What’s the difference between an eating disorder and a diet? With one considered a mental disorder and the other normalized as something everyone is doing or trying to do, they may seem an ocean apart.

But the line between an eating disorder and disordered eating is not as clear as you might think.

With thinness as the “beauty ideal,” our society paints weight-loss diets as safe and normal. We believe it’s healthy to strive for a size or weight that’s “right” for us according to a chart. And we end up believing hunger is a bad thing or a sign of failure.

It doesn’t help that diet culture reinforces this belief by treating restriction as healthy (or that it plants this idea in our minds in the first place).

Restricting does not need to have a place in your recovery or your life in any way — in fact, restriction has been near the root of the problem all along.
But if a person has a genetic predisposition to an eating disorder, even casual dieting could be a trigger that leads to an extreme: an eating disorder with life-threatening consequences. The image of this that we see in the media, everywhere from Netflix to Lifetime, is a specific type of person: thin, white, young, middle-class or higher, and most often female.

But this stereotype overshadows a truth we need to hear: Hunger is our body’s way of fighting against dieting and eating disorders.

And when we neglect to consider fat bodies in favor of the stereotype, we create space for eating disorders to flourish unnoticed. When our society sees a certain body size as ideal, it becomes unconcerned with what people do to achieve that ideal.