What is Disordered Eating?

‘Disordered eating’ is a term we typically associate with ill health and unhealthy food habits. If we learn that a friend or colleague has an eating disorder, we subsequently make a number of assumptions. First, that the individual is under weight (or will be in the near future, should their behaviour continue). Second, that the individual’s eating behaviour is very restrictive; that they are (for all intents and purposes) starving themselves. In essence, we create an image of those that are not following healthy, sustainable diets.

Whilst common eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating exist in the UAE as much as in the rest of the world, there is a new disorder that has recently made headlines – ‘orthorexia’.

The term orthorexia describes a syndrome in which the individual is genuinely scared to eat anything that seems even a little unhealthy. Instead, the individuals affected only ever consume (for example) bland, fat-free or zero-carb options. It is said anecdotally that the individual may also experience a strong sense of guilt when craving for unhealthy meals or snacks.

In an interview with Gulf  News, Dr Kiren Sahota of King’s College Hospital London said: “Working in Dubai, I have come across the usual eating disorders that are common in the rest of the world. On an average we get about 1.5 patients per month manifesting symptoms of anorexia, bulimia, binge eating or orthorexia. The last one, orthorexia is yet to be classified as an established disorder. However, worldwide people now report this obsession with health food.”

Sustainable Progress & Sustainable Results

It goes without saying that a health and fitness service, particularly one that takes responsibility for its clients’ nutritional habits, must practice with each clients’ overall health and wellbeing as the priority. At Embody Fitness, “sustainability” is uttered during almost every team meeting and during each client’s Nutrition Consultation. Promoting sustainable diets and guiding our clients’ dietary practice in a sustainable way is our commitment. There are various health and fitness services that produce great results. Our goal is to produce great results that last.


Bob's sustainable diet produced great results.

Understanding Healthy Eating vs. Obsessive Eating

A line of distinction between conscious, focused healthy eating and the behaviour of one who may be obsessed with food must be clearly drawn. At Embody Fitness Dubai, our nutrition team help each client understand a few important considerations when building new dietary habits. These considerations are over and above the client’s individualised dietary programme and are used (among other things) to help ensure the sustainability of their progress.

Rigidly avoiding any food that you deem to be “unhealthy,” such as those containing sugar, preservatives and anything remotely unhealthy or impure, to the point where normal social functioning is impaired, is not necessary.

Feeling anxious about visiting a restaurant with friends, or cancelling social plans because they might involve the consumption of some unhealthy foods, is not necessary. There are many (healthy) ways to address these challenges.

Experiencing guilt after consuming a food or beverage that is not specifically stated on your meal plan, is not necessary. You will, at various times (even within our 12-week transformation programme), be faced with situations that almost demand the consumption of foods that are not strictly ‘healthy’. There will be times where you are to choose the lesser of a number of evils. It’s okay! There are simple ways to mitigate any potential damage caused without the need for guilt.

Finally, spending an excessive proportion of your income on various superfoods and ‘healthy options’ is also not necessary. Whilst it is the case that healthy food often costs more than unhealthy food, you can build a perfectly healthy diet without spending excessive amounts. The small additional investment in great food yields returns with regards to great body composition, great energy levels and great sleep quality.

Taking Control

Mindful eating habits and gaining control of your health are fundamental in achieving great body composition. Whilst there are obvious and serious consequences to poor food choices (and sub-optimal body composition), there are also consequences to taking your healthy diet to the extreme.

Any programme that you choose to follow must be sustainable and allow ample flexibility. Your ability to adhere to your diet in the long-term, and consistently improve your health, is a far greater predictor of its usefulness than how many expensive superfoods it contains! Do not feel guilty about a less-than-perfect food choice or indulging from time to time. You do not need to be perfect to achieve full health and a great body.


Thank you for reading.
To read a similar post, try The Best Diet?