Wellness Culture Endorses 4 Eating Disorder Behaviors

October 30, 2019 Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

Eating disorder recovery is arduous enough on its own, but add in the harmful reality that some eating disorder behaviors are endorsed by wellness culture, and healing from this issue can seem downright impossible at times.

The health and fitness industry generates more than $80 billion U.S. dollars in revenue each year,1 but in order for this corporate machine to yield such a massive profit, it relies on both women and men to perceive their bodies as inadequate or in need of enhancement. Moreover, external pressures from certain fitness accounts on social media can produce a "highlight reel" effect to convince people they are not in shape because their daily routines do not include juice cleanses, two-hour exercise sessions, marathon training, or plant-based diets. Below are four eating disorder behaviors endorsed by wellness culture—and how to spot them in order to maintain your eating disorder recovery.     

Eating Disorder Behaviors that Wellness Culture Endorses

While at first glance, these health and fitness trends might appear innocuous—or even beneficial to achieve certain wellness goals—they can also promote unrealistic and detrimental body image standards which could escalate into disordered eating behaviors.  

  1. Intermittent fasting: This is a fluctuation between defined periods of eating and not eating which proponents of the diet claim will boost energy, focus, and a healthy weight. However, intermittent fasting can lead to extreme food rituals such as caloric restriction, binge cycles, or a preoccupation with "clean eating." These behaviors can result in malnourishment, fatigue, weakness, and decreased concentration, among other physical and mental side effects that defeat the touted purpose of intermittent fasting.2
  2. Elimination diets: This is the removal of certain ingredients or sometimes entire food groups from one's daily intake in order to minimize the symptoms of an illness or food intolerance. Some people actually do require elimination diets for a specific health reason, but the choice to be "gluten-free" without a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis, wheat allergy, dermatitis, or celiac disease, for example, can lead to the demonization of gluten and a subsequent fear of eating any foods that contain this ingredient.3
  3. Counting macros: This is a method of dieting that tracks macronutrient consumption—fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. But the issue with counting macros is it overlooks the importance of micronutrients—vitamins and minerals—in a balanced diet. While this might initially seem to be an improvement from counting calories, macro tracking can still cause a mental obsession because it teaches people to measure out their portions, restrict the foods they are "allowed" to consume, and ignore cues around hunger or fullness.4    
  4. Strong, not skinny: This is a movement on social media which aims to promote strength and athleticism over thinness as the mainstream body standard. However, this emphasis on visibly toned muscles such as powerful arms, lean thighs, and sculpted abdominals continues to bolster a dangerous illusion that health is based on physical appearance. The "strong, not skinny" ideal does not create inclusion for all kinds of body compositions, and it can demand excessive amounts of training to maintain.5     


  1. Gough, C., "Health and Fitness Clubs: Statistics and Facts." Statista, August 2, 2019.
  2. Bendix, A., "8 Signs Your Intermittent Fasting Diet has Become Unsafe or Unhealthy." Business Insider, July 26, 2019.
  3. Freuman, T., "When Elimination Diets Backfire." U.S. News and World Report, April 14, 2014. 
  4. Hayim, L., "Here's Why the IIFYM Diet is Dangerous, According to a Registered Dietitian." Spoon University, Accessed October 29, 2019.
  5. Papathomas, A., "'Strong Is the New Skinny' Isn't as Empowering as It Sounds." Sydney Morning Herald, January 8, 2019.

APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2019, October 30). Wellness Culture Endorses 4 Eating Disorder Behaviors, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

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