The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) identifies four risk factors for eating disorders:
- Psychological factors: Recovery is not just about eating differently; it’s about looking at your underlying emotions, so that you can begin thinking different and acting differently.
- Interpersonal factors: Eating disorder behaviors can seem easier than facing potential confrontations or disagreements with people. People speak through the food and behaviors when they can’t speak with words.
- Physiological factors: For people with an eating disorder, changing what you’re doing with food is not about applying willpower or self-discipline. Sometimes there are complex biological issues underlying someone’s food behaviors.
- Cultural factors: As you recover from disordered eating, the cultures around you are not necessarily changing. It’s a matter of being able to be present with yourself and finding fulfillment in your vision of recovery, things like being healthy, happy, and comfortable in your body.
Along with these psychological, interpersonal, physiological, and cultural factors, we must also look at a person’s own history of eating behaviors.
We are all naturally drawn to the promise of a quick fix—“Lose or gain X number of pounds in X days.” The pattern of dieting and restricting sets up the body to want and need to replace those nutrients later. Emotionally, it sets you up to want to reward, compensate, or punish yourself by binge eating.
As these cycles repeat themselves over time, they tend to get worse and worse. And as eating crosses the line from casual overeating to an eating disorder, it’s not that you won’t stop; it’s that you can’t stop.