Understanding Your Eating

What behaviours and attitudes describe your current eating?

Read through the following descriptions of phases of The Eating Continuum (The Eating Continuum is a theoretical model based on clinical observation identifying various types of eating. You can download a copy of The Eating Continuum under the ‘Forms/Handouts’ dropdown menu):

Eating Disorders Including Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified and Binge Eating Disorder

  • You spend 75% of the day or more thinking about food, weight and shape.
  • You are defensive of, or secretive about, your eating and compulsive activities.  You notice your eating is very different from how you ate when you were young.  The “eating disorder” and “the self” are difficult to separate and feel as if they are one.
  • You find almost anything can trigger eating disordered thoughts, even a simple “How are you?” is interpreted by the eating disordered part of you as “I am fat and worthless.”
  • Compulsive activities are the norm – exercising to the point of exhaustion or injury, restrictive eating, avoiding certain foods, bingeing and purging. This may also include obsessive cleaning, washing hands, alcohol and drug use, etc…
  • If you are not engaging in your chosen compulsive activities you feel fear and anxiety; your life is structured in an attempt to manage these and other feelings.
  • You either have daily emotional outbursts around food, weight and shape issues or are emotionally shut down and numb to your world.
  • Your efforts to seek control sometimes end in control and sometimes end in chaos.  You may seek control by following routines and structure.
  • You have loved ones expressing concern and putting demands on you; you feel isolated and separate yourself from the people you used to feel close to.
  • Your health is compromised in significant ways.
  • In the early stages you may be in denial about how the illness is affecting your life.

Restrictive Dieting, Restrained Eating, Under Eating, Overeating or Binge Behaviors

  • You spend up to 75% of your day judgmentally thinking about food, eating, weight and shape.
  • Your eating is very different from how you ate when you weren’t concerned about food, weight and shape.  In other words, different from when you last ate normally, ate according to your appetite or before you first  started  dieting.   Some  people  have  had  food,weight  and shape  concerns  for as long as  they can remember.
  • You are able to separate “the disordered eating part” of you from “the self”.  In other words you can see chunks of who you really are when the disordered eating isn’t present.
  • The disordered eating part of you is triggered at times and you are aware enough to manage the triggers some of the time.
  • Your eating is often followed by feelings of guilt, or you feel deprived if you don’t eat.
  • Compulsive activities still feature but you are aware of them and are aiming to manage them.  You may be taking a course of action, other than dieting, to manage the compulsions.
  • Your efforts to seek control sometimes end in control and sometimes end in chaos.  You usually seek control by following routines and structure; this is less overt and obsessive than when eating disorders are present.
  • Emotions may be ‘stuck’ in your physical body.  When they are released through physical activity or bodywork you may re-experience some of the emotions leading to a sense of feeling out of control again.  You will make an effort to manage those emotions in some way.

Normal Eating

  • Less than 10% of your day is spent thinking about food, weight and shape issues. The thinking is based on self-care rather than criticism; it is observational rather than judgmental.
  • Your eating is mostly driven by appetite.
  • You are aware and understand how at times you may try to manage your health (and perhaps your life) by attempting to control your food, weight and shape.
  • You may be conscious of the nutritional values of foods and just as likely you may choose foods based solely on taste with no regard to nutritional value.
  • You may eat regular meals and snacks or you may graze on foods throughout the day depending on your appetite, the availability of food, work schedule, social schedule and other factors.
  • Your eating is not driven by guilt or deprivation.

Conscious-Choice Eating/Deliberate Eating

  • Your eating is driven by appetite, the internal references of hunger and satiety and other internal cues.
  • You make conscious food choices based on nutrition, the life force* of food, and how food impacts your physical body and the planet.
  • Your choices may include not acting on impulses to eat.
  • You make food choices intuitively, independent of other factors such as work schedule and social schedule.
  • Your eating is almost effortless and your food choices do not trigger either the starvation syndrome or the diet-binge cycle.

*In scientific terms this relates, in part, to the enzymatic properties found in food.

Copyright © 2010-2017 by Sue Zbornik, Accredited Practicing Dietitian (Australia). Published at www.findyourhappetite.com

Rights to Reproduce: You may reproduce this page as long as you link to it (if reproduced online), and you include the entire copyright statement. Please let me know you have used it by sending a website link or an electronic copy to sue@findyourhappetite.com.