Learn to Spot Warning Signs of Eating Disorders

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, “at least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder” in the United States.

Eating disorders affect not only the individual with the disorder, but also their families and loved ones. All segments of society are affected by eating disorders: men and women, young and old, rich and poor and people of different ethnicities and gender identities.

What is an Eating Disorder?

Anorexia nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.

Bulimia nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by a compensatory cycle of binge eating followed by self-induced vomiting or other behaviors designed to undo the effects of binge eating.

Binge eating disorder is a type of eating disorder not otherwise specified. It is characterized by recurrent binge eating without the regular use of measures to counter the binge eating.

Behavioral Red Flags

Here are some things that family and friends may notice about someone with an eating disorder:

  • Skipping meals
  • Making excuses for not eating
  • Eating only a select few “safe” foods — usually those low in fat and calories
  • Adopting rigid meal or eating rituals, such as cutting food into tiny pieces or spitting food out after chewing
  • Cooking elaborate meals for others, but refusing to eat them
  • Withdrawing from normal social activities
  • Persistent worry or complaining about being fat
  • A distorted body image, such as complaining about being fat despite being underweight
  • Not wanting to eat in public
  • Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws
  • Wearing baggy or layered clothing
  • Repeatedly eating large amounts of sweet or high-fat foods
  • Use of dietary supplements or herbal products for weight loss

Promote a Positive Body Image

Many children and teens also suffer from body image issues, which can lead to eating disorders. Society places a large focus on celebrities and their bodies, which influence and pressure young people and adults alike to feel like we must look a certain way. Remember that our genetics influence our bone structure, body size, shape and weight differently and uniquely for each person.

Listen to your body and know yourself better. Do everything you can to promote a positive body image and a healthier lifestyle with more nutritious food and regular exercise. Because in the end, it’s about being healthy, rather than a number on a scale or fitting into a certain size or mold. Take care of yourself and you will be happier and healthier for it.

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Photo credit: Katarzyna Bialasiewicz

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