You may have seen posts on social media this past week about National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. For me, personally, I learned that some people I knew had been silently struggling. I even saw one girl repost a photo that she had originally posted over a year ago saying how she had felt fat in it even though she had been dangerously underweight and how far she had come both mentally and physically since then. I myself have struggled with an eating disorder and I remember seeing that photo the first time and thinking how I should look more like that. While I’m physically better now, I still struggle mentally with my eating disorder and this made me realize I was making myself miserable and unhealthy trying to look like someone who was also just as miserable and unhealthy.
While most posts on social media about this are positive and from a place of recovery, we have to realize that they’re coming from the people that have come far enough in their battle that they feel comfortable sharing their progress, and we might know plenty of people that still struggle in silence. So here are some warning signs that someone you know might have an eating disorder, according to the National Eating Disorders Association:
- Frequent or intense dieting or cutting out entire food categories
While it’s not necessarily unhealthy to go on a diet, it’s a bad sign when someone becomes preoccupied with their diet or is constantly trying new diets. It’s particularly bad when someone cuts out entire food categories like carbohydrates, which the popular but dangerous keto diet requires.
- Not eating in front of others or skipping meals/having smaller portions at meals
People with eating disorders have unhealthy relationships with food, whether it’s used for comfort or if having to eat meals is a stressor in their life. The fact is that food is meant to nourish you. We all need food to live.
- Signs similar to signs of depression or other mental health issues
Eating disorders have similar signs as other mental disorders that you might be able to notice such as not wanting to do activities that they usually enjoy, mood swings, trouble concentrating, or trouble sleeping.
- Intense concern with body or appearance
We all want to look good, after all the saying goes “look good, feel good,” but this is taking it to an extreme level. People with eating disorders can become obsessed with looking good, oftentimes to the point where they will never be satisfied with how they look. I remember what pushed me to recover the most was when I thought about how much time in my life I had wasted worrying about how I look when I could’ve been doing something that really matters.
- Dizziness, fainting, fluctuations with weight, weak muscles, feeling cold often, and other physical factors
There’s a lot of ways an eating disorder will show itself physically that you might at first just brush off. If you’re worried someone you know might have an eating disorder, you can check out the full list of physical symptoms as well as symptoms of specific eating disorders at the National Eating Disorder Association website.
I couldn’t end this post without saying this – there’s no required size or severity to make an eating disorder legitimate. People of any weight can have an eating disorder and just because someone’s eating disorder might not be as bad as someone else’s doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
If you need other resources to help you or a friend here are some hot lines that could help:
National Eating Disorders Association Helpline: 1-800-931-2237
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders: 1-630-577-1330
Overeaters Anonymous: 1-505-891-2664
Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association: 1-617-558-1881