Are Eating Disorders Related to Bad Habits (part 1)?


Eating disorders are characterized by an abnormal obsession with food and weight. Eating disorders are much more noticed in women than in men due to the fact that men often don’t seek help.

We believe, that for most people, a link exists between habits formed long ago and eating disorders.

An eating disorder is a complex compulsion to eat in a way which disturbs physical, mental, and psychological health. The eating may be excessive (compulsive over-eating); to limited (restricting); may include normal eating punctuated with episodes of purging; may include cycles of binging and purging; or may encompass the ingesting of non-foods.

Being overweight is generally caused by the intake of more calories (by eating) than are expended by the body (by exercise and everyday living). Factors which may contribute to this imbalance include:

* Limited exercise and sedentary lifestyle * Overeating * Genetic predisposition * A high glycemic index diet (i.e. a diet that consists of meals that give high postprandial blood sugar) * Hormone imbalances (e.g. hypothyroidism) * Metabolic disorders, which could be caused by repeated attempts to lose weight by weight cycling * An eating disorder (such as binge eating disorder) * Stress * Insufficient sleep * Psychotropic medications * Smoking cessation

The amount of body fat is regulated to some extent subconsciously by the brain (by controlling caloric intake through appetite and food preferences). Although the exact mechanisms by which this occurs are not entirely known, one common theory suggests that each person may possess an inherent “set point” weight which the brain attempts to maintain, and that this set point may vary for each individual depending on a variety of factors including genetic predisposition, environment, and past experience. A habit link from the past can trigger this set point.

This leads to the conclusion that some individuals may be predisposed to naturally maintaining different body weights than others, and thus it may be easier for some people to avoid being overweight, while others may find it much more difficult. It also suggests, however, that an individual’s set point may be changeable with appropriate environment and conditioning.


A large number of people undergo some form of treatment to attempt to reduce their weight, usually either in an attempt to improve their health, to improve their lifestyle, or for cosmetic reasons. The generally recommended treatment for being overweight is a modified or controlled diet in conjunction with increased exercise. For those who are obese rather than overweight, more intensive therapies such as drugs or surgery are sometimes used.

Studies suggest that reducing calorie intake by itself (dieting) may have short-term effects but does not lead to long-term weight loss, and can often result in gaining back all of the lost weight and more in the longer term. For this reason, it is generally recommended that weight-loss diets not be attempted on their own but instead in combination with increased exercise and long-term planning and weight management.

Moreover, for all individuals, repeatedly losing weight and then gaining it back (“yo-yo dieting”), is believed to do more harm than good and can be the cause of significant additional health problems.

Is there a underlining issue that may work better than dieting for eating disorders?

Definition: Habit – Noun – Singular

1. an action done on a regular basis.

Example: It’s become a habit of mine to have a cup of coffee after dinner.

Let’s take the above example. Many years ago, we started a habit of drinking coffee after dinner. It was a time to relax and talk about the day. Unfortunately, the coffee must have 2 teaspoons of sugar for our tastes. If we wanted 2 cups of coffee that became 4 teaspoons. Every night, day after day, week after week the sugar and calories added up.

Another example was our lunch time at work. The sub sandwich shops figured out years ago that to increase the revenue per customer, a combo meal made a great “up sell”. Unfortunately, the combo meal usually included a large selection of chips. High in fat and questionable nutrition value, chips have become a habit in our eating styles.

How many of you also stop at the local coffee store on the way into work for calorie loaded coffee and maybe a muffin to make you feel full going to work?

Each of these examples OVER TIME becomes a habit. The habit makes your brain crave the food/drink/mood when you stop or alter the routine. We now know that good habits can replace bad habits if the desire is truly there.

Our next article will talk about what steps you must take to change the habits creating a chaotic eating disorder.

copyright by Keith Crovatt