Eating Disorders, Disordered Eating, Dieting – What’s The Difference?

Let’s first discuss the term eating disorder. On it’s own it feels divisive, to those of us that have one and those of us that don’t. In reality, we all eat and have feelings. Any one of us has potential for those two things to get mixed up. 

We think of eating disorders, disordered eating, and dieting like a spectrum with varying levels of severity. Much like a stage 1 cancer diagnosis, we believe all forms of dysfunctional eating are valid and serious. They should be treated as preventatively and swiftly as possible to prevent further progression. 


It is very normalized in our culture and therefore important to call out on it’s own. Dieting is engaging in artificial, unsustainable, quick weight loss, or weight gain. It’s trying all the latest fads, trends, supplements, products, and gadgets in the name of a fix for weight. Dieting is always being on a diet or not, following plans, counting points, and starting to lose trust with yourself and food. You likely feel out of control when you’re not on a diet, feel that you gain weight easily, and think about food more than others. Your relationship with working out is probably also mirrored in this on and off effect. 

Disordered Eating

For a lot of people, dieting progresses into disordered eating. Most of us think this is normal. You have a lot of food rules from past diets. You don’t like your body. You feel guilt and shame about eating. You may have started bingeing and overeating, avoiding foods you don’t feel safe eating. You are more progressively consumed with food thoughts and are always pressuring yourself to get back on track or start the next cycle of dieting. Or you may be very rigid and deep into a routine of overexercising and avoiding foods. These behaviors can easily escalate or fit the criteria for a full blown eating disorder. 

Eating Disorders

Eating issues are clinically definable as the impact life functioning, medical complications, and severe obsession. These issues meet criteria for Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, or Other specified feeding or eating disorder “OSFED” as defined by the DSM-V criteria laid out by the American Psychological Association. Eating disorders are one of the most serious mental illnesses and are developed through genetics, temperament, environment, biological and psychological mechanisms. 

All Food Issues Are Treatable

At Aligned Nutrition, we work with all food issues on any part of the eating spectrum. We believe healing your relationship with food can be a positive experience that increases the freedom you feel in life. Wherever you are on the spectrum, you deserve support and education to help you through the process. Visit our FAQ section to see more about how we can help you.

Aligned Nutrition


Beyond overcoming her own food struggles, Erica is a trusted professional with 10 years of experience helping others realize a life not ruled by food. It takes an expert to personalize solutions and strategies to help you find your path out of obsession to wellness.


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