With eating disorder awareness week just around the corner, I thought it would be important to discuss some of the warning signs of an eating disorder. Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses that can reveal themselves in not-so-obvious ways. I have created a list of some of the things to look out for to see if you might be struggling with an eating disorder.
You’re obsessed with counting calories
You look at the fat and calorie content of everything and you might even have nutritional information memorized because you’ve been doing this for so long. You set a calorie limit for yourself and won’t allow yourself to go over that amount. You might not even eat something unless you know the exact amount of calories the food has, and you like to keep track of how many calories and fat you’re consuming by recording it.
You eat in secret and avoid social situations that involve food
You are embarrassed to eat in front of others because you think they are judging you for what and how much you’re eating. You may avoid social activities altogether because you either don’t want to let on that you aren’t eating enough, or you’re afraid you’ll lose control over the amount of food you’ll end up eating. Buffets especially can be a nightmare.
You eat a lot all at once
You feel out of control because you can’t stop yourself from eating too much food all in one sitting, even when you’re not hungry. You notice you’re not even enjoying the food you’re eating because you are eating it quickly. You have intense feelings of regret, shame, and guilt after eating so much and might even try to compensate for the excessive food intake by skipping meals, exercising, or throwing up.
You weigh yourself constantly
You weigh yourself multiple times a day and base what your next meal will be on how much you weigh. You find the number you see on the scale can really affect your mood and how much you will allow yourself to eat that day.
You cook elaborate meals (for others not yourself)
You obsess over cookbooks and cooking recipes. You enjoy cooking elaborate meals for others but do not eat them yourself and get great satisfaction watching others eat the food you make, almost living vicariously through them.
You freak out if you can’t exercise
Exercising becomes an obsessive ritual. You plan your day around exercising, set exercising goals (i.e., hours you spend at the gym, kilometres you have to run), and become anxious when you miss a day of exercise or aren’t able to reach the exercising goal you had set out to do. To compensate for the missed exercise, you might begin to limit your food intake to account for the fact that you didn’t burn off as many calories as you would have liked that day.
You engage in negative self-talk about your body
You constantly call yourself “fat” and can spend hours in front of a mirror, sizing up every detail about your body and perceived flaw. You have become overly critical of yourself and engage in regular body shaming episodes. This negative self-talk might also be affecting your mood and desire to go out with friends. You isolate yourself and this can intensify the above behaviours!
If you or someone you know might be struggling with an eating disorder, you are not alone and there is help available.