Warning Signs of an Eating Disorder

Adrien Paczosa, RD, LD, CEDRD – CEO/President of iLiveWell Nutrition

Understanding eating disorders and warning signs of eating disorders can be overwhelming and sometimes hard for loved ones to recognize. We hope to shed some light on this subject to support everyone who is involved in the recovery process. Keep in mind that recovery takes a team approach of a registered dietitian, therapist and medical doctor/psychologist. Eating disorders are not a phase of adolescence or an expression of vanity; they know no age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or religion, they are a true and very deadly mental health disease that requires early and adequate intervention which leads to the best clinical outcomes.

The number one cause of any eating disorder is unchecked dieting. We strongly encourage anyone wanting to change their eating habits to ALWAYS seek out a registered dietitian to help avoid falling into a dangerous eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and overeating disorders can have numerous combinations of signs, symptoms and causes. Additionally, several other eating and body image disorders are closely related to anorexia and bulimia, including orthorexia, body dysmorphic disorder, and exercise addiction.

Many people who suffer with eating disorders show no outward signs of struggling, and can be experiencing overwhelming internal feelings leading to harmful behaviors. Here is a very short list of behaviors to be mindful that may be cause for concern (note this is a VERY limited list):

  • Fasting and skipping meals regularly
  • Refusing to eat with the family or friends
  • Two skipped menstrual periods in conjunction with weight loss
  • Any binge-eating episodes
  • Any induced vomiting episodes
  • Discovery of diet pills or laxatives
  • Excessive exercise (more than an hour a day) and weight loss
  • Persistent and unremitting refusal to eat non-diet foods
  • Refusing to allow others to prepare foods
  • Extreme calorie counting or portion control (weighing and measuring food amounts)

Diet vs. Eating Disorder

—What is the difference between a diet and an eating disorder? It truly is the relationship a person has with food and how they view themselves. Below is an easy way to tell them a part.

Diet Eating Disorder
losing a little bit of weight in a healthy way trying to make your whole life better through food and eating (or lack of)… life won’t be good until a bit (or a lot) of weight is lost, and there’s no concern for what kind of damage you do to yourself to accomplish this
doing something healthy for yourself seeking approval and acceptance from everyone through negative attention
losing some weight in a healthy way so how you feel on the outside will match how good you already feel on the inside being convinced that your whole self-esteem is hinged on what you weigh and how you look


Getting Help

If you are a loved one may be concerned that an eating disorder is present please seek help. Here is a LINK for a free and anonymous screening. Meeting with a registered dietitian, therapist and medical doctor is key to a successful recovery.