Although eating disorders as defined by the DSM-5 or ICD-10 are not frequently diagnosed, many people engage in eating disordered behaviour without even being aware of it. For instance, dietary restriction is highly prevalent, particularly in the female population of dieters. Dietary restriction occurs when you eat less food than your body actually needs to maintain its weight which results in weight loss.
Dietary restriction can take on many forms including, but not limited to:
- Skipping out an entire meal or snack
- Having meals that do not include all of the food groups (for example, having chicken and vegetable stir-fry with no rice or noodles)
- Missing out whole food groups (for example ‘cutting’ carbs, avoiding fats/oils/spreads, etc)
- Never allowing yourself foods known to be higher in calories (for example takeaway, puddings, sweets, added oils/spreads)
- Eating a limited range of foods
- Eating the same food every day
- Intentionally reducing your caloric intake (this may be gradually or all at once)
- Drinking too much fluid to make yourself feel full
- Drinking too little fluid to avoid a bloating feeling.
Weight management and keeping a healthy functioning metabolism is best achieved and maintained over the long term by eating the amount of calories your body needs (typically between 1800-2200/day for the average healthy adult) and getting it from a balance of healthy foods including lean meats/fish/poultry, legumes (lentils, peas, beans), complex carbohydrates in the form of whole grain foods (such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat or whole grain breads and cereals, oats, bulgur, buckwheat, quinoa, couscous, etc), low fat dairy or calcium fortified soy, fruit (preferably not juice as the goodness of fibre has been removed leaving you with the sugar) and lots of vegetables. It’s also healthy to include small amounts of added fats from unsaturated sources such as non-hydrogenated margarine and vegetable oils like olive, flax, or rapeseed oil.
Too much or too little of any food group is never a good thing. Remember that your body needs glucose from carbohydrate to fuel your muscles and brain, fats to protect your organs, regulate body temperature and cellular metabolism and support your nervous system and protein for muscle and tissue growth and repair. Ignoring any food groups with these important nutrients is robbing your body of what it needs to function optimally. So stop restricting and start enjoying balance!