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Digital Subscriptions > Women’s Running > May 2019 - POWER UP! > Disorderedeating Altered images

Disorderedeating Altered images

Running, weight, food and health: the ideal is to have a perfect balance between all these things. But alarmingly, all too frequently this balance can tip in the wrong direction. We uncover the truths about running and disordered eating, and find out what we can do to help us all achieve the right balance

Running is a fantastic way to look after ourselves as part of an all-round healthy lifestyle. But sometimes the balance can swing and we find we’re running for reasons other than for the enjoyment and strength that running brings; running purely to burn calories, running to justify what we eat. It’s easy to develop a negative relationship between running and food. The topic of disordered eating in runners is a sensitive one, but it’s important that we understand it – for our own health, for the health of those around us who may need our support, and to ensure that we’re encouraging the next generation to have a healthy relationship with food and exercise.

Disordered eating

The term ‘disordered eating’ describes a range of eating behaviours including the most commonly known eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. An eating disorder is a psychiatric diagnosis, made by a specialist, when behaviours fit certain criteria. When behaviours don’t align with these criteria, then they may be called disordered eating.

Disordered eating can still be serious, have an effect on physical and mental health and need expert help. Orthorexia is an example of disordered eating not currently classified as a separate eating disorder. Orthorexia is the obsession with eating ‘correctly’; not focusing on the calorific value of foods but on their composition and whether it is perceived as healthy, ‘clean’ or ‘pure’, to an extent that the focus becomes obsessive and harmful.

It’s crucial to know that you can’t tell if someone has an eating disorder by looking at them. Weight can be normal, many underweight people do not have eating disorders and many overweight people do. We should never assume. This means it’s vital that we understand and recognise the different types of eating disorder and the warning signs that might mean we or someone close to us needs support.

Eating disorders

Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity, estimates that 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder. Women make up 75 per cent, with the highest risk being between the age of 12 and 20. Twenty five per cent of eating disorder sufferers are men, though this number may be higher, with men feeling less able to approach a doctor for diagnosis.

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About Women’s Running

In the May issue of Women’s Running, we are fast and FIERCE. We uncover 15 ways that running can make you more powerful, physically and mentally, and we’ve put them to the test. We also investigate the controversial topic of disordered eating and running: what are the warning signs to look out for in ourselves and others, and how we can support people who show symptoms of this harrowing and broad reaching mental illness that is unhappily prevalent in our community. We speak to journalist and author Bella Mackie on how she used running to manage the symptoms of her anxiety - so well, in fact, that she wrote a book about it. And we review tons of kit, including trail backpacks for days off the beaten track, some stunning neutral shoes, and fab all-weather jackets. Plus, we’ve got a training guide for a five-mile race, the ultimate marathon nutrition guide, and a lustworthy compo from Ultra - win three pairs of shoes worth £360!