The "Almost" Eating Disorder

“Everyone is a little disordered, right?” 

I’ve been asked this question a countless number of times by friends and family when they discover that I work in the field of eating disorders.  

Sometimes the person posing the question is referring to the fact that everyone occasionally overeats, eats based off of their emotions, or is unable to stick to a diet.

However, this type of eating is not disordered; this type of eating is normal. 

It’s normal to go out with friends and eat a little more than you usually would sometimes. It’s normal to enjoy an extra cookie or two over the holiday season. It’s normal to enjoy the food that you eat. It’s normal to not be on a diet. It’s normal to be flexible around food, and it’s normal to have an imperfect diet. This type of eating is not disordered

Other times, however, the people that ask me that question are really implying that it’s normal to count calories, restrict food, binge/purge, and manipulate our bodies through dieting and excessive exercise.

As common as that behavior may be in our culture, it is not, and will never be “normal”.   

There’s a difference between being mindful about what we eat vs. being obsessive. There’s a difference between being scheduled vs. being rigid. There’s a difference between tweaking your diet to improve your overall health vs. restricting food to lose unnecessary body weight. There’s a difference between eating healthy portions and going to bed hungry. There’s a difference between exercising because you enjoy it and exercising because you feel like you have to. The latter of the two behaviors will never, ever be healthy. 

In her book Almost Anorexic, Jenni Schaefer explains, “Not everyone who worries about what he or she eats and weight has a problem with food. And not all attempts to eat healthfully are bad. But crossing the line from normal eating to almost [anorexia, bulimia, or binge-eating disorder] -even just a little, can be a big problem. When food and weight begin to consume your life, joy is often what gets cut out to make room for all of that obsessing.” 

The “almost” eating disorder is dangerous because if it goes undetected and unchecked, it puts us at a serious risk for developing a full-blown eating disorder. 

When in doubt, seek help.

There is no certain weight loss expectation or weight limit.

There is no certain physical appearance or body shape.

There is no certain gender, race, religion, or nationality.

If your relationship with food, your body, and your exercise routine is disturbing your well-being, on whatever level that may be, you deserve help. Coming from someone who did, don’t wait to seek help. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.




2 thoughts on “The "Almost" Eating Disorder

  1. yes! this is so relatable! for a long time i knew i had a problem but my therapist and psychiatrist did not ever label it “eating disorder”. this fueled my problem and only made me want to lose more weight, restrict more, and use more of other behaviors. eventually i got to a point where, if i didn’t get help for my eating disorder that my therapist and psychiatrist (i assume, i was never told exactly who) were threatening to stop seeing me. this is beyond frustrating. i can also relate to the fact that i have never met the weight criteria for anorexia leaving me at a place where my mindset is “i’m not sick enough” or “i’m a fake anorexic”. this also has fueled the eating disorder immensely. anyways, thank you for our words and passion to educate others, i really appreciate it!


  2. Thank you, Emily, for your bravery. Very well-written. I’m sorry you were given bad advice when you sought answers. There is so much misinformation out there. So proud of you. Prayers for continued success.


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