7 Signs You May Have an Eating Disorder

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When was the last time you’ve eaten? How did it make you feel? Foods provide nutrients that can enable us to be active and healthy. Remember the last time you were hungry, what kind of thoughts were running through your brain?

For some people, eating food causes them to elicit strong feelings of guilt. Continuous intrusive thoughts that come with consuming certain foods is an indicator of an eating disorder. Most people only know the stereotypical signs of having one, so here are 7 ways of how eating disorders appear in day-to-day living.

Disclaimer: Hey, Psych2Go-ers! This is a friendly disclaimer that this article/video is for informative purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Please reach out to a qualified healthcare provider or mental health professional if you are struggling.

1. You are often preoccupied with thoughts of food

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Are you a person that likes to count calories? Do you keep a food diary to keep track of what you’ve eaten? Some people use these methods to create healthy meal plans for their own specific goals, but for others, it consumes their life. Once every aspect of your daily routine is affected by ideas of what you’ve eaten, what to eat next, and what not to eat, then you are most likely creating an unhealthy relationship with food.

If you want to break out of this habit, here are some tips that Chelsey Amer, a registered dietitian, shared:

  • Delete or throw away your calorie counting mechanisms. Whether it’s MyFitnessPal or your own food journal, it’s making you associate your food with numbers, decreasing satiation. Will you be happy monitoring what you eat every day? If it doesn’t sound sustainable, then we suggest it’s time to change it.
  • Get in touch with your hunger cues. How many times do you delay eating because you believe it’s not the right time to eat? If you trust your body’s hunger cues and eat at the right time, then your body will begin to trust you back and help you identify body hunger from mouth hunger. This isn’t easy, but you can do it!
  • Think about what you actually want to eat. Yes, salads are healthy and rich in nutrition, but is it what you really fancy? Satisfaction is the most important part of eating food, so don’t be afraid to grab what you’re really craving. 

2. You exercise excessively

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Exercise is proven to have many benefits for the body and the heart, but why do you exercise? Is it to maintain fitness, lose weight, or burn off the last cupcake you’ve eaten? One clear indicator of an eating disorder is exercising for two or more hours every day. According to Mayoclinic, the recommended adult exercise time is 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. You can try setting a weekly exercise schedule to help you manage your time and make adjustments when necessary. Here is a balanced workout schedule recommended by Shape.

3. You are constantly dieting

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Let’s say you just came back from Thanksgiving dinner at grandma’s house and gained a few pounds, do you immediately diet to lose it? Are you familiar with the terms Keto, Low-carb, and Intermittent fasting?

Think back, how many times have you attempted dieting? Did you succeed?

Oftentimes, a few extra pounds makes us see ourselves bigger than we actually are. Weight fluctuations are normal and it is determined by your daily food and water intake. Those brownies you’ve just eaten won’t make you “fat” or gain weight in the long run. Instead of going straight into crash diets, you can try meal-planning. If this seems too tedious, we recommend you do it little by little. You can start by planning your meals for tomorrow, then the day after that, until it becomes a weekly plan. You can also try incorporating more vegetables and fruits into your daily meal plans. Never take out major food components, but add what you need. Do you feel better after eating vegetables? How about fruits? You can always try setting your meals with foods that make you feel good to maximize satisfaction.

4. You make comments about being fat all the time

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When you look at yourself in the mirror, what thoughts come inside your head? Do you see yourself with a positive outlook or a negative one? Have you tried avoiding mirrors because you’re afraid of looking at yourself? With an eating disorder, you are always setting yourself up to fail. This means that your physical appearance is always registered bad no matter what you look like. This tends to happen because your brain is wired in a way that says if you have a thinner body, then you will have a better life.

According to Jacqueline Andriakos, Health Director at Women’s Health Magazine, you can try identifying your negative body ideas and replacing them with accurate and forgiving affirmations. Attempt staying away from silent fat talk habits like sucking in your belly or pinching places you feel unconfident about. Self-love is not a quick process. It requires effort and patience, so please don’t feel alone. You can always reach out to your friends or a medical professional to help you gain a better outlook of yourself.

5. You hoard food in secret places

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When you get stressed, do you immediately reach for the secret stash of chocolates hidden inside your drawer? Do you know why? Sometimes, the guilt and embarrassment that comes with storing a large amount of food is too much that you choose to just hide it and keep it a secret. It causes fewer questions that way, right? According to Dr. Durvasula, Ph.D., It is your way of exerting control over food for the later purpose of bingeing it. If you are dealing with this type of behavior or know someone who does this, please always remember that assistance is available. You may work with an eating disorder specialist to get treatment on how to overcome these tendencies.

6. You wear baggy clothes to hide your body

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How many baggy clothes do you own? Is it a personal preference, or is it a way to hide the “flaws” you see in your body? This occurs when there is a visible change in yourself that you don’t want others to see such as dramatic weight loss or weight gain in a short period. A method of improving this behavior is by changing your wardrobe one step at a time. You can start by wearing a simple shirt that’s not too loose or too thin. Once you feel better about it, then you can move on to wearing shorts, skirts, and sleeveless tops until you’re comfortable. Don’t worry, you’re going to rock it!

7. You skip meals or eat in very small portions

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Do you eat three meals a day? When you eat, do you aim for satiation or are you still kind of hungry by the time you’re done? Sometimes, do you skip a meal because you think you’ve eaten too much for the meal before that? A viable method of helping to overcome skipping meals is meal-planning. According to WebMD, each meal should be a healthy balance of vegetables, grain, and protein. A solid day-to-day plan of meals composed of whole foods and vegetables can assist you to become more relaxed and comfortable with eating.

We hope we were able to help you with identifying eating disorders. Do any of these apply to you? Please let us know your experiences. Don’t hesitate to share this with other people who you think might be struggling with an eating disorder or just need to be informed. If you want to know more about this topic, here’s what we recommend: Self Care Tips For Eating Disorders Recovery, Six Things You Can Relate to if You Have an Eating Disorder, Five Myths About Eating Disorders, and Nine Things People Don’t Tell You About Eating Disorders.

References:

Amer, C. (2020, September 20). How to Stop Counting Calories Obsessively (& what to do instead!). chelseyamernutrition. Retrieved June 14, 2021, from https://chelseyamernutrition.com/how-to-stop-counting-calories/

Andriakos, J. (2017, February 16). How to Stop Fat-Shaming Yourself. health. Retrieved June 14, 2021, from https://www.health.com/mind-body/stop-negative-body-talk

Bhandari, S. (2020, September 11). Understanding Anorexia — the Basics. WebMD. Retrieved May 23, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/eating-disorders/anorexia-nervosa/understanding-anorexia-basics

Durvasula, R. (n.d.). Why would someone hoard food? sharecare. Retrieved May 23, 2021, from https://www.sharecare.com/health/mental-disorders/why-would-someone-hoard-food

FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS. (2004). TOPIC 1. WHY WE NEED TO EAT WELL. FAMILY NUTRITION GUIDE. Retrieved May 23, 2021, from http://www.fao.org/3/y5740e/y5740e04.htm#:~:text=High%20levels%20of%20’good’%20cholesterol,the%20risk%20of%20heart%20disease.

Gomstyn, A. (n.d.). Food for your mood: How what you eat affects your mental health. aetna. Retrieved May 23, 2021, from https://www.aetna.com/health-guide/food-affects-mental-health.html#:~:text=When%20you%20stick%20to%20a,symptoms%20of%20depression%20and%20anxiety.

Gordon, D. (2008, April 1). UCLA Magazine Deadly Diets: The Warning Signs of Eating Disorders. UCLA. Retrieved May 23, 2021, from http://magazine.ucla.edu/depts/lifesigns/eating-disorders/#:~:text=Secrecy.,from%20being%20discovered%20by%20others.

Karges, C. (2015, June 23). Food Hoarding and Bulimia. eatingdisorderhope. Retrieved June 14, 2021, from https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/blog/food-hoarding-and-bulimia

Laskowski, E. (2019, April 27). How much should the average adult exercise every day? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved May 23, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/exercise/faq-20057916#:~:text=Get%20at%20least%20150%20minutes,provide%20even%20greater%20health%20benefit.

Mayo Clinic. (2018, May 10). Bulimia nervosa. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved May 23, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bulimia/symptoms-causes/syc-20353615

NEDA. (n.d.). BINGE EATING DISORDER. NEDA. Retrieved May 23, 2021, from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/bed

Secrets of Healthy Eating and Portion Control. (n.d.). NOURISH by WebMD. Retrieved May 23, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-serving-sizes#:~:text=Your%20Daily%20Diet&text=Have%20a%20healthy%20balance%20of,or%20low%2Dfat%20dairy%20foods

Shiel Jr., W. C. (n.d.). Medical Definition of Anorexia. MedicineNet. Retrieved May 23, 2021, from https://www.medicinenet.com/anorexia/definition.htm

Silver, N. (2018, July 31). Is Weight Fluctuation Normal? healthline. Retrieved May 23, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/weight-fluctuation#:~:text=Daily%20weight%20fluctuation%20is%20normal,for%20the%20most%20accurate%20results.

WebMD. (2019, September 3). Signs of an Eating Disorder. WebMD. Retrieved May 23, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/eating-disorders/signs-of-eating-disorders

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