The Thin Line Between Healthy Eating And Disordered Eating

the thin line

It’s no secret that my relationship with food has not always been the healthiest. Everyday I’m getting a little closer to where I want to be, but it’s something that I have to really put a lot of energy into, and it still causes me a lot of anxiety.

There are some days when I’m able to make really healthy decisions without having to think about it. More and more I am realizing that I actually really enjoy eating healthy, and that’s what I do.

But some days are more difficult. The decision of what I should eat for lunch and how much I should eat for lunch will stress me out to the point that I’m afraid to eat at all, because I don’t want to make the wrong decision.

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve dealt with various forms of Eating Disorders since the age of 15.

I went from bulimia in high school to binge eating in college.At that point I gained over a hundred pounds in a matter of years. Since then, I’ve lost the hundred pounds I gained and at some point fell back into disordered eating.

People always ask me how I lost over a hundred pounds, and I never really know what to say. I THINK I did it by eating healthy and exercising. I know there was a good four years there when I wasn’t participating in my target behaviors. I wasn’t restricting, and I wasn’t doing anything that could qualify as bulimia.

But I still can’t pinpoint the time when that started to change.

What scares is me is that I’m not sure I was ever doing anything that qualified as “healthy.” Even at the beginning of my weight loss journey, when I was eating wholesome food 3 times a day, my mind was still caught up on my size. I didn’t eat healthy to be healthy, I ate healthy to be thin.

I finally think I’m to the point where I understand what foods are good fuel for me, and which ones will leave me feeling lethargic and heavy. I no longer count calories. I don’t log my food. I don’t avoid pizza or sweets, but I try to only indulge when I feel like I’m in a healthy mindset and I know I won’t be weighed down with regret.

But I still want to be healthy eater, and sometimes that feels dangerous to me.

All day long I read headline after headline about the healthiest meals to eat, and I can’t help but feel a little guilty that I had ice cream last night. I know my journey is my own, and I can choose whether or not to read something-but it’s sometimes difficult to avoid.

Co-workers are dieting, bloggers are dieting, friends and family are dieting, and yet I feel like I’m feeding my eating disorder if I choose a salad over pasta. But I also feel like I’m feeding my eating disorder if I choose the pasta, because my eating disorder makes me feel guilty no matter what I choose to eat.

Still, I’m getting there. I feel a lot more confident in where I am right now, compared to probably any time in my history. I may still feel guilt and anxiety around food, but I’m eating and learning to be OK with whatever choice I make. That’s where I need to be right now.

I know most of the people reading this have a much healthier relationship with food than I do. I also know that there are a lot of people out there who struggle with either losing weight or with disordered eating of some variety. To all of you, I just want to say that I hope you remain conscious of the fact that at the end of the day, it’s just food. Your life isn’t going to end if you eat the cake and it’s not going to end if you don’t eat the cake.

Unless your allergic to the cake. Then, definitely don’t eat the cake.

Don’t make your life revolve around your food choices. Eat healthy, because it makes you feel good to eat healthy, but don’t make it an obsession.

Take it from me, it can lead you to a place of agony and a really long confusing road of recovery.



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  • Mwa

    I was thinking of you while I wrote my last post. I realised it could be tricky for you to read. I’m sorry if I caused you grief.
    I have had some issues with eating/body image/etc myself – I still do – and I was trying to get it straight in my mind. I’m still not sure if being healthy or being thin is what I actually deep down want. I want it to be healthy.
    Thank you for this post.

  • SuzLyfe

    I know all too well the thin line between healthy and disordered eating. I revolutionized the way that I ate in high school in the attempt to live a healthier life (especially with my disease) as well as to lose some of the weight from the steroids. Because of the chaos of living with said disease, I started to control my food as well as to subconsciously harbor fears concerning food (because they might actively cause me pain). All of that compounded into a well hidden (both from myself and others) disordered eating pattern that went too far to be healthy. It has taken me a while to get out from under that, but marathon training has really helped!

  • Gretchen Braun

    I really appreciate it when you post about these difficult topics and open up to us readers. Great post! I’m lucky to have never struggled with an eating disorder, and I hope that you’ll be able to keep improving and not have to worry about falling back into old ways. You’ve already made such amazing gains in your life and should be really proud!

  • Diana

    Carissa, this is a wonderful post. I have had issues with food my entire life. There are days when I completely obsess over what I put in my mouth. Going to a birthday party can be agonizing for me. I started therapy in January to finally deal with it (my issue has always been binge eating). I want to be ok with eating or not eating the cake, and not obsess about it. Thank you for this post, it makes me feel better about some of my thought processes.

  • Stacie

    I love your honesty here, Carissa. Although I haven’t walked the same path you have, there are/were definitely times when my view of “healthy” eating was skewed. I like to think that I have a better handle on it now as nothing is really off limits for me. I just try to focus more on watching how much I eat of things because that seems to be where I can get in trouble.

  • Emelia @ Dream Big & Buy the S

    Huge props to you for being honest and telling your story. Each day is a step towards a better future, and I’m sure it’s also a struggle. Keep moving forward and working on yourself, it sounds like you’ve already come a long way. XO!

  • Jenn @ Business, Life & Design

    I’ve thought about this quite a bit, from the binge side, not the counting calories side. Where is the line between enjoying an indulgence and binge eating? I guess there are certain clues, like quantity. There’s a certain all or nothing mindset, like “Well, I had 3 cookies, so I might as well keep going until the taste of sugar sickens me” which definitely contributes. And then there’s secrecy. I rarely feel guilt or shame for my choices, but I know other people will judge me so I’m more moderate in front of other people. But aren’t we all? And people do judge. If you’re thin, they give you side eyes for that salad, and if you’re heavy, then you get polite suggestions that maybe “we” don’t need dessert.

    I think our society makes it difficult to have a healthy relationship with food, because it is so judgemental of different body types and sizes. And because of the prevalence of heavily marketed food that is terrible for you. I think in the end, what you said helps a great deal. Sure I “indulge” far more often and in a much less mentally healthy way than I should, but feeling guilty for it afterwards isn’t going to help. And I’ve made lots of other improvements to my overall health (exercise, improving the quality of non-binge food intake), so while this one thing is still a problem it’s overall impact on my life is steadily diminishing. Dwelling on it will only exacerbate it.

  • Living on Cloud Nine

    So proud of you for sharing your struggles & your heart. So many can relate to this post. I’m so glad you’re in a happy healthy place but I know the internal struggle never really goes away. Thank you for being so raw and honest and I hope you have an amazing day!! Hugs to you!

  • chelsea @ the new wifestyle

    thanks for sharing this post around your experience with food because i think we all struggle with the need to be a ‘certain size.’ a few years ago i started learning what it meant to eat and then FEEL healthy and it’s made a lot of difference. glad you are conscious of staying healthy!

  • Kathy@RealTalk

    thank you for this honest post; a lot of people struggle with eating disorders and i know this makes them feel less alone.

    i’ve always regarded food as fuel; i mean, you wouldn’t keep on putting gas in a car if you’re at full tank or even half tank, right? this may seem silly but i see my body as a high-efficient car – i only give it fuel when the tank is near empty (when i’m hungry).

  • MilitaryWifeandPugLife

    Oh goodness.
    I relate SO much to this post it’s scary. Just know you are not alone. The struggle is daily…it’s so strange that what’s so simple for everyone else (eating) has to be so difficult for us.
    I blame the Virgo in me. Too much of a perfectionist.

  • Ganeeban

    I have some very similar thoughts. I know when I’m being to hard on myself, but I also know how I feel when I eat too indulgently…my self esteem plummets big time. I’m still working on my balance, not regretting choices, body love, and self love. It isn’t easy, and being women makes it that much harder (although men do have it tough too). I also, try to remind myself food is fuel…so that I don’t worry about it all so much. Lately I’ve been catching myself complaining about my weight and body image, so I’m making healthier choices to see if I feel better. It’s always a constant on my mind too… xoxo, ganeeban

  • Kendra Loisel

    You’re so strong for sharing this and I thank you. I battle with food everyday. I’ve never had an eating disorder but I feel consumed by my food choices at every meal. I wish someone could just make me food and I’d eat it because I never know what’s right. I consciously know what’s right but I struggle. Food and society are too overwhelming

  • Carissa

    No grief at all. I think you’re on the right path, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to be healthy! Thanks so much for always reading and commenting. You make my day!

  • Carissa

    I think exercise definitely helps with eating healthy for the right reasons. I know when im exercising, i have to fuel my body and eat enough and good things to keep me going. Thanks for your comment!

  • Kersten

    It is hard, which is funny because it’s not supposed to be, if you think evolutionally… The modern life has made it so difficult! I think you are doing the right thing when you don’t count calories. It’s just too much pressure. The best advice is probably “eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full” but for someone like us with unhealthy eating patterns (in the past or now) it takes a lot of practice. It’s worth it though!

  • Carissa

    Thanks lady! That means a lot! :)

  • Mwa

    I’m glad you don’t find me a pest. :-) I am a bit of a chatterbox online.
    Oh and thanks right back atcha.

  • Melissa The Llama

    THIS is so great!! Food and I have a complicated relationship and now, at 27 I’m finally learning how to be healthy about what I eat and not over eat or not eat at all. I was never diagnosed with any eating disorders… and my heart goes out to you. I love that you can admit this and I’m soo glad you’re finding the happy balance. you’re amazing!

  • Carissa

    I’m sorry you’ve had to go through some stress with food too, but I’m really happy to hear youve been going to therapy. I hope it’s helping! I’m here if you ever want to vent or talk! Thanks so much for your sweet comments.

  • Carissa

    Thank you Stacie! I think everyone has probably struggled with food in one sense or another. Portions are definitely where I get really get off track. I don’t think I have a good sense of when I’m full.

  • Diana

    Sometimes I think to myself, why did I wait so long to try out therapy. It really has been mind opening. I’ve found out so many things about myself which helps me deal with my feelings instead of pushing this down. I may take you up on the venting. You can do the same with me! :)

  • Carissa

    Thanks Emelia! It’s so great to be able to share this stuff! Thanks for the support!

  • Carissa

    Agreed. Our society definitely doesn’t make it easy to have a healthy relationship with food. I know I’m probably not being judged on what I’m eating as much as I think, but I know it happens. I do think that no matter what, we’ve got to lighten up a little about it, i know i do. I don’t want my life to be all about what i eat or how much. It’s really hard, but I think I can get there.

  • Carissa

    Thank you Andrea! Your support means a lot!

  • Carissa

    You definitely can! I love therapy and don’t know how i did without it. Even just having a time of the week when I know i can selfishly share is helpful.

  • Carissa

    Thank you for your comment Chelsea! I definitely am starting to understand the importance of eating healthy to be healthy, but it’s been difficult to get there. Thank you for your support!

  • Carissa

    I think you have the right idea. I’ve been really trying to think of food this way too. It’s fuel. That’s it. Sometimes it can taste good too, but when it comes down to it, it’s just fuel.

  • Carissa

    I hear ya! My thoughts daily are that I just want to eat normally. I just want to be normal. But i think everyone has struggles of some sort.

  • Carissa

    Thanks so much for your comment. It really helps to know that i’m not alone in my struggles. Hugs to you too!

  • Carissa

    Thanks so much Kendra. I totally agree and say all the time that I wish my meals were all planned out for me. It’s so stessful trying to make the “right” decisions.

  • Carissa

    It does take a lot of practice! I’m not sure my body sends the right signals, but i think im getting better at it, Thanks always for your sweet comments!

  • Carissa

    Thanks Melissa! I appreciate your support! FOOD IS HARD!

  • Melissa The Llama

    Food is hard!!! The struggle is real