Cause for Concern: Signs of an Eating Disorder to Watch For

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to lose a few pounds, but obsessing about weight can be just as unhealthy as the weight itself. Can you recognize the signs of an eating disorder vs. a healthy desire to lose weight?

It’s not as easy as it sounds. Eating disorders can take many forms, including binge-eating, rumination, anorexia nervosa, or a total disinterest in eating.

Each of these eating disorders can pose disastrous long-term consequences to a person’s health.

If you or a loved one’s eating habits seem off, look for the following signs of an eating disorder and take action:

1. Skipping Meals

Missing out on meals is one of the most telltale signs of an eating disorder. Since weight is related to caloric intake, the seemingly logical move is simply to not eat.

In addition, those suffering from an eating disorder might not want to eat in the presence of others. They may start making excuses not to eat with the rest of the family or fear eating in public. They’ll even deny they’re hungry in order to dismiss questions about their lack of eating.

2. Exercising Excessively

Exercise alone isn’t alarming. But someone with an eating disorder will find a way to exercise no matter the circumstances.

They’ll go running in the rain or work out when they’re sick or injured. They’re more focused on their body image rather than the big picture of their health.

3. Socially Withdrawn

Those who suffer from eating disorders tend to withdraw themselves so no one finds out their secret. They start to avoid the activities and friends they used to love. They may also appear moody or agitated on a regular basis.

4. Changing Appearance

Drastic weight loss, weight gain, or weight fluctuation in a short time period can indicate an eating disorder.

Other physical changes including hair loss, puffy or sunken cheeks, dry skin, or excessive body hair.

5. Complaining About Being Fat

Someone who constantly mentions they’re fat, regardless of whether they really are, could be experiencing an eating disorder. Bringing their opinions of their body into every conversation shows the issue is constantly plaguing them.

This shouldn’t be confused with body dysmorphic disorder, which occurs when an individual obsesses over a particular body part.

Those with body dysmorphic disorder have a warped perception of what their body actually looks like. They will go to great lengths to satisfy their own image of themselves, including developing an eating disorder.

6. Forming Odd Eating Rituals

Food rituals can indicate an underlying eating disorder. These can take myriad forms, such as methodically cutting food into small bites or arranging food on a plate.

This gives the appearance of eating, but little to no food is actually consumed.

Recognize the Signs of an Eating Disorder

None of the above signs of an eating disorder automatically mean a problem exists. True eating disorders usually exhibit multiple signals to indicate something isn’t right.

If you notice multiple signs, don’t wait to get help. The problem will only grow worse and become more difficult to overcome as time passes and habits form.

Seeking help immediately could save a life. For more top health insights, head back to our blog.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.