Most people can tell when someone is struggling with eating too much or not enough, but it takes a trained eye to identify whether there are warning signs of more serious conditions like bulimia or binge eating disorder.
People who have eating disorders may seem preoccupied with their appearance, but this should be expected for individuals with body image issues.
Certain behaviors are indicative of disordered eating though. It’s important to know what they are so you can help anyone that you care about stay safe. Here are some symptoms to look out for.
It’s totally normal to feel nervous before a big event — graduation, job interview, date night — butfor someone who seems obsessed with how they look, these changes could mean something more.
Seek a therapist
If you are experiencing compulsive eating or purging, talk to someone. It’s important to see a professional so that you can work through your feelings and get help for your disorder.
Therapy is a good way to address mental health issues like anxiety and depression, as well as eating disorders. For some people, talking about their worries in a safe space with a trained practitioner helps them feel more able to deal with these challenges.
A trained therapy provider will ask you to tell your story of how you’re feeling and may ask you questions about why you think you have an ED. This can be very helpful in getting appropriate treatment.
Your therapist will also do activities with you, ask you about things you’ve done, and give you feedback. They may suggest ways to change strategies or approaches to improve your mood or weight loss.
Speak with a friend
It is important to realize that there are many people out there who have similar experiences as you. Talking about your eating habits or your feelings related to weight can help you understand yourself and your body more.
Having someone watch your diet, workout routine, and exercise session may be a good way to see how you’re doing. You could also talk to your friends about how they feel about your size or what kind of attention you get from men due to your shape.
It’s possible to develop anorexia or bulimia in combination with other factors, like family history or genetics.
Some symptoms include mood changes, activity level changes, preoccupation with food and/or exercise, going through large amounts of food quickly, feeling tired after eating, skipping meals, and ignoring social invitations because of your appearance.
Look at your food intake
It is important to know what kind of foods you are ingesting for health. If however, you notice that your eating habits have changed, then it may be time to look closer into whether or not you have an eating disorder.
People with bulimia often eat very quickly, leaving little time to feel satiated. They may also eat small portions of food, take long intervals between meals, and/or eat bland foods to make themselves feel better.
Some people who suffer from binge-eating disorders will eat large amounts of food in a short amount of time without feeling full. This can sometimes lead to obesity due to over consumption of calories.
There are some physical symptoms of eating disorders as well. These include weight loss despite adequate nutrition and exercise, changes in hair growth and color, dry skin and mouth, fatigue, aches and pains, trouble sleeping, irritability, and more.
Do you lose weight when you eat?
Another way to identify if you have an eating disorder is by looking at how you feel about your body. If you make frequent references to your skin, hands, or feet being too fat, then it may be time to look into that little voice in your head that tells you every day about how bad you are as a person.
This mental health condition can sometimes go unnoticed because people who suffer from it often try to hide it. It usually starts with normal things like feelings of self-consciousness or worries about what shape their body will take.
Then they’ll begin to notice other things like mood changes, irritability, and trouble sleeping. All these symptoms can easily get overlooked unless someone notices them directly.
People with compulsive disorders usually hurt themselves (by taking excessive amounts of pills, for example) to distract themselves from their thoughts. This could include exercise, self-harm, or both.
Do you exercise a lot?
A large part of eating disorder diagnoses is how much activity people do. The more time you spend exercising, the higher chance you have of being diagnosed with either binge eating or purging. Both of these behaviors are ways to control your weight.
Withbinge eating, you eat disproportionately many calories compared to what you burn off through exercise. This can be in the form of foods that you’re hungry for and don’t want to pass up, or snacks that you’ll save until later.
Purging typically involves taking laxatives, vomiting, or using diuretics (liquids) to lose weight. Some people also self-inject insulin or take steroids to drop their body temperature so they think they will waste away and stop feeding themselves.
Both of these activities can cause long term health problems like digestive issues, shortness of breath, and heart conditions.
Do you try to hide your weight?
A lot of people who have eating disorders also feel that they need to make sure everyone around them knows how thin they look or even pretends to be thinner than they really are. This is sometimes called “tattle-tale” body image, and it can often contribute to more bullying and negative comments about their appearance.
If you notice yourself trying to hold back your food intake or exercise so others will think you don’t like your shape, talk with us about it. We can help you understand what you’re feeling and get some good tips for changing how you relate to diet and fitness.
We all lose weight differently, and there’s no one right way to fit into our favorite clothes. But when you feel as though you shouldn’t because you didn’t do it fast enough or you’re not doing it correctly, that may add to the negativity surrounding overweight and obesity.
It could start a vicious cycle where you spend more time worrying about your size and putting off things you wanted to do because you fear making yourself hungry. Breaking this pattern takes practice, but asking for help can break the silence and create healthier relationships with food and activity.
Disclaimer: The contents of this site are based upon expert opinion, research, and personal experience. All opinions expressed here are solely those of the author(s) and should not be construed as medical advice, nor does the publisher guarantee any specific result.
Do you obsess about your shape or your weight?
There is no clear definition of what constitutes as having an eating disorder, so most professionals agree that it is not just feeling bad about how one looks and wanting to change that look.
It also includes behaviors such as self-starvation, excessive exercise, purging (by taking laxatives or throwing up) or any other method to lose weight, and/or seeking out procedures and treatments that are expensive due to the diet fads and gimmicks that can be used in order to achieve a thinner physique.
Certain symptoms may indicate an eating disorder, but they do not have a 100 percent accuracy rate. People with eating disorders often try to suppress their habits, which makes it hard for others to tell whether they are trying to control themselves or not.
Because of this, there is no definitive test to determine if someone has an eating disorder. However, some things could give people a clue.
Do you eat less or more than usual?
A lot of people think that someone has an eating disorder when they go through their normal food routine, but actually not eating is considered abnormal. This is because having an eating disorder means that the person does not feel hungry.
Alternatively, some people may eat too much depending on what type of diet they are on. People with binge-eating disorders will eat very quickly and heavily before deciding to take a break and then keep going until they feel full!
Both of these behaviors can be symptoms of an eating disorder, so make sure to check out your friends for any changes in behavior.