3 Lesser-Known Signs of Eating Disorders

lesser-known signs of an eating disorder

When you hear the phrase “eating disorders,” you may picture the traditional media depiction of severely emaciated girls or women desperate to lose weight and control their lives through food. However, the truth is that these disorders are complex, unpredictable mental illnesses whose symptoms manifest differently for each person.

People who struggle with eating disorders can take extreme measures to hide their behavior or make it seem like their issues aren’t severe enough to warrant help. In observation of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week Feb. 22-28, what are some subtler signs of eating disorders to be aware of?

1. Preoccupation With Food

While severely restricting their food intake, someone with an eating disorder might become obsessed with what other people in their lives are eating. They will often spend inordinate amounts of time preparing elaborate meals or desserts for family or friends, reading cookbooks or food blogs, watching YouTube cooking tutorials or discussing food in general. They might also encourage people to eat high-calorie, high-fat foods they have no intention of eating themselves. For example, while they “virtuously” order a salad, they push friends to indulge in choices like fried foods, cheesy sauces, creamy soups or rich desserts.

2. Sudden Emergence of Dietary Restrictions

People living with eating disorders may cut out entire food groups all at once in hopes of losing weight more quickly. For example, someone may decide to go vegan or announce she has a gluten sensitivity seemingly overnight. These choices may stem from legitimate ethical or health concerns. However, people struggling with eating disorders might also have the underlying motive of further cutting calories and denying themselves food in a way that makes others less likely to question their decisions. They may also do extensive research on individual ingredients and perhaps experiment with specialty products, like tinctures or supplements, with supposed health or weight-loss benefits.

3. Inflexible Rules Around Eating

An eating disorder can also cause someone to develop rigid dining routines or ritualistic behaviors. For example, they might refuse to eat unless they can use a specific plate or utensils. The afflicted person may also develop an obsession with a particular food or an irrational aversion to eating certain foods.

What to Do If You Suspect a Loved One Has an Eating Disorder

These subtle warning signs don’t necessarily imply an eating disorder has developed. However, if you see multiple red flags occurring together, encourage your friend or loved one to seek counseling or treatment. The earlier a medical professional officially diagnoses an eating disorder, the sooner they can come up with a comprehensive intervention strategy. Eating disorders can be life-threatening by causing severe health issues such as malnutrition and organ and tissue damage.

For many women, an eating disorder represents their first encounter with issues concerning mental health and self-control. At Canyon Crossing, we often work with women who are struggling with co-occurring eating disorders, distorted thought processes and addiction. Our clients have access to meet with a nutritionist who specializes in eating disorders. Contact us to learn more about our comprehensive care for women living with substance use and other mental health challenges.

Benefits of Residential AddictionTreatment

You cannot heal in the same environment that made you sick. This is the philosophy behind our residential addiction treatment program. At Canyon Crossing, women learn to live life on life’s terms while staying in a safe, substance-free setting. This gives our clients the space and peace needed for lasting recovery.
Our residential program combines high-accountability sober living arrangements with first-rate clinical care. While staying in our homes, clients participate in process groups, one-on-one counseling sessions, and hands-on learning opportunities. They also receive ongoing training; in these meetings, life skills like financial management and conflict resolution are imparted. All of this happens with 24/7 encouragement, guidance, and supervision from our clinical team.
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