This week is recognized as National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Sponsored by the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), this awareness week is dedicated to educating the public about eating disorders and body image issues, so they may be effectively recognized and early intervention can take place.
According to the NEDA, 20 million women and 10 million men in the US will experience an eating disorder at some point in their lives. While these disorders are often associated with fashion models who go to great lengths to maintain a rail-thin appearance and fit into impossibly small sample sizes, the fact is that men and women from all walks of life suffer from these mental illnesses.
Whether it’s anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge-eating, these disorders can have significant – even life-threatening – effects on a person’s health. In fact, anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
The following are signs that a person is suffering from an eating disorder. Do you recognize any of these behaviors in someone you love or even yourself?
- Skipping meals
- Making up excuses not to eat
- Strictly limiting your diet to only low-fat and low-calorie foods
- Building rituals around your meals, like having to cut your food in a certain way or needing to be in a certain setting
- Collecting recipes and preparing elaborate meals, but refusing to eat them yourself
- Avoiding social functions that involve food
- Constantly worrying about becoming fat and perceiving yourself as fat despite being a normal weight
- Using various weight-loss supplements and drugs or laxatives
- Eating only in private or secretly
- Hoarding food
- Being pre-occupied with looking in the mirror to assess flaws
- Binging on sweets and high-fat foods
- Wearing baggy or loose clothing
While practicing one or more of these behaviors doesn’t necessarily mean you have an eating disorder, it does at least suggest an unhealthy relationship with food. Further, if you suspect that you may have an eating disorder, it would be prudent to speak to your primary care physician who may refer you to a psychiatrist who specializes in eating disorders.
Have you sought help for an eating disorder? Tell us how your relationship with food has changed below.
Sources: mayoclinic.com and nedawareness.org