the ‘dos’ rather than the ‘don’ts’. You need to add more food to your diet that is nutritious.

If you are new to this experiment, all you have to do is experiment with new healthy experiments and recipes that will be both helpful and delicious. This makes the weight loss journey more fulfilling and non-restrictive.

Reduce stress

Getting rid of stressors in your life will not only improve your mental health but your physical well-being as well. Accumulated stress reduces energy and lowers our immune system, which then translates to fatigue, oversleeping and overeating, and an increase in body weight.

Look for a mental health professional to help you walk through the process of identifying your stressors and the best ways to eradicate them and develop positive coping mechanisms.

Find your perfect workout routine

Look for the exercises that charge you up and make you want to go back to the gym the next day. It could be cardio, yoga, dance and barre, kickboxing or strength taking. Do not be afraid to experiment with each of the types and find one that feels less strenuous for you.

Try a few five to ten minutes workouts for the beginners and pick from there. Keep in mind that it is not an overnight success; it requires progressive effort, discipline, and consistency.

Experience mindful eating

This is the combination of mindfulness and eating. Focusing on how we eat makes a very big difference in the amounts we eat and improves digestion. Keep any gadgets, slow down when eating and eat while sitting in a comfortable position.

Appreciating and experiencing the present moment when you are eating impacts our health. Enjoy your food more, as this has the potential to improve problematic eating habits and control food intake. 

Drink more water

Our bodies at times confuse dehydration for hunger, so before you reach out for your favourite snack, stop and ask yourself if a glass of water would help solve the situation. Always take a glass of water before meals and prioritize staying hydrated throughout the day.

Drinking water has been associated with improving our overall health and helping in the loss of weight. 

Try portion control

If overeating is tough for you, then this tip is for you. food psychology will help you identify the techniques that you can use to control the portions that you consume in one sitting. Research shows that even the colour of your bowls can affect how much you eat.

You can also use smaller sizes of your plates/bowls for meals to help you maintain a healthy diet pattern.

Does restrictive dieting work?

No, it does not help. Cutting out entire foods or forcing yourself to follow strict rules can cause more harm than good. The repercussion include;

  • Cause guilt when you mess up
  • It can trigger overeating
  • Inhibits your social life
  • You can cut out vital nutrients

Conclusion

In this blog, we have discussed what eating disorders are and the relationship between dieting and eating disorders. We have also discussed the signs and symptoms of eating disorders and looked at the eating disorders that can be triggered by weight loss.

Finally, we have discussed the tips for losing weight without triggering an eating disorder and the reasons restrictive dieting is more harmful than helpful. Feel free to comment and ask questions in the comment section below.

Frequently asked questions: how to lose weight without triggering eating disorders 

How can I lose weight but not restrict it?

Make satiety your goal, reduce stress, find your perfect workout routine, drink more water, try portion control and experience mindful eating.

Can you have an eating disorder and not realize it?

There is no single test to determine if one has an eating disorder so if they do not talk about it, it might be difficult for others to notice it.

What is orthorexia?

It is an unhealthy focus on healthy eating that affects your overall well-being.

Citations

Abbate E. (December 17, 2021). Why you should give up restrictive dieting once and for all. Retrieved from https://www.shape.com/weight-loss/tips-plans/why-you-should-stop-restrictive-dieting

Astorino D. M., (2021). 7 realistic ways to lose weight without restrictive dieting. Retrieved from https://fitonapp.com/wellness/weight-loss-tips/

Cleveland Clinic, the psychology of eating. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/10681-the-psychology-of-eating

NHS, Overview- eating disorders. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/feelings-symptoms-behaviours/behaviours/eating-disorders/overview/

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