A Message About the Dangers of Dieting, Disordered Eating, and Eating Disorders

There is a difference between dieting, disordered eating, and an eating disorder. Sometimes dieting can lead to disordered eating and even the development of a clinically diagnosed eating disorder. Learn the dangers of diet culture through one story.

  • Dieting is consciously watching the portion amount and types of foods you eat—usually in response to weight loss or to control the symptoms of a disease condition. You eat when you are hungry but watch what you are eating.
  • Disordered eating includes the use of a restrictive diet and food intake, and cycling between fasting and binge eating—often in response to stress or boredom, according to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA).
  • An eating disorder is a clinical diagnosis—as shown in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) where a person becomes obsessive in their thought about food, weight, and shape to the point that it controls all of their waking hours. They may exercise to excess, purge, and show significant changes in weight the NEDA tells us.

Landry's Story

"You'd think it'd be obvious," Sarah Nicole Landry wrote, referring to the fact that thinness does not equal health. But for her, it wasn't—and for many other women, it isn't, either. And that's exactly the mentality that Landry wants to change.

Landry, the creator of the lifestyle blog The Birds Papaya, took to Instagram to share her message. She posted several photos of her body at different sizes, along with an empowering caption about her journey towards self-love—and the dangers of diet culture.

"I just wish there was a warning," she wrote in her caption. "On every diet ad, I'd ever seen. One that taught me the risks. That allowed me to know what my choices could entail."

Landry went on to explain that while the risks of dieting may sound like a no-brainer, it wasn't always so obvious to see how damaging it can be. ⁣⁣⁣Landry believed that her eating habits at the time were healthy and that the more weight she lost, the healthier she would be.

"It seemed like self-love," she wrote. "It seemed... like my ticket to happiness. When my bones started to show I felt validated. The smaller I got the more I had to document it. My photos were not moments of pride. They were moments of proof. That I was thin."

Sarah Nicole Landry - Instagram

Dieting vs. Eating Disorder

Landry cited data from a NEAD survey that says 35% of "normal dieters become pathological dieters, and of those, 20 to 25% develop eating disorders. These stats reveal a clear link between diet culture and disordered eating.

"It is far too common that eating disorders start off as dieting.⁣⁣⁣ It is a risk," Landry wrote. "And I just wish there'd been a warning. ⁣⁣I just wish we viewed eating disorders and disordered eating with the same seriousness as we do nicotine, drugs, gambling, and alcohol."

Landry decided to share her story so other women can see how the drive to be thin influences mental health.

Finding the Beauty of Self Love

⁣⁣⁣"I want you to know that while I still struggle, I can absolutely say, I feel better than I have in a really long time. Something I expected to feel when I was at my thinnest. But, as it turns out, came when I was willing to really love myself. The action of it. Food. Movement. Mental health," she wrote, adding, "I feel more beautiful and complete than I ever have, and none of it has to do with how I look."

Her message inspired others to share their experiences and cautionary tales of dieting and disordered eating.

"For years as my dieting became a full-blown eating disorder and my 'hacks' became life-threatening, I always told myself I could stop when I wanted to," one woman commented on the post. "Because there was no fucking warning that I was killing my body, I didn't know what to watch for, I was unaware that my 'normal' behavior was becoming very abnormal. So I'm over here trying to be the warning." ⁣⁣⁣

Other women called Landry brave for sharing this message and added how they want to break this cycle for their own children.

"This post is what I've been thinking about a lot," one woman wrote. I told my husband that I can see how dieting, by counting macros, all of that stuff can lead to disordered eating. That's something I will not be an example of for my children."

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