Eating disorders are well known, but aren’t very well understood. Most people believe that eating disorders exist only in young females who want to become as thin as possible. The sad reality is that eating disorders affect people of all genders, ages and sizes.
Even worse, eating disorders generally go undiagnosed outside of the prototypical cases of anorexia and bulimia. Men and obese people who suffer from eating disorders are frequently not diagnosed and go on to lead unhealthy — and unhappy — lives as a result. Even in those cases that seem textbook, it can be tough to diagnose someone, in large part due to secrecy and individuals not wanting anyone to find out about their conditions.
The good news is, there are plenty of warning signs that can help you determine if you or someone you know has an eating disorder. Here are some of the more common signs you may see.
As people with eating disorders become unhappier, they may decide to give up on themselves. This is especially true of over eaters and binge eaters, who aren’t able to identify or defeat their emotional connections with food. As they eat to hide their feelings, they become even more disillusioned with themselves, putting in only a minimal effort to look presentable in public.
The inability to feel satisfied with one’s body and diet can lead to an overall sense of despair and depression. This is because the eating disorder may be linked to a childhood incident, bullying at school or another traumatic moment earlier in life. It’s very hard for people with eating disorders to prevent their issues with food from spilling into other areas of their lives.
A food ritual is an extension of emotional eating. When someone partakes in a food ritual, they usually do so alone and with bad food so that they can close out the rest of the world and enjoy their meal in peace. While it’s not uncommon to desire tranquility during a meal, the reluctance to eat outside of these rituals is often indicative of disordered eating.
Emotional eating is something most people experience, but eating excessively to fulfill emotional needs is a sign that an eating disorder is present. Food may give people feelings of control and security, which leads these individuals to indulge in unhealthy food when they’re feeling stressed.
Those who suffer from eating disorders may not be entirely truthful with people who ask about their diets. This includes downplaying the measures they’ve taken to lose weight; it also means not talking about binges that were done in private.
People with eating disorders often do achieve their primary goal of losing weight, but they do so at a cost. A gaunt appearance, a fatigued look and the loss of hair are just a few of the physical consequences of achieving weight loss through these unconventional means. These are signs of health problems, such as malnutrition, that exist under the surface.
In many cases, there’s nothing wrong with working up a good sweat. However, eating disorders can convince people that they need to work out for hours at a time. Combined with a calorie intake that’s too low, this extreme exercise has serious health risks.
Chewing and spitting isn’t as extreme as purging, but the idea is the same – enjoying the taste of something without taking in the calories. People who do this are likely to be excessively preoccupied with their weight and are likely suffering from an eating disorder.