Eating Disorders: Recognise Subtle Signs
Eating disorders and disordered eating can show different signs and symptoms in people.
Helping people who display some of the following eating disorders signs means observing how they look and how they talk about themselves and offer as much support as possible.
1 Negative Self-Talk
When a friend or family member starts talking about how fat they look or complain about the way the look, pay extra attention to what they say. Being obsessed with body image can be a warning sign of disordered eating.
No amount of assurance will shift the negative thinking about body image.
2 Excessive Exercise
“Exercise anorexia” is a compulsion to exercise – exercising every day and counting how many calories are burnt in each session. Compulsive exercisers feel out of control and panicky if they miss one training session. They will continue exercising even when they are ill or are injured. While professional athlete will need to train every day to improve their competitive performance, non-athletes are likely to stick to a rigid exercise regime and start displaying signs of eating disorders as they have an ideal body image in mind.
3 Secret Eating and Avoiding Eating in Public
People suffering from disordered eating may tend to avoid family gatherings or eating at restaurants as these public situations will trigger a sense of anxiety. The main fear is to be judged about what you eat.
Binge eaters may display a “normal” eating behaviour in public waiting for an opportunity to binge when alone and indulge in disordered eating behaviours.
4 Developing Fine Body Hair (Lanugo)
People suffering from anorexia or bulimia will start developing lanugo, fine hairs appearing everywhere in the body. This is an evolutionary trigger to keep the body warm and protected when body fat drops to dangerous levels. It is an indication that the body is in starvation mode.
5 Cooking for Others to Avoid Eating
Some people suffering from anorexia may try and find some sense of pleasure from seeing other people eat, so they will invite friends for dinner and prepare sophisticated meals for them. They will not enjoy the food themselves, finding excuses like “I have been tasting the food all day” or “I am too tired to eat now”. They will also display an enormous collection of cookbooks and recipe books in their kitchen.
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