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5 Subtle Signs of an Eating Disorder

In today’s media landscape, we are bombarded by marketing campaigns and advertising tactics that commonly rely on unrealistic ideals of beauty to sell a brand’s wares. Unfortunately, this practice has proven to be societally destructive.

Dying to be Thin

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, the rate of eating disorders in the U.S. has steadily climbed since 1950. Currently, an astounding 69 percent of elementary school girls admit that magazine images influence their concept of the “ideal” body shape.

Affecting the most impressionable, over half of teenage girls and one-third of teenage boys report regularly using unhealthy dieting techniques, according to the association’s data. These harmful dieting habits usually include:

  • Vomiting
  • Skipping meals
  • Fasting
  • Taking laxatives

Recognizing the Symptoms of an Eating Disorder

By recognizing these five subtle symptoms of an eating disorder early, loved ones may be able to intervene before the disorder worsens.

Excessive exercise is a symptom of an eating disorder

    • Excessive Exercising

      Over-the-top, obsessive exercising may be a sign of body dysmorphic disorder, which involves the irrational belief that one’s body is unusually flawed. Although it is difficult to pinpoint when exercise becomes excessive, there are two common indicators. Does the person panic when they miss a workout? Does exercise interfere with other important priorities, such as school, work or social obligations?

    • Fear of Eating in Public

      When someone begins to associate food with shame, they become increasingly shy about eating in public. This fear also indicates a level of anxiety associated with eating, believing others are watching and judging. Although this symptom is commonly linked to anorexia, binge eaters also typically eat only small meals in public while bingeing in private.

    • Dry Skin

      Dry and blotchy skin is a hallmark of many individuals with eating disorders, as taking laxatives and purging causes dehydration. Also, the appearance of calluses forming on the knuckles is also a sign of bulimia, indicating scraping fingers against teeth when purging.

People with eating disorders enjoy cooking for others

  • Cooking for Others

    Although it may seem counterintuitive, some people with eating disorders enjoy cooking elaborate meals for others. It is thought to be a way to eat vicariously “through” others and further indicates an unhealthy obsession with food.

  • Eating Rituals

    Anorexia and obsessive-compulsive disorder are commonly linked, but eating rituals may also be a method to mask how little someone is eating. By arranging food in certain ways and cutting food into tiny pieces, the individual draws attention away from their lack of food consumption.

Additional Reading: 3 Common Myths About Eating Disorders

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