Eating disorders are probably more common than anyone wants to admit, with over 16% of the population in Australia alone suffering from a potentially fatal eating disorder (National Eating Disorder Collaboration, 2019). Despite what is portrayed in the media, only a very small percentage (1%) actually suffer from anorexia or bulimia, with the vast majority of people with an eating disorder having a diagnosis of Binge Eating Disorder (BED) or Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders (OSFED) (National Eating Disorder Collaboration, 2019). Depending on the nature of the eating disorder, if you are struggling, or have struggled with an eating disorder, you can probably relate to these five things:
1. You are always cold
One of the side effects of under-eating, losing weight quickly and being underweight is that no matter the temperature you are absolutely freezing. Your body is using all of its energy to keep your organs functioning, there is not a lot left over for circulation and maintaining body temperature.
2. You have a love-hate relationship with your scales
If you are anything like me you will be constantly fighting a battle with your scales. You are dying to know that number, and when you do stand on those scales it will be one of two reactions: You will hate the number if it stays the same or goes up, or if the number goes down you will love it, and then hate yourself for loving it. No matter how much you hate the scale dictating your life you can’t bring yourself to throw them out.
3. You are an expert in nutrition
After years of closely studying the nutritional panel on every food you have even considered putting in your mouth, research the composition of food, and going to weekly dietitian appointments, where they provide you with yet more information about what a balanced diet looks like, you know more about nutrition than anyone you know. You can probably even develop a highly nutritious meal plan, individualised for everyone you know.
4. You have no energy
You are physically and emotionally exhausted. You’re not giving your body enough nutrients to function and all your energy is going into keeping you alive, you have nothing left over to actually live.
5. Your hair starts falling out
Yet another impact of poor nutrition is your hair becomes thin and brittle. It starts falling out in clumps when you wash or brush it. On top of this you start to grow a downy hair (lanugo) all over your body, in an attempt to keep you warm.
6. You become really good at lying about what you have or haven’t eaten
As hard and as shameful as it is to admit to lying, a big part of having an eating disorder is the secretive nature. You become really good and lying to your family and friends about what you have been eating, when you last ate and you become a pro at dodging meal times. You also become so good at lying to yourself, it becomes a shock when loved ones call you out.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, please don’t be scared to reach out. There are so many organisations that are willing and able to help you. The following pages provide resources for sufferers of eating disorders and their loved ones:
National Eating Disorders Collaboration (2019). Eating disorders in Australia. Retrieved from https://www.nedc.com.au/eating-disorders/eating-disorders-explained/something/eating-disorders-in-australia/