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Eight Signs That Someone May Be Struggling With an Eating Disorder

Victory Bay

Eating disorders can be subtle; unlike mental illnesses such as substance abuse, they cannot be solved by complete abstinence. This is part of what makes eating disorder recovery so tricky: in order to heal, survivors must develop a new relationship with food and their body. An eating disorder is defined by an upset in thoughts, behaviors, and perceptions around food and the body. They are complex and life-threatening illnesses that affect or have affected somebody you love. In fact, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shared shocking statistics in 2019. The global eating disorder prevalence increased from 3.4% to 7.8% between 2000 and 2018. As these statistics continue to rise, it’s essential to understand the signs and symptoms that your loved one may be struggling with an eating disorder

Weight Comments / Body Image:

It’s not uncommon in our society to hear people negatively talk about their bodies, but keep your ears perked for the friend that makes this a focal point of specific conversations. Persistent negative comments such as “I’m so fat” or “I hate my body” may lend themselves to an eating disorder. This can also look like a friend who is obsessed with diets or “clean eating.” A condition known as Orthorexia – a preoccupation with foods seen as “safe” or “healthy” – can be a jump-off to disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating.

Excessive Exercise:

This can be a tough one to define. We all have friends who love to exercise to release stress, move their body, and help with mood. There’s nothing wrong with exercise; it’s when it crosses the line from self-care to obsession that it becomes a problem. Two things that are easy to spot are if your loved one becomes very anxious or upset if a workout gets skipped or if they push themselves to exercise even when injured or sick.

Meal Prep or Cooking Meals for Others:

A preoccupation with cooking, recipes, and cookbooks can work to enhance eating disorders. This applies to both anorexia and binge eating disorders. This can look like eating separate meals prepared alone alongside the family or even cooking and baking elaborate things for others. Part of this may be a distraction technique to not eat the prepared meal, or it may be a way to fully participate in binge eating without suspicion. This is also known as vicariously “eating through others.

Disappearance of Food:

This is a tell-tale sign of binge eating disorder. If you find that you’ve gone grocery shopping and food seems to disappear as soon as it’s been purchased, there may be someone in your household participating in binge eating. Shame is a big component of binge eating, so it’s likely the person engaging in these behaviors is doing it behind closed doors.

Food Control and Eating Rituals:

This behavior can easily fall under the radar and be categorized as quirky. It includes eating with the same dishes and utensils or cutting and ripping food into smaller pieces before starting to eat. These symptoms mirror what looks like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (which has high comorbidity with eating disorders) but serve as their ritual for ensuring food is ingested under strict control. They serve as both a way to avoid eating while satisfying the obsession nature that occurs with anorexia.

Odd Behaviors Before, During, and After Meals:

Using the bathroom or showering before and after meals, eating limited amounts of food in public, or refusing to eat in public can all point toward an eating disorder. Bathroom usage may indicate bulimia, while a fear of eating in public may be caused by the thought that others are judging you while you eat. The latter can be associated with anorexia and binge eating disorder, which operate out of a place of shame and control.

Mood Changes:

]If your loved one has started to show signs of mood fluctuation, isolation, or a reduction in social events, this could be because of an eating disorder. Not only do variations in nutrition affect the quality of mood, but the control exercised regarding food may build a phobia around social settings.

Fluctuations in Energy:

Nutrition affects energy levels significantly. Wild volatility in energy is not uncommon when engaged in an eating disorder. Signs like prolonged fatigue and low energy, or the opposite, near-superhuman energy to take on all the activities, can be a warning. Be mindful of how this could present to your loved ones.

As stated previously, these signs are subtle and require attention. If you suspect a loved one may be struggling with an eating disorder, use this list to help, you gauge the intervention needed. Multiple eating disorder treatment centers and clinics exist to aid your loved ones in rebuilding their relationship with their body and food. Eating disorder recovery is real and accessible for anyone willing to reach out for help.

Recovery with Victory Bay Recovery Center

At Victory Bay Recovery Center, our passion and mission are recovery with love and respect. We offer comprehensive Intensive Outpatient (IOP) and Outpatient (OP) addiction treatment programs. With our modern facility in Southern New Jersey and our experienced staff of healthcare professionals, we’re here to help you achieve a new life with a new start in recovery. To learn more about the variety of treatment programs we offer, contact us today by calling 855.239.5099.


Recovery with Victory Bay

At Victory Bay we’re here to help you achieve a new life with a new start in recovery. To learn more about the variety of treatment programs we offer, including mental health, eating disorders, and substance use, contact us today by calling 855.239.5099.