This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, a cause near and dear to my heart. I was diagnosed as a compulsive overeater back in 2011, and I’ve spent years in recovery, working back toward a “normal” relationship with food.
For those of you who are not familiar with the pervasiveness of diet culture and eating disorders in the US, here is some important information. It’s particularly worth checking out for the parents of children and teenagers:
These numbers come from The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). It is the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders. You can learn more about their work by clicking here.
The chances are high that someone you know and love is grappling with disordered eating. It can be a completely silent condition, which is why it is so important to learn more about the different disorders and the warning signs. If you know anyone over the age 0f 13 who may be demonstrating problems with food, you can take a short screening test here.
There is also a phone number to call and ask questions without any pressure: (800) 931-2237
Below, I’m going to list some of the warning signs so that you have a quick resource on the topic. But first, I want to invite you to the NEDA Walk at Liberty Station on March 14th. I would love to see you and your family there!
Common eating disorder symptoms, courtesy of NEDA (more info is located here):
Emotional and behavioral
- In general, behaviors and attitudes that indicate that weight loss, dieting, and control of food are becoming primary concerns
- Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, carbohydrates, fat grams, and dieting
- Refusal to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories of food (e.g., no carbohydrates, etc.)
- Appears uncomfortable eating around others
- Food rituals (e.g. eats only a particular food or food group [e.g. condiments], excessive chewing, doesn’t allow foods to touch)
- Skipping meals or taking small portions of food at regular meals
- Any new practices with food or fad diets, including cutting out entire food groups (no sugar, no carbs, no dairy, vegetarianism/veganism)
- Withdrawal from usual friends and activities
- Frequent dieting
- Extreme concern with body size and shape
- Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws in appearance
- Extreme mood swings
- Noticeable fluctuations in weight, both up and down
- Stomach cramps, other non-specific gastrointestinal complaints (constipation, acid reflux, etc.)
- Menstrual irregularities — missing periods or only having a period while on hormonal contraceptives (this is not considered a “true” period)
- Difficulties concentrating
- Abnormal laboratory findings (anemia, low thyroid and hormone levels, low potassium, low white and red blood cell counts)
- Dizziness, especially upon standing
- Feeling cold all the time
- Sleep problems
- Cuts and calluses across the top of finger joints (a result of inducing vomiting)
- Dental problems, such as enamel erosion, cavities, and tooth sensitivity
- Dry skin and hair, and brittle nails
- Swelling around area of salivary glands
- Fine hair on body (lanugo)
- Cavities, or discoloration of teeth, from vomiting
- Muscle weakness
- Yellow skin (in context of eating large amounts of carrots)
- Cold, mottled hands and feet or swelling of feet
- Poor wound healing
- Impaired immune functioning
There is no specific “look” for a person suffering from an eating disorder. There is no specific body type, age, or gender, either. I’m personally inviting you to the walk next month to learn more — and our goal is to raise $25,000 for prevention and education. Let’s do it together!