Eating Disorder Habits Vs Eating Disorder Behaviours

By our Nutritional Therapist, Marissa


Recovering from an eating disorder can seem like one long mountain climb after another.

While this may be so, when it comes to your self-care and eating, sometimes it is the little, discreet (and yet often particularly toxic) things that can hold us back.

Little things, such as: what cutlery you use, how you chop your vegetables or slice your bread, when you eat, when you don’t eat, how often you wash or don’t wash, chewing gum, what shops you like and what shops you don’t like, what cafes you like and which you don’t like, what brands of products your gravitate towards and which you don’t, whether you like to buy in bulk or individual portions and so on…

It is hard to distinguish between an eating disorder habit and an eating disorder behaviour. The line can be very blurred and can change over time. Here’s my attempt to clarify:

An eating disorder behaviour is something you do consciously to be destructive. Some obvious examples are: restricting, counting calories, vomiting, self-harming, cancelling social events to engage in ill behaviour, insisting on eating dinner at 8pm every night, and if your train is delayed then missing dinner entirely, always missing a particular meal or only having a certain food for a certain meal/snack, using water or diet coke to avoid eating, and so on…

A habit is completely unconsciously destructive. Habits sneak into our daily life disguised as something nice or normal.

A habit may be an eating disorder behaviour that you are so used to doing it becomes a part of your daily routine; you do it without thinking about it. For instance, you may have had a rule about eating at a certain time. Over time this rule feels less significant to you, however you still only eat at this time because it is what you are used to. You may tell yourself you enjoy only eating at 8pm, but really it can be crippling.

Other habits may be symbolic of more wider eating disorder issues and present in the little things you do day-to-day. For instance, always using certain cutlery or plates, opting for children-themed food or child-size food, always eating in the same place and buying the same brands, fearing other brands with the same nutritional value, and always cutting your bread or vegetables in the same way.

Habits can be just as harmful as behaviours. They stop you from properly engaging with your life, and trap you from thriving. They are boring, and can be labour intensive and time consuming. They stop you exploring other foods and life in general.

Therefore, it is just as important to identify and talk about sneaky eating disorder habits – no matter how small or silly you think they are. Think what habits have you engaged in today and what you would like to do or feel instead…


Posted in , by The Recover Clinic