Eight Indicators Someone MAY be Experiencing an Eating Disorder
These eight pointers are not, by any stretch, the only factors or behaviours you’ll see being exhibited by someone with an eating disorder.
Indeed, every person with an eating disorder is likely to be displaying their own habits and activities, so don’t wed yourself to the idea that every one of this list must apply, or that these are the only such patterns of behaviour.
They do, however, give you an indication of some of the things you may witness among those battling with an eating disorder – be that in the early or more entrenched stages.
Rigid Exercise Regime (formal and otherwise)
Is the person you’re concerned about becoming increasingly wedded to an ‘unshakeable’ routine around exercise and sport?
Beyond formal workouts and aerobic activity, are they finding other reasons just to add in a few more miles on foot, to walk further, or to stroll for longer?
Eating disorders are often hand in hand with the desire to create calorie deficit through exercise.
Isolation and Withdrawl From Social Activity
Are you noticing that the person you care about is increasingly ‘unavailable’ to attend events or social engagements which they might once have been very happy to partake in?
Are they closing themselves off from the usual social circle you’ve formed?
Are they particularly reluctant to attend events which encompass meals and food-related activity?
Does there always seem to be an excuse as to why they’re just not available?
There’s a high chance that the eating disorder is telling that person that the only relationship it needs, is the one with the disorder.
Preoccupation with Food and Weight Discussion
Sure, we all talk as friends and colleagues about diets from time to time, or the meal we had last night or the food outing we’re planning on having at the weekend.
But when is all that food chat and weight musing becoming a bit more than mere banter?
It’s often noted that people with eating disorders will increasingly talk at length about topics related to food, cooking and weight.
It may be that they’re talking about their food, or just as likely, that of others.
If the dialogue is getting a little too repetitive and no longer seems mere passing remark, you may consider where that’s stemming from and what it’s really telling you.
Cooking, Serving, Hosting – but Eating Little
How lovely that your friend or loved one is always so keen to bake for you, to bring you their latest culinary creation, or wants to serve you more food than you could eat in a week, every time you call over.
But are they also eating? Are they eating with you and seeming to enjoy the food in a sensible and well-adjusted way?
Do you fear that perhaps they’re engaging in plenty of food-prep’ but very little by way of the actually eating?
It could be that they’re always making an excuse that they’re now ‘too full’ or ‘no longer fancy it’ after all that cooking.
Watch for these signs. It’s an obvious link to an eating disorder.
Tearing, Picking and Other Rituals
Do you find yourself spotting that the person you’re concerned about is forever picking at their food?
Perhaps you see them tearing off the tiniest piece of bread on their side plate.
Do they pick off miniscule crumbs from the edge of a cookie, rather than take a good-sized bite?
This behaviour is really indicative of deep-set eating disorder activity.
Their illness is conditioning them to believe they’re greedy and unworthy.
Lack of Joy, Lots of Angst
Whether you’ve known the person for a long time in the past or not, are you very aware that they seem to be short on the ability to ‘enjoy’ life for all its up-sides and opportunities?
Do you constantly find yourself wondering why they seem on-edge, angst-ridden, nervous, and perhaps negative?
Eating disorders play havoc with people in terms of their mental capacity to be calm, rationed and reasoned, but also to experience true joy.
Their self-loathing and nervous energy is likely to mean they simply do not feel able to relax and feel content or at peace as others would.
Baggy Clothes and Abandoned Style
Hiding in huge clothes, or just losing all sense of style and chic.
If you see this happening to your loved one, it could well be that they’re covering up their emaciated body, or falling increasingly out of love with their bodily form.
Either way, they’re probably being gripped by the world of an eating disorder and losing all sense of self-worth and body positivity.
Remember, someone with an eating disorder will also be very likely to be experiencing a great deal of cold, so larger chunkier clothes may be the choice of this person for more practical reasons too!
Physical Functions – Temperature, Hair, Teeth, Lips, Skin
I’ve written before about the fact that we should be careful not to ‘judge’ someone as having an eating disorder based purely on physical features.
With that, I’m particularly talking about being careful not to assess someone on their ‘size’ and build alone.
But there are some physical indicators which you might notice.
You might consider that their hair looks weaker or thinned, or even that patches appear to form at the scalp.
You might see that their teeth look decayed or thinner or tainted.
Their lips may evidence a blue tinge from the cold, and likewise their skin may start to carry a paler or bluer tinge from the lack of nutrients and the continual cold.
These alone aren’t reasons to assume someone has an eating disorder, but collectively, they might help inform your views as to whether you feel that person is in need of help.
- Apr 2019