How to Spot the Signs of an Eating Disorder
If normal eating is determined by eating when you are hungry, most people don’t eat normally. Everyone has different eating habits and whether you have one large meal each day, couples with plenty of snacks, or if you go on crazy fasting diets and try cutting food groups out of your weekly meals, chances are you aren’t eating what experts refer to as ‘normally’. Pressure and stress affect us all in different ways, too – for some it might mean eating a food you’ve been craving, such as chocolate. For others, it might mean taking back control of an area of your life, which means cutting out food altogether. This can lead to an eating disorder after a period of time though, which can be extremely difficult to get out of and can place a great strain on your body and organs. You may spot this by becoming increasingly obsessed by food, calories or fat contents; you may weigh yourself compulsively and deny yourself food, even when you’re hungry, in order to stay slim; you may also binge on food and then vomit in order to limit the risk of holding on to any of the fat. These are all signs of an eating disorder, a problem many people face daily. However, it’s important to remember that eating disorders aren’t just about food – they are a psychological problem which often stems from an emotional trauma or painful feelings that one is struggling to express.
Eating disorders span a number of different problems, but the main ones include eating too much, eating too little, and using harmful ways to get rid of calories, such as vomiting or starving yourself. Eating disorders are often characterised by the behaviour of the individual as much as they are by the diet they follow. Girls are 10 times more likely to suffer from anorexia or bulimia than men, but that’s not to say it isn’t common for a man to suffer with an eating disorder. With men, the compulsion to exercise to extremes or build a muscular body to excess are more common signs that starving themselves. The signs are checking your weight obsessively and worrying about it, eating less and less as time goes on, exercising more in order to burn off calories, continuously losing weight even when you’re well below the advised weight for your age and height, smoking or chewing gum to avoid eating, and withdrawing from social interactions which may involve food and eating. In women, menstrual cycles cease, and men stop getting erections or wet dreams. Guilt and shame play a big part in all eating disorders – whether it’s from bingeing and the fear of overeating, or simply through the shame of not being as skinny as you feel you ought to be. There are psychological implications as well, such as trouble sleeping, becoming withdrawn, and avoiding friends and family members.
There are ways to try and improve your condition. For example, you can attempt to stick to regular mealtimes in order to ensure you have a regular stream of nutrients and food each day. You should also set yourself tiny but achievable goals, such as sitting at the breakfast table and drinking a glass of water if you can’t face eating breakfast initially – you can then build on these until you begin eating meals again. It’s also important to be honest with your friends, family and teachers, as they will be able to help you through it. Don’t weigh yourself more than once a week, as this encourages an obsessive attitude, and don’t spend time analysing your body in the mirror – this will make your symptoms worse.