Saturday, January 16, 2021

Mood Swings and Eating Disorders

  Why am I so moody?

moody woman

“Everyone in my family says I’m too moody.”


I hear this all the time from many of my clients with eating disorders.  Mood swings are completely normal for everyone but excessive dieting can increase moodiness in all of us.

Fact #1: Guess what?  Restrictive dieting makes us moody

Here’s how it happens.

When you go from a normal diet to cutting back on calories, things within your body begin to change…for the worse.   Our bodies are machines that are built to help us thrive and survive.  When you don’t eat enough, your body sends you signals to tell you there is a problem.

You may notice that your stomach may start making noises; gurgling and rumbling noises.  Your attention and focusing starts to wane.  It’s hard keeping track of what you are doing.  Thoughts of food start to creep into your brain causing you to start having obsessive food thoughts.

When your blood sugar level drops, this causes irritability in most people.  You may begin to snap too quickly when someone asks you a question or gets in your way.  Hunger can also cause tension and aggressive behavior.  You loose patience easily and can no longer tolerate things that used to roll off your back.

Restricting your food intake can lead to the “Big B.”  Excessive dieting can and does lead to  bingeing.  By not eating enough you are setting yourself up for over-eating in a major way.    What happens next is you being to feel guilty, no good, and you feel like a failure.  Then off you go,  another cycle of restricting which will lead to overeating which will lead……to nowhere good.

If you have an eating disorder and you aren’t eating the proper amount of calories that you need, increased irritability is inevitable     Then, if you add in all your fear and anxieties over food, eating, and mix them in with your eating disorder thoughts, this can lead to the ultimate emotional roller-coaster ride.

Fact #2: Following the meal plan made up by your dietitian can decrease your irritability as well as help you recover

A nutritionist or dietitian has been to school and is trained to help you come up with the best meal plan possible for YOU.  She will know the right variety and the portion size that YOUR body needs to have to get better and stay healthy.

Don’t try to come up with your own meal plan or diet.  You’ve already tried that and, because of your eating disorder thoughts, your version of what is “healthy” and what your body needs is skewed and unhealthy.

Understanding what happens to your body and mind when you restrict can help you recover.  Each time you feel like restricting remind yourself of the emotional roller-coaster that you force yourself to ride when you aren’t eating enough.  This can be another important tool to use while on the path towards recovery.


Sharon R Peterson, LCSW-C

Sharon is Founding Director of Eating Disorder Network of Maryland (EDN Maryland) and she has been an outpatient therapist providing individual, family, and group therapy since 1995.  She is also a faculty member for The Institute for Advanced Psychotherapy Training & Education, Inc (IAPTE) and teaches CEU classes for professionals about eating disorders and other mental health issues. ,

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