An eating disorder is an illness characterized by maladaptive eating patterns and disordered thoughts, feelings, and behaviors surrounding body weight and shape. It’s not easy to tell if you or someone you know has an eating disorder, but there are some common signs and characteristics that can clue you in. Here’s a look at some of the most common eating disorders and what they look like in people who have them, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and other categories that fall under EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified).
1. Constantly Worrying About Calories and Nutrition
Are you crazy about weighing and measuring every morsel that passes your lips? Monitoring how many calories, fat grams, and carbs you consume is essential for healthy eating. However, if you obsess over such details to the degree that it’s hindering your life—or if friends or family members are worried about your dieting habits—it may be time to reassess your relationship with food. It can also help if you talk with professional eating disorder dietitians who can guide you through your fears and anxieties.
2. Not Feeling Full After a Meal
Feeling hungry after a meal is normal, but feeling hungry just 20 minutes after finishing a meal is a warning sign of an eating disorder. People who eat too little or too much may have eating disorders like anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Eating disorders can put you at risk for serious health complications and even death, so if you suspect that you have one, it’s crucial to get help from your eating disorder dietician as soon as possible.
Failure to feel full after eating enough food is a common symptom of anorexia and bulimia. The disorder can cause people to overeat or undereat to control their weight. It often begins in adolescence, although it can develop later in life. In addition to not feeling full after meals, people with anorexia tend to weigh themselves frequently and restrict calories significantly. They also might fear gaining weight and see themselves as overweight when underweight.
3. Bingeing, Purging, or Starving yourself
These three signs of an eating disorder are generally most common with anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Bulimia is more commonly known as binge purge because people with bulimia tend to engage in both compulsive overeating and compulsively vomiting afterward. Bingeing can include eating all kinds of food, not just sugary or fatty foods. Bingeing/purging/starving can also occur when you exercise compulsively or excessively to diet to maintain a certain weight.
A professional should be able to help you determine whether you have an eating disorder. Treatment depends on what type of eating disorder you have and how severe it is, but it usually involves some combination of psychotherapy and nutritional counseling.
4. Obsessive Exercising
Obsessive eating is a hallmark of many eating disorders, but compulsive exercising is. People with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa often over-exercise to burn off calories and control their weight. While it may seem counterintuitive for excessive exercise when trying to lose weight, many people do it to control their bodies and manage their food intake.
Excessive exercise can also signify that someone has a binge eating disorder, which causes individuals to eat large amounts of food in short periods and then try to get rid of any evidence. For example, if someone eats five cookies in one sitting and then goes for a run for two hours straight, they might have a binge eating disorder.
5. Rigid Adherence to Special Diets
Regarding eating disorders, rigid adherence to a specific diet indicates severely disordered behavior. For example, orthorexia Nervosa (fixation on righteous eating) occurs when someone believes that only eating pure or healthy foods will keep them healthy and protect them from ill-health. Obsession with healthy eating may lead to significant weight loss and nutritional deficiencies.
In some cases, people may also suffer from other psychological conditions. One may adhere to special diets due to obsession with their perceived flaws in appearance. However, a professional eating disorder dietician will help you understand what’s normal and what’s not. It’s essential to be aware of your eating habits to identify any red flags that might indicate a problem.
One way to tell if you have one of these conditions is if your daily life revolves around food. Food has become so vital that it’s changed your daily routine. You may make excuses for missing school or work because you’re sick from overeating or spending hours preparing meals every day. It could be a sign that you need help. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for assistance, as eating disorders are treatable conditions. Remember, eating disorder dieticians can help put your life back on track—and get rid of the unhealthy eating habits!