Diets can lead to eating disorder behaviors
Published On: Jan 9, 2019|Categories: Nutrition & Health|

Unfortunately, there tends to be a variety of links between restrictive diet trends versus eating disorders. But, that being said, not every diet turns into an eating disorder, and not every eating disorder is the result of a diet gone wrong.

Eating disorders versus dieting

We’re not here to declare that all diets are bad; what we do want to encourage is prudence and balance.

When it comes to diets versus eating disorders, the difference lies in the intention – is weight loss being sought after for the sake of altering body image, or is the intention behind the “diet” (we prefer to call it healthy eating) to return to a healthy weight for the sake of overall health? Is exercise being used as a means of punishing the body versus a means of strengthening the body?

These questions are important to ask when examining eating disorders versus healthy, rightly ordered diet choices.

Seeking health versus weight loss

Allow us to let you in on a secret – when you eat a balanced diet, your body will find and maintain a healthy weight. It’s honestly as simple as that. Unfortunately, many things get in the way of simply eating a balanced diet, such as vacations, meals on the go, a busy schedule or simply being too tired to cook.

So what to do?

Many chose to diet as a means of losing weight, but then return to old eating habits after the diet’s conclusion, only to fall back into a repeated pattern of dissatisfaction with one’s eating choices/body image, etc. that results in seeking out another diet. Not only is this unhealthy for the body, it’s unhealthy for the mind.

Therefore, in order to avoid the circular, unhealthy dieting trends, practicing balance when it comes to exercise, food choices and nutritional mindset can positively impact your mental and physical health and avoid the risk of developing disordered eating in general.


Healthy: Exercise is meant to be used as a way to improve physical health, muscle and cardiovascular strength and overall stamina. While it can result in changes in appearance through weight loss and muscle tone, exercise should be completed with the intention of boosting physical and mental health, not solely the intention of changing physical appearance.

After all, not all exercise does result in weight loss if your body is already at a healthy, stable weight. This shouldn’t be seen as a failure, but as a successful maintenance of physical health.

Unhealthy: Some people exercise mainly with cardio exercises in the belief that it will speed up weight loss through burning calories.  But high intensity cardio activities coupled with an empty stomach or diminished nutrient supply can lead to serious health risks including fainting and extreme fatigue.

Additionally, the mentality of using exercise as a form of punishment or compensation for eating something unhealthy is a disordered view of exercise that can lead to overexercising and over-exhaustion.

Healthy eating

Healthy: Healthy eating may include limiting or removing certain foods in order to feel better physically and mentally. For example, people may choose to limit the amount of gluten or dairy they consume because these ingredients cause stomach aches or overall feelings of illness. This is a healthy choice because these people are in tune with what does and does not benefit them physically.

A healthy diet includes well-balanced meals comprised of protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats, like avocados and nuts.

Unhealthy: Unhealthy diets tend towards the extreme by either completely eliminating foods or restricting food intake to an unhealthy and unrealistic amount.  Eliminating certain food groups is likely to cause nutrient deficiencies resulting in side effects like low energy and fatigue. For example, someone trying to lose weight by only eating vegetables for two weeks will experience a lack of energy because they are no longer taking in adequate amounts of protein or carbohydrates.

Dieting can lead to the belief in “good” and “bad” foods, which further promotes a sense of failure when you choose to eat a “bad” food. There’s no such thing – of course you shouldn’t eat highly processed fast foods for every meal, but eating french fries or ice cream occasionally in no way implies failure, nor should it instill guilt. After all, we’re striving for balance here, not perfection.


Healthy: A healthy mindset surrounding exercise and eating includes having attainable goals in mind.  Setting goals gives you something direct to work towards, and once you reach your goals, you feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment and can accordingly adapt your exercise and eating routines to maintain these results.

Also, a healthy mindset is flexible and allows for changes in your schedule or routine. For example, people with a healthy perspective on eating habits and exercise routines will not miss a family event because it interferes with their workout, nor will they decline lunch plans with a friend because it’s not fully in line with their meal plan.

Unhealthy: An unhealthy mindset surrounding exercise and diet is very rigid and refuses to leave room for any change in plans. It centers around absolute thinking, exercise as a form of punishment and food choices as non-negotiable.  It places judgement on how you exercise and how often, and whether what you eat is “good” or “bad.”

Not only is this mindset unhealthy, it’s exhausting and can turn exercise and mealtime into a stressful event rather than a nourishing one focused on self-care.

Learn to balance your routines

Exercise and mealtimes should not be stressful; in fact, they should be a time when you can put some healthy care and attention into giving your body what it needs to thrive, whether that’s vitamins and minerals to boost your immune system, proteins to strengthen your muscles or probiotics to revitalize your gut. For this reason, it’s important to be aware of potentially unhealthy diet trends and instead focus on what’s best for you, your mental health and your physical stamina.

For more information on crafting a healthy lifestyle for yourself, reach out to Seeds of Hope at 610-644-6464 today. Our counselors are available to answer all your questions and set you back on the path of health and mental wellness in no time.

Intermittent fasting can lead to disordered eatingHow Intermittent Fasting Can Lead to an Eating Disorder
February is National Eating Disorders Awareness Month7 Activities to Promote National Eating Disorders Awareness Month