Helping You Understand Your Current Food Patterns
It’s normal to have periods of feeling down about your body image. It’s also normal for your weight to fluctuate and to eat more and less throughout certain periods of the year.
But if you suspect you’re developing an unhealthy relationship with food or have lost or gained a significant amount of weight in a short time, you may have an eating disorder.
Here’s how you can tell the difference between a healthy relationship with food and an eating disorder.
What Is an Eating Disorder?
Eating disorders are more common than you might think. An estimated 9% of Americans are expected to suffer from one at some point throughout their life.
There are many eating disorders, ranging from anorexia and bulimia to binge eating disorders, extremes on both ends of the spectrum. Still, all of these diseases have one thing in common.
An eating disorder is a mental health condition in which you cope with feelings or a poor body image by controlling food. Unhealthy behaviors that point to an eating disorder include eating too much or too little (or both at different times) or being overly concerned with your weight or body shape.
People of any age, gender, and weight can suffer from an eating disorder. Luckily, with adequate treatment, most people recover.
What Are the Most Common Types of Eating Disorders?
Anorexia involves losing weight and avoiding putting it back on through drastic measures such as eating as little as possible, exercising too much, or both.
Bulimia often involves binge eating food or losing control of how much you eat and then vomiting to avoid putting on weight.
Binge Eating Disorder
This disorder involves eating large portions of food in one go, to the point of becoming uncomfortably full.
Signs That You Might Have an Eating Disorder
Excessively Worrying About Your Weight or Body’s Appearance
It’s normal to take note of changes in your weight, but if you find yourself obsessing over changes in your appearance or how much you weigh, this could be a sign that something more serious is at play.
Eating Very Little Food
Purposefully eating as little food as possible for fear of putting on weight is one of the most common symptoms of anorexia nervosa.
Exercising Too Much
Regular exercise is healthy, but exercising excessively is a cause for concern. Exercising for hours a day for weight loss, feeling guilty when you don’t exercise, or exercising to ‘burn off’ food can indicate an eating disorder.
Making Yourself Sick
Making yourself sick after meals to avoid putting on weight or because you feel guilty about what you ate is the most common symptom of bulimia.
Being Secretive About Your Eating Habits
If you avoid eating in front of others so they don’t see how little you’re eating or you don’t feel pressure to eat, this could mean you have an eating disorder. Keep note of how you feel when you eat around others.
Regularly Eating Past Fullness
A key indication of a binge eating disorder is eating past the feeling of being comfortably full. We all overindulge a little sometimes, but if this is a common occurrence, or you’re binging on unhealthy foods, this might indicate a problem.
You may experience some physical symptoms of an eating disorder, too, especially if you’re losing weight rapidly due to anorexia or bulimia.
Physical symptoms include feeling dizzy, constantly feeling cold, a low BMI, problems with digestion, and numbness in your arms and legs. Girls and women may lose their periods as a result of undereating.
What to Do if You Have an Eating Disorder
Although you may feel shame about your condition, there’s nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed by. Eating disorders are common, affecting millions of people across the globe, and developing one is not your fault.
It is important, however, to seek eating disorder treatment. While you may be reluctant to do so through fear of changing your body, they can seriously affect your long-term mental and physical health and your relationship with food.
If you’re suffering from symptoms that suggest you have an eating disorder, talk to a medical professional about your experiences. They can suggest the correct treatment.
It’s also worth speaking to at least one friend or family member about your experiences, whether a parent, close friend or partner. They’ll be able to support you through the process and provide somebody to talk to when you’re struggling.
You can also contact the NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) by phone, text, or online chat for support.