What is an eating problem?

Food plays an important part in our lives, and most of us will spend time thinking about what we eat. Our relationship with food often changes, sometimes we may try to eat more healthily, have cravings, eat too much or lose our appetite. We may find it hard to eat if we’re feeling stressed, or eat comfort food if we feel unhappy. Changing your eating habits every now and again like this is normal, and doesn’t need to worry you.

However, if you aren’t eating a regular balanced diet over a longer period of time, it could start to become a problem for you. Having an eating problem can be very hard to cope with but it’s important to understand that eating problems aren’t just about food. They can be about difficult things in your life and painful feelings, which you may be finding hard to express, face or resolve. Focusing on food can be a way of disguising these problems, even from yourself.

What is the difference between an eating problem and an eating disorder?

  • An eating problem is any relationship with food that you find difficult to maintain
  • An eating disorder is a medical diagnosis based on your eating patterns, and medical tests on your weight, blood, and body mass index (BMI)
  • An eating problem may develop into an eating disorder

“I had issues with my eating when my parents split up. It was the only part of my life I felt like I could control, and I craved that control as everything else spiralled.”

As eating problems are associated with significant changes in body shape and size, you might find that other people focus only on the effect eating problems can have on the body, or that other people only acknowledge an eating problem if your body underwent a noticeable change. As a result, you may feel that other people don’t really understand how complicated things are for you.

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