How would you know if someone you loved had signs of an Eating Disorder?

When you think about eating disorders do you only think about celebrities like; Mary-Kate Olsen, Karen Carpenter, Jane Fonda, or Paula Abdul?  Regrettably, many people do, they don’t really know or believe/understand how rampant this problem has become.  How familiar are you when it comes to the topic of eating disorders?  Did you know that eating disorders do not just affect girls, guys can develop them too?  According to the Eating Disorders Statistics on Anorexia, Bulimia, and Binge Eating Disorders, between 5% and 10% of girls and women and an estimated 1 million boys and men suffer with some form of an eating disorder.   Unfortunately we are living in a time where how you look and what you wear often defines who you are in the eyes of everyday society. 

As I sit in my counseling office day after day working with young men and young women, I see so many kids that have major body image problems.  The pressure that adolescents (and adult for that matter) face today surrounding this subject is just incredible.   The scary thing is seeing and hearing what they are willing to do to their bodies to get them to where think they want them to be.  They are willing to starve themselves, purge themselves, take laxatives, excessively exercise, and do many other self destructive things.  As the child begins to move toward the eating disorder, they lose objectivity and in the case of anorexia and bulimia they find it harder and harder to find “the perfect weight”.  The anorexic believes that if they can only lose just a few more pounds, then they will stop their destructive patterns and be happy with their weight.  This very rarely happens.  The eating disorder at some point (depending on how deep into they get) takes over.  The very thing that the child believed would give them the life and the body that they want can and will eventually take the very life that they have.  Not everyone who develops an eating disorder will die, but on many levels as they allow the eating disorder to grow and take over more of their thoughts and behaviors, they give up on life.  It is a sort of death, their life very quickly getting filled up with thoughts and actions all motivated by food and control.   Most times eating disorders are not issues that are openly talked about, with them usually comes shame, embarrassment, and deceptions.  There is hope and help for people with eating disorders, there are many local counselors who specialize in working with eating disorders and body image disorders.  The key for parents and or friends is to take notice and recognize if a friend or loved one is exhibiting warning signs.  Pursue your loved ones if you are seeing these things going on.

Common warning signs of Anorexia:

·        A person suffering from anorexia is thin and keeps getting thinner. A person with anorexia may end up losing 15% or more of his/her ideal body weight.

·        A person with anorexia continues to diet or restrict foods even though he/she is not overweight.

·        Anorexia creates a distorted body image—a person with anorexia feels fat even when he/she is thin or underweight.

·        A person with anorexia is preoccupied with food, calories, nutrition, or cooking.

·        A person suffering from anorexia will deny that he/she is hungry.

·        A person with anorexia will tend to exercise obsessively.

·        Anorexia may cause a person to complain about feeling bloated or nauseated even when he/she eats normal—or less than normal—amounts of food.

·        A person with anorexia may weighs himself/herself with abnormal frequency.

·        Loss of hair or thinning hair may indicate anorexia.

·        A person suffering from anorexia may feel cold even though the temperature is normal or only slightly cool.

·        A person with anorexia may stop menstruating.


Common warning signs of Bulimia:

·        A person suffering from bulimia engages in binge eating and cannot voluntarily stop.

·        A person with bulimia uses the bathroom frequently after meals.

·        A person with bulimia reacts to emotional stress by overeating.

·        Menstrual irregularities can be a sign of bulimia.

·        Swollen glands can be a sign of bulimia.

·        A person with bulimia experiences frequent fluctuations in weight.

·        A person suffering from bulimia cannot voluntarily stop eating.

·        A person with bulimia is obsessively concerned with their weight.

·        A person suffering from bulimia attempts to adhere to diets, but generally fails.

·        Guilt or shame about eating is a sign of bulimia.

·        A person suffering from bulimia feels out of control.

·        Depressive moods can be a sign of bulimia


Common Binge Eating warning signs:

·        Eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry is a sign of compulsive overeating.

·        Eating much more rapidly than normal is a sign of compulsive overeating.

·        Eating until the point of feeling uncomfortably full is a sign of compulsive overeating.

·        A person with compulsive overeating disorder may often eat alone because of shame or embarrassment.

·        A person with compulsive overeating disorder has feelings of depression, disgust, or guilt after eating.

·        A person with compulsive overeating disorder has a history of marked weight fluctuations.


Jessica M. Gilstrap, LMHC <>Heartspoken Counseling Inc. <> 1850 Lee Rd. Winter Park, Fl 32789 <> 407-647-3900



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