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Why do we use the term ‘Eating Distress’ as opposed to ‘Eating Disorder’?

You are not disordered, you are experiencing a distress.

From our personal and professional experiences working with people experiencing disordered eating, we have learned that the language we use is very important. Words can heal, help, and can connect us, but words can also hurt and, can cause considerable harm. When it comes to the language we use , it is not about “good” or “bad” but more about whether it is helpful, or unhelpful.

Recovery from Eating Distress/Emotional Distress is all about learning and understanding.

It is about learning a new way of thinking, a new way of seeing things. It is about learning a new language, the language of self-care, self -respect and self-love.

When we are encouraged in society to talk and express ourselves, it is very helpful to focus on, not just what we are saying, but also how we are saying it. The words we choose to use and the meaning we attach to these words, will make a significant difference in a person’s recovery process.

Disordered eating is a symptom showing us that a person is experiencing distress that is eating them. The behaviour around food is just a symptom and information. It is not the problem, but the solution to an underlying issue. Behaviours are just the tip of the iceberg. The Titanic did not sink because of what they saw, it sank because of what they didn’t see lying underneath.

The term Eating Disorder in the DSM V describes a person’s behaviour and weight. When we just focus on a person’s behaviour and their weight, it is very limiting to the recovery process. Most people can and will often experience many different types of behaviours during their distress around food and their body. Even if the behaviours changes, the pattern of thinking about themselves and their lives often remains the same. In our current society we speak about, and focus on disorders and behaviours quite a bit. We need to make sure these labels do not become a person’s identity. When you, or your loved one is experiencing eating distress or “disordered eating” it is important to understand that you/they are not their behaviours. The behaviours are information.

From over 30 years experience of working with people who are freeing themselves from ED, we see that focusing on someone’s weight is not recovery, it is just focusing on a number describing a person’s physicality, not their emotional and psychological wellbeing. Experience shows that focusing on a person’s weight can also increase and deepen the person’s distress around food and their body.

A few years ago, while we attended an international conference on Eating Disorders, some top experts in the area, were agreeing that the description in the DSM is limited ,and that only about 20% of people are fitting into these Eating Disorders criteria.

People experiencing disordered eating are not disordered, they are experiencing distress. They are super-sensitive people who are absorbing our cultures’ messages deeper, and they subconsciously develop a coping mechanism that temporally gives them a feeling of being in control, but they pay a very high price for it. We are overusing the words “disorder”. We believe it would be more helpful if we shift the focus to understanding a person’s distress and recovery a little more.

Eating distress is a condition which develops subconsciously. The disordered behaviours around food are information that the body and mind are disconnected. We can learn start to trusting and listening to our bodies. Our bodies are part of nature. Our culture is overloaded with information. People with ED eat more with their mind, and all of the “should”, instead of listening and valuing their body signals.

Just a short conclusion – the main reason why we use the wording ‘Eating Distress’ instead of ‘Eating Disorder’ is to help people understand themselves and their distresses. When we address the distress that is eating the person, their behaviours are easier to let go of, and they can learn new, and more beneficial coping mechanisms. Monitoring our language, the way we think and speak is a very important part of recovery.

Welcome to Calling It Out – the podcast dedicated to teaching you how to call out the condition in your head.

Hosted by Life Coach and Eating Distress Practitioner, Jacqueline Campion.

Today I practice letting go.  

Today I practice letting go.  

Today I practice letting go.  

Today I practice letting go.  

Today I practice letting go.  

Today I practice letting go.  

I am a student of life.  

I am a student of life.  

I am a student of life.  

I am a student of life.  

I am a student of life.  

I am a student of life.